Mar 24, 2011
On March 24, 2001 — ten years ago today — Apple released Mac OS X 10.0, also known as “Cheetah.” Although the transition was not initially easy for Mac owners, who were annoyed by speed and stability issues, Apple persevered and made one improvement after another to the operating system. By the end of the year, OS X was the envy of Windows users worldwide. Many PC owners were still using Windows 98, unwilling to become early adopters of Windows XP after the Windows Millennium Edition debacle, and resorted to using various skinning programs to make their computers look more like Macs.
Today, Windows has caught up with OS X in some ways, and not in others. We would argue that, while Windows 7 is Microsoft’s most visually appealing operating system yet, it still lags behind OS X in terms of computer navigation and overall ease of use. Microsoft suffers from a user base that is unwilling to give up support for legacy hardware and software, while Apple — on the verge of bankruptcy in the late 1990s — knew that it could either force its small user base through a difficult transition or lose everything.
Apple has truly come full circle, with the tenth anniversary of Mac OS X punctuated by reports that, between the iPad and Mac platforms, Apple is poised to become the dominant computer company in 2011. This accomplishment warrants a look back, so please join us on this retrospective as we take a look at the first ten years of Mac OS X.
Release date: March 24, 2001
Some of the credit for the existence of Mac OS X goes to Steve Jobs, as it was his company NeXT that created the NeXTSTEP operating system, which provided the framework that Apple needed for an operating system to replace the aging Mac OS Classic platform. However, much of the credit should go to former Apple CEO Gil Amelio as well, for it was Amelio who recognized the need for modernization and orchestrated the purchase of NeXT, bringing Jobs back to Apple, and his company’s technology with him. We also have Jean-Louis Gassée to thank; Amelio originally wanted to buy the now-defunct BeOS, but Gassée wanted more than Apple was willing to pay — $275 Million. Good for Apple, bad for Be; the maker of BeOS went out of business in 2011 and was sold to Palm for just $11 Million.
Mac OS X 10.0 Cheetah had steep hardware requirements, needing a Mac with at least a G3 processor and 128 MB of RAM. This meant that many Mac owners were unable to use it. Those who could run Cheetah found it to be slow and unstable. Out of the box, Cheetah could not play DVDs or burn CDs. Nevertheless, its user interface was revolutionary for the time; it made then-current operating systems such as Windows 98 and 2000 look years out of date. Microsoft released the much more modern Windows XP in October, but it lacked the elegance of OS X.
Release date: September 25, 2001
Apple released Mac OS X 10.1 Puma mere months after Cheetah, resolving many of the issues with the original release and giving it to owners of Cheetah for free. Puma included support for more printers, CD and DVD burning and improved 3D graphics performance. An interesting note is that, although Apple included Mac OS 10.1 Puma with new Mac computers, a Mac would actually continue to boot into Mac OS 9 by default; Puma still suffered from performance issues, and Mac users were still unable to find suitable OS X-compatible replacements for all of their software. Apple later made OS X the default booting operating system with the release of OS X 10.1.2.
Release date: August 23, 2002
Many of the improvements in Jaguar took place behind the scenes, with Apple enhancing the interoperability between Mac computers and Windows networks, and adding the new network service Bonjour. With Bonjour, it was easier to locate and utilize shared network resources such as printers. Users of Jaguar found the operating system to be faster and more responsive on current hardware, and appreciated the new search feature that Apple implemented in the Finder. As a gesture of goodwill toward the education market — where Apple had always maintained a strong presence — Apple offered free copies of Mac OS X 10.2 Jaguar to teachers who requested them.
Release date: October 24, 2003
OS X 10.3 Panther stepped up the system requirements slightly from previous operating system versions, removing support for older G3 machines including the beige Power Macintosh and “Wall Street” PowerBook. Panther included a revamped iChat application, which now included real-time video chats on computers with FireWire cameras and broadband Internet connections. Panther also added a new brushed aluminum appearance for open windows. Perhaps the largest change, however, was the absence of Internet Explorer, which had been the default Web browser included with previous versions of Mac OS X. Panther marked the appearance of Safari as the browser bundled with OS X. Apple had agreed to bundle Internet Explorer with Mac computers for five years when Microsoft invested in the company to keep it afloat in 1997.
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