Apple Computer has announced a new software strategy, which builds on the Mac OS, and not its previously planned next generation Rhapsody OS, as the company's core operating system.
Mac OS X (10) combines developments made in both Mac OS 8 and Rhapsody into a new advanced operating system, one which does not require developers to entirely rewrite their existing applications.
Mac OS X is based on a subset of the APIs that developers have been using to create their existing Macintosh applications, Apple's interim chief executive Steve Jobs told a keynote audience at its annual developers conference
Two thousand of a total of 8,000 APIs have been removed -- the "bad news" ones, according to Jobs, which prevented Apple from moving forward with advanced features such as protected memory and preemptive multitasking.
The remaining 6,000 clean APIs are code-named the Carbon APIs.
"Carbon: All life forms will be based on it," Jobs said during his presentation of the new software strategy.
Taking advantage of the new features that will be available in Mac OS X requires developers to modify, rather than revise, their existing applications.
"To take advantage of this modern OS, it's only going to take a tune-up of these apps, not a complete rewrite," Jobs promised.
Jobs said that most applications can be rewritten to the Carbon APIs in one to five days, and can be ready to ship in less than two months. This compares to Rhapsody's one- to two-year development cycle. On average, 90% of a current application's code already run in Carbon, Jobs said.
Apple is also shipping a Carbon Dater, which analyzes existing Mac programs, and then sends its results to Apple, which will then post Carbon results on special Web pages for its developers to show them where problem spots exist within their applications.
A draft of the Carbon spec was also released at the conference, with the second developer release of the Rhapsody OS.
Mac OS X will contain advanced features such as protected memory, virtual memory, preemptive multitasking, fast networking, and fast file I/O. Additionally, the entire OS will be PowerPC native with no 68k code remaining in it.
Existing OS 8 applications will still run in Mac OS X, they just will not support any of the new features, according to Jobs.
"[The Mac OS] is our crown jewel and it needs to be polished and extended," Jobs said.
At present, Mac OS 8.5, code-name Allegro, will ship in the third quarter of this year. Mac OS 8.6 and the OS X beta version will both ship in the first quarter of 1999, and Sonata, which merges both operating systems, in the third quarter of 1999.
"The beauty of Mac OS X is that by making evolutionary changes, we can deliver revolutionary benefits to all of our customers," said Ben Waldman, general manager for the Macintosh business unit at Microsoft. "It's very hard to ask people to throw everything away and begin again. With this strategy, you don't need to do that."
Norm Meyrowitz, president of Macromedia products, said many developers shouldn't have a problem porting to Mac OS X.
"If you've been dealing with the modern APIs, you shouldn't have much to worry about," Meyrowitz said.
As for Apple's strategy, Meyrowitz said, "I couldn't think of anything better for them to do in the context of the Mac OS and their hardware. This strategy gives Macromedia and Apple what they want, a solid foundation to build on."
Within the two weeks of learning of Apple's software strategy, Adobe actually produced a tweaked version of Photoshop running on the Carbon APIs.
"This is not the blue box," Greg Gilley, vice president of graphics products for Adobe told the crowd, referring to the emulation mode in which Mac OS applications were slated to run in the final Rhapsody release.
Gilley also drew applause when he told the developers that due to the protected memory in Carbon, he didn't have to reboot his machine once the entire time he ported Photoshop to the Carbon APIs, which did result in the application dying out many times.
One analyst said Apple seems to finally have delivered a strategy that embraces its developer community.
"Mac OS X has a good chance of succeeding, because it is both desirable and practical," said Eric Lewis, an analyst at International Data Corp., in Mountain View, Calif. "There's a clear direction and it seems plausible to get there. Rhapsody was too big a leap."
Apple also announced that the Mac OS platform will have a unified Java virtual machine (JVM), and that the best of the Microsoft, Metrowerks, Symantec, and Netscape JVMs will all be rolled into the best of breed JVM for the Mac OS. The JVM in Allegro will support Java1.1.6 and the Swing APIs, Jobs said.
Jobs also promised that Java would perform at more than 3,100 Caffeinemarks to match the best performing Windows Java benchmarks.
"Our goal is to be second to none this fall in our performance with Java," Jobs said.
As for QuickTime, the version shipping in the fall will support Live Streaming using the Real Time Protocol. Live events can be incorporated into any Mac applications, and not just Web browsers, Jobs said.
And to enable business presentations, Jobs delivered a presentation which featured live video of himself on a separate client machine, as he controlled the remote client's Web browser.