With chairman Gil Amelio devoting his Mac World keynote to celebrity cameos and playing second fiddle to Steve Jobs, it was left to Apple?s chief technology officer Ellen Hancock to fill in some of the gaps in the company?s new operating systems strategy.
The new OS - codenamed Rhapsody - will include specific elements from both Next and Apple. Nextstep will bring memory protection capabilties and pre-emptive multitasking to speed up performance. Apple will offer Mac features, such as Quick Time Media Layer, Opendoc and TCP/IP connections to the Internet.
But the good news for delegates at Mac World was that Rhapsody will look familiar to them, despite being based on Nextstep. "It will look like a Macintosh," Hancock reassured the Mac faithful. "The end user experience will be much more like the Mac OS than the Next OS."
However, at some point in the future, developers will have to write to a Next application programming interface. Apple intends to replace its Macintosh Toolbox programming interface with a version of Next?s Openstep interface, renamed Yellow Box. While Yellow Box is being created, developers will be advised to prepare for Rhapsody by using Nextstep for Intel-based machines, to produce applications that can be recompiled for PowerPC hardware.
Rhapsody will run on all PowerPC platforms, so current customers will be able to upgrade with the minimum of fuss, claims Apple. The full release of the new operating system will include an element known as a Blue Box, which will run System 7 software. This, according to Hancock, guarantees that legacy applications will run on the new platform - up to a point. "More than 85 per cent" of existing Macintosh programs will not need to be modified for Rhapsody, she said.
A developers' release of Rhapsody will ship in mid-1997, followed by a premier release in early 1998. This will run programs written specifically for Rhapsody, but will not be fully compatible with existing Mac code. A ?unified release? that runs System 7 software will finally appear in the middle of 1998.
But Apple remains committed to Mac OS 7 as well as developing Rhapsody, said Hancock. Mac OS 7.x will be enhanced every six months for the next three or four years and bundled with Apple hardware. When Rhapsody is completed, both operating systems may be bundled.
System 7.6, codenamed Harmony, ships at the end of this month. That will be followed in July by Tempo, which will incorporate some of the elements that can be salvaged from the aborted Copland project to create a new homegrown Apple operating system. Most notable among these is Copland's Finder feature. Tempo will also bundle Apple?s Cyberdog 2.0 Internet tools and a Mac OS runtime for Java. Tempo will then be succeeded by subsequent releases, Allegro in early 1998 and Sonata in mid-1998.
See the analysis section for more on Mac World.
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