The Rhapsody Developer Release is designed to allow software developers to begin creating the applications that will run on the new operating system, according to the company.
The core technology for Rhapsody comes from Next Software, which was acquired last year by Apple. The new OS will eventually have a "Blue Box" environment for running older Mac OS-based applications, but the first developer release does not have this feature in order to foster the creation of Rhapsody applications.
Steve Jobs, Apple's interim CEO, has repeatedly emphasized that the Mac OS will continue to be Apple's volume operating system, while Rhapsody will initially be an OS for servers and high-performance desktop computers, much like Windows NT currently serves a limited, high-end market for Microsoft in server and high-end desktop applications.
The company is not going to do a "brain transplant" and replace the Mac OS with Rhapsody by next year, Jobs said last week at the Macromedia Users Conference.
Jobs maintains that Apple won't force customers to switch to Rhapsody, because that would be "a fatal, self-inflicted wound." Rhapsody eventually will supplant the Mac OS (much as Microsoft intends for NT to replace Windows 3.x and Windows 95), but it probably won't outsell the Mac OS for another five years, according to officials with Apple.
Apple is delivering Rhapsody first on PowerPC-equipped Macs. Models including the Power Macintosh 8500, 8600, 9500, and 9600 are able to run the developer version of the new operating system. As Rhapsody matures, Apple expects Macintosh systems shipped from early 1997 to be able to run the new operating system.
As part of the developer release, Apple is shipping 14 example programs from software developers who were seeded with an earlier version of the operating system. These include desktop and server-based applications covering general productivity, Internet, publishing, and database management, the company said.
The release fully supports Java programs. Apple assured developers that their programs would run as well as if they were native Rhapsody applications. If developers choose to program in Java, however, they can also access all of Rhapsody's features, such as the ability to rotate 3D objects.
A version of Rhapsody for Intel-based PCs and the "Yellow Box" for Windows will be also soon be released to developers. The "Yellow Box" will provide additional features for programmers to use on computers with the Windows operating system. The Yellow Box consists of the main APIs (application programming interfaces) programmers will use to write programs for Rhapsody.
Applications written for Yellow Box and used on Windows 95 and Windows NT will look and operate like Windows applications, while "Rhapsody for PC" on Intel processors will look like the Rhapsody/Mac OS hybrid.
Apple is touting the ability of Rhapsody to be a developer's main programming platform since it offers a way for developing a program once and selling versions for platforms beyond just the Macintosh. Native Rhapsody programs can run on Intel-based computers, but first either a user will install the OS themselves or a manufacturer will license the OS from Apple and build Rhapsody-compatible systems.
However, it is still unclear how Apple will license Rhapsody for use on non-PowerPC platforms or if there is any interest from PC clone makers.
The developer release of Rhapsody is available to members of Apple's Developer Program. Details on enrollment can be found on the Apple Developer Relations Web site. The developer release will also be supplied to Apple Enterprise Software customers and members of the Apple Enterprise Alliance Program, Apple said.