Jobs maps Mac's future

Apple's interim CEO details the company's strategy for Mac OS 8.5 and the OS X while announcing new support from Adobe and others.

4 min read
SAN FRANCISCO--Addressing the Seybold publishing conference here, interim CEO Steve Jobs detailed Apple Computer's strategy for the Mac OS 8.5 and upcoming OS X operating systems.

Jobs also offered some concrete examples of support for the company's direction: an unannounced program from Adobe Systems running on Mac OS 8.5, which will also run on Mac OS X when that becomes available in the fall of 1999.

What a difference a year makes. In 1997, Jobs addressed the same conference, trying to convince the audience that Apple wasn't going to die. Today, after three straight profitable quarters, such concerns have largely given way to more mundane--and comfortable--questions about technologies.

After 20 minutes of Apple's most recent commercials and marketing materials, Jobs disclosed that the next version of the Mac OS, formerly referred to as Allegro and now called OS 8.5, would ship in October. Industry sources say customers should expect a mid-October launch timed around Apple's quarterly financial results.

Hear the entire keynote by Steve Jobs on CNET Radio
Jobs maintained that the upgrade from OS 8.0 will be a "must-have" piece of software because it will feature vastly improved performance when saving files over the network--up to three times faster, according to Apple--and improved file and Internet search functions. The upgrade was first scheduled for release in July, but its ship date was subsequently pushed back to September and then to October.

Turning to the longer term, Jobs demonstrated Apple's next-generation operating system, dubbed OS X. Three key players in the publishing market, including Adobe, Quark, andMacromedia, showed slightly modified versions of current products already running on OS X. The programs were able to take advantage of features such as preemptive multitasking and protected memory, which allow for efficient and reliable software performance, respectively.

Apple has been promising for years that these two critical technologies would appear in the "next" Apple OS--first with its Copland OS and then Rhapsody--but has yet to deliver. Those attending today's presentation cheered the demonstrations, taking them as a good sign that the technology will actually ship as planned in fall of 1999.

In fact, Adobe demonstrated a new page layout program in development, code-named "K2," that will be able to run on either OS 8.5 or OS X. The program has twofold significance: It could pose a competitive threat to programs such as Quark's Xpress but, more significant, Jobs said it represents Adobe's commitment to programming for the Macintosh. The company's efforts to bring new software first to the Mac rather than the Windows platform has waned in recent years along with Apple's financial difficulties, but now appears to be back on track.

In other news for publishers, Jobs said the version of ColorSync that ships with OS 8.5 comes with software from Agfa and Imation that offers publishers a wider range of new color management options. ColorSync is a software technology that allows exact replication in a printout, video, or Web site of what users see on their screen, an area where the Macintosh excels over the Windows platform.

In March at Seybold New York, Jobs had said the company would offer a version of its ColorSync color management software for Windows in 1998. That is now apparently being pushed back until early 1999, based on information Jobs gave in today's speech. Jobs also demonstrated to an appreciative audience fully native PowerPC AppleScript that automates simple tasks or complex workflow operations--such as networking, printing, file exchange, and ColorSync management.

As expected, Jobs rolled out new PowerBook notebooks.

The new G3 notebooks will include new 300- and 266-MHz processors and come with 14.1-inch screens as standard equipment in all models. Apple is offering the floppy disk drive as an option in a move that could prove somewhat controversial. (Click here for detailed specifications of the new G3 PowerBook.)

Apple also unveiled workgroup server computers based on a Power Mac G3 with 333-MHz G3 PowerPC chip, while cutting prices almost 35 percent for 300-MHz models. The new G3 Server system is priced at $4,599 and the 300-MHz server has been reduced to $2,999.

"The biggest news is that the PowerBooks don't have floppies. I think Apple is leaning toward the future and pushing people towards the future, just like with the iMac," said Tony Violanti, vice president of ComputerTown. "Initially we will have people complain about it," Violanti expects, but with a hot-swappable bay that can accept the standard CD-ROM or a Zip drive, most users will find they can forgo the floppy, he said.

Apologizing for Apple's inability to fill demand for certain older PowerBook configurations, Jobs today said, "We've got the manufacturing turned up full blast to catch up with demand," and expressed hope that the company would fulfill demand "in the next three to four weeks."

Availability of the new high-end notebooks will likely be constrained as well, but Apple will try to stir up demand for its low-end configurations by offering a 233-MHz PowerPC 750 that will now include plenty of high-speed cache memory.

Also, a high-end 300-MHz G3 PowerBook will be offered with a DVD-ROM drive for $4,999.

Most dealers who talked to CNET News.com expect that any back orders of the 250-and 292-MHz will be supplied with the limited number of 266- and 300-MHz notebooks that are being made available to them.