Cupertino Apple boss Steve Jobs claims that within "a few weeks of MacOS X shipping on Saturday 24 March there will be hundreds of thousands of early adopters" loading the new operating system on their Macs, writes Paul Hoffner.
This is despite it costing $129 to buy and having very few native applications to run. Sure, it's a great operating system and the Aqua interface is spectacular, but, asked one journalist at Apple's MacOS X launch in Cupertino, "won't there be actually be a slowdown in Mac sales while customers wait to their hands on this stuff for free?"
After all, MacOS X will be pre-loaded on all Macs in July. In the meantime Apple has yet to decide whether to make preloading (at a price, of course) MacOS X on option for Macs bought directly from the company's AppleStore.
Well, given the volume of Apple's ferociously loyal Mac obsessives there probably will be a lot of folks who will download an operating system which at the moment has virtually no applications written for it. In any case, Jobs declined to answer the question as Apple is in the "quiet period" before it announces it results when it is not allowed to talk about vulgarities like sales.
However, Jobs did predict that Apple's feat in producing what is essentially a Unix that's easy to use will make it the "largest source of Unix in the world by the end of the year". And this, he suggested could help Apple move back into markets it hasn't addressed for years: "We're seeing a lot of interest by developers writing for enterprise."
OS X on x86? No chance...
Jobs strenuously denied industry rumours that Apple will try to entice any of these corporate customers by producing an x86 version of MacOS X to run on PC hardware. So all you folk who have sent emails to the MacOS X on x86 Web site have been wasting your time. Apparently. Acccording to Jobs, Apple is not even keeping an x86 version of Mac OS X warm in some distant lab somewhere: "There is no chance!" he intoned gravely, and this is the man, after all, who killed the Mac clone market to save Apple.
A further question concerning Motorola and IBM's ability to stay focused on Apple's desktop requirements with their PowerPC development (when there is a much larger embedded device marketplace out there for the PowerPC architecture) was dismissed, slightly tetchily by Jobs with: "You don't know what you're talking about!"
All is now well in the world of G3 and G4 development, it would seem.
Similarly Jobs denied out of hand the story, broken by MacUser UK, that Apple had disbanded the hardware team working on the G4 Cube, which has suffered from disappointing sales.
"There has been no disbandment of the Cube team. That's not even the way Apple works. We don't have dedicated divisions working on separate hardware projects," insisted Jobs. QED, it is impossible to destroy the Cube project and the cute Cube lives on.
Jobs also laid out a timetable of when Apple will actually make its own applications available in MacOS X native version. On 24 March iMovie will be available as a free download from Apple's servers. Ditto iTunes, although it will not be possible to burn CDs until the end of April when Apple adds this capability. Apple has also promised a free of charge download of a MacOS X beta version of AppleWorks starting on 24 March, the day when the OS finally goes on sale.
Public Beta 2
Just in case you get the feeling that MacOS X still has a rather beta feel itself, Jobs confirmed that the new operating system will be able to read CDs and DVD disks (only data, not movies though) although burning will not be possible until April.
Apple will make its acclaimed iDVD available by July to coincide with the preloading of MacOS X on all new Macs, when it will still be possible to load up MacOS 9.1 should you prefer at the boot stage. And then, "in the summer", Apple will roll out a MacOS X version of Final Cut Pro. After that, Jobs promised another release of MacOS X in the second half of this year to add in lots of bits and pieces (extra SCSI drivers, etc.) that the current release is lacking.
Apple's VP for wide developer relations, Clent Richardson, promised that, in the meantime, "all the major peripherals manufacturers are working obsessively on producing Mac OS X drivers for all their devices". Apple has already included 44 drivers for popular inkjet printers from manufacturers like Canon, Hewlett-Packard and Epson.
So why buy it now?
So it was left to the ingenious Phil Schiller, Apple's VP for product marketing, to explain why it was such a great idea to shell out $129 on an operating system which will be free later this year, and actually supported by applications and device drivers. And Mr Schiller, slightly tongue in cheek it must be said, delivered a hot piece of marketing 101:
OK, he went, Mac OS X costs $129, but for that you get three (count 'em!) CDs - the MacOS X disk, a MacOS 9.1 update (worth $99) and a developers CD (worth $500). On top of that there is $1000 worth of Roman fonts and $10,000 worth of top notch Japanese fonts (each with 17,000 characters per font face). So that's $1800 worth of software for just $129!
And with Apple market research showing that "47 per cent of the installed base of Apple's Pro customers regard themselves as highly proficient at using their Macs" it's a cert that the orders will come rolling in. Schiller wouldn't put an exact figure on how many this amounts to - "Go do the math," he said - but that apparently equals sales. And sales means prizes.
So that's what they teach you at marketing college! ®