March 22, 2001, 5:16 AM — Declaring on Wednesday that Apple has built a product that will set the stage for the next 15 years of computing, Apple CEO Steve Jobs unveiled the final release of OS X, the company's new operating system. When the long-awaited OS finally becomes available to the public this Saturday, it will mark the end of a 7-year process at Apple to create a new operating system for the company's flagship Macintosh computers. But messages from Apple's top management indicate that OS X's marketing strategy will be shaped by a more recent set of IT trends, including the rise of Linux and the subsequent increase in interest in Unix and open standards. Apple management is also interested in encouraging a Linux-like grassroots developer community.
Jobs and Apple software head Avie Tevanian repeatedly emphasized the fact that OS X is Unix. While it has been known for more than 2 years that Apple's new OS would be based on BSD Unix, Apple's emphasis when discussing the product has been on individual features -- the software's ease of use, attractive new Aqua GUI, and protected memory features.
But Jobs and company now seem to be changing directions slightly to seize the opportunity provided by the current state of Linux in the industry. The last 2 years of Linux-related buzz have created a unprecedented interest in Unix-compatible computer systems; however, no Linux distributor has created a compelling, easy-to-use product, so that demand is at least partly unmet. "No one has really been able to tame Unix yet," said Tevanian. "Have you ever tried printing on Linux?" And so Apple -- the company whose customers were playing with a point-and-click GUI while the rest of the world was wrestling with the MS-DOS command line -- has declared its intention to bring Unix to the masses. "By the end of the year, Apple will be the biggest distributor of Unix," said Jobs.
An OS is useless without applications, of course. Tevanian also referred to the open source movement when covering this base, claiming that OS X had a ready-made "Linux-like community" of developers. OS X's compliance with the POSIX standard, combined with the availability of a third-party OS X port of the X Windowing System, means that hundreds of Unix applications should work on the new OS with little or no modification. Of course, most of those apps are command line utilities that will be of no interest to the typical home user. But the developers of such applications tend to work alone or in informal collaborative groups, and Apple's execs are encouraged by that kind of grassroots interest in their OS. They proudly showed Websites that hosted dozens of OS X applications written by groups and individuals who had no relationship whatsoever with Apple.