updated 01:45 pm EDT, Wed July 18, 2001
Today, Steve Jobs announced that Mac OS X 10.1, a long-awaited update to Apple's next-generation operating system, would begin shipping in September. As Mac OS X 10.x builds and Mac OS X 10.0.x builds work in different paths, Apple has been able to implement many requested features that had not appeared in the four minor updates the company has released since March 24.
Jobs began his summary of the update by stating that performance was Apple's number one concern when developing OS X 10.1, and that many parts of the system are now far faster than before. For example, in the keynote demo that Jobs gave, menus popped up instantly, as in OS 9, application launch was drastically improved, the new Dock Scale effect minimizes windows more quickly, OpenGL is 20% faster, and Finder window resizing and responsiveness is much improved.
While it is likely that only owners of Apple's new "QuickSilver" Power Mac G4 systems (available in single 733 MHz, single 867 MHz, and dual 800 MHz configurations) will be able to enjoy speeds at the level demonstrated in the keynote, it is clear that Apple's Mac OS X engineers have significantly improved and optimized the system, which should make Mac OS X a viable platform to an ever-increasing range of people.
Improving performance was not the only focus, however. Mac OS X 10.1 "Puma" also includes several interface inhancements that users have requested since the operating system's release on March 24. 10.1 adds data burning support to the Finder ("Disk Burner"); DVD playback as well as DVD authoring through iDVD 2; increased AppleScript support in the Finder, Terminal, Internet Connect, and Print Center applications, as well as support for the SOAP and XML internet connection standards to enable AppleScripting across a Mac OS X network.
OS X 10.1 also includes some major networking improvements. Apple has added full support for their AirPort wireless networking technology through AirPort Admin Utility as well as support for natively connecting to Windows 2000, Windows NT, and UNIX-based SMB file servers for maximum cross-platform networking compatability. Mac OS X can also now connect to AFP servers through AppleTalk, thus adding compatibility with older Apple networks. All of these servers will mount as standard volumes in the Mac OS X Finder, which offers maximum convenience when working in a mixed-OS environment.
Mac OS X's iDisk support has also been updated to support WebDAV, an increasingly popular internet protocol. Now, Mac OS X will only connect to iDisk when it needs to, eliminating previous server disconnect messages. Because WebDAV uses standard web protocols, Mac OS X can more easily access iDisk from behind firewalls.
Additionally, Print Center now ships with 200 additional PostScript printer drivers from HP, Lexmark, and Xerox, as well as increased USB printer support. Also, Internet Explorer 5.1 will be updated to offer full Java support, something that has been missing from OS X web browsers for months.
Apple has also made a number of interface improvements. Firstly, columns are now resizable (either globally or one column at a time), and small arrows after folder names in column view offer spring loaded folder functionality, Apple representatives say. To make reading longer filenames easier, icon view file text labels now wrap to a second line. Additionally, there is now a Finder setting that allows users to hide file extensions, although this feature is merely cosmetic, and does not change actual filenames in order to keep compatibility.
System Preferences has also been updated to be organized by category. The General Preferences panel now allows a user-customizable number of Recent Items in the Apple Menu, as well as adding a setting where users can disable font smoothing (antialiasing) for fonts lower than a certain size.
Mac OS X now adds system menus, which allow users to display various system status settings such as Volume Level, AirPort settings, Internet Connection, and Battery Life in the menubar instead of wasting Dock space with large Docklings. Finally, Apple has decided to change the default minimize effect from the Genie Effect to the Scale Effect for performance reasons, as well as offering orientation and pinning settings configurable from System Preferences or Dock Contextual Menus.
Current Mac OS X users can obtain Mac OS X 10.1 in September through the Mac OS Up to Date program, although the release will be free for all users, excluding the $20 shipping and handling fee for the upgrade CD for users new to Mac OS X.