Yesterday was one of the busiest days I’ve had for a while. After finishing off a feature for Macworld UK in the morning came the release of Mac OS X 10.4 AKA Tiger, and a story for eWeek on the industry reaction to Apple’s latest and (if the reaction is to be believed) greatest operating system.
And what reaction! Everyone I spoke to was enthusiastic about the release, for a variety of reasons. It’s a long time since I’ve heard developers so excited about a release – certainly, it’s a more exciting release for developers than Panther was. The points that seem to have got the most attention:
- Spotlight. Everyone I spoke to had been working on something that takes advantage of this, or saw it as a major development. While obviously I have to maintain a degree of professional calm () I’m also excited about this, partly because I’ve seen the effect that Google Desktop has had on the way I’ve been able to work on my Tablet PC.
- Automator. This is going to be huge. I was particularly pleased when Brent Simmons, developer of the excellent NetNewsWire RSS reader, mentioned that he’s looking forward to adding Automator support to NNW – the prospect of being able to take RSS via NNW and use it in other applications is mouth watering.
- Core Data. Several developers mentioned this as a big, big thing. I don’t know enough about how Mac programming handles data structures at the moment to get excited about it myself, but when developers start consistently mentioning it as a big thing, I listen.
- Tiger Server. There are some nice features in the server version, including a blogging system based on Blosxom and an iChat server based on Jabber. Extra points for using open source foundations, although I suspect that some of the customers for OS X Server would prefer Apple to fix some bugs!
Of course, there’s much more on the user side that will catch lots of attention, from Safari’s support for RSS through a new version of Mail to iChat, which is now miles ahead of MSN Messenger for both audio and video support. But it’s the underlying technologies that Apple has done a really great job on, and that will be most significant in the long term.
Naturally, it wouldn’t be Apple if there weren’t a couple of Snafu’s as well. The Up-To-Date program dates back only to 12th April, which is tight. It’s also counterproductive – people who have been burned by buying a Mac last week and having to shell out the full $129 for Tiger will be more likely to listen to the so-called “rumor sites” next time, and delay buying a new machine when an upgrade is close.
And although Apple has got voerall pricing in the UK right – £89, which isn’t too much of a rip off compared to the dollar price – it’s got the education pricing wrong. In the UK, Tiger is £59 for education customers, compared to $69 in the US.
But these are minor issues, and concern marketing rather than the software. Apple’s engineers should get a big bonus for shipping, because they’ve managed to produce an OS update that actually looks worth the money – especially once developers start taking advantage of its features.
Incidentally, there’s a lot of good coverage around the web. Highlights are:
- Fraser Spiers, the developer responsible for the excellent Flickr plug in for iPhoto, sums up his thoughts thus: “What delights me the most, though, is that the usability ethos that’s always been part of the Mac UI also extends to the developer-level stuff, even to the API design.”
- Joe Wilcox, Jupiter analyst, on Tiger and Longhorn: “Tiger will feature metadata search capabilities as part of the file system. Microsoft touted such capabilities with WinFS, but that file system now won’t ship with Longhorn, if ever. Robust search is a potentially transforming technology that can change the metaphor for working with a computer. The archaic file folder metaphor is long past its prime. Do people think about where to file their memories in their brains? Robust search is much closer than file folders to how most people think. Apple can claim leadership, while Microsoft appears to fall behind.”
- Russell Beattie on the sync stuff: “Everyone in the mobile world is waiting for the next version of iSync to see if it syncs with their new mobile phones like it should. Hopefully Nokia Series 60 phones are supported from the start. This will be great if I can easily sync my phone to the mac using SyncML, it’d be a huge step forward for that standard and for the Mac. From what I’ve heard this has been ready to go for a while, but needed the rest of Tiger to be ready first.”
- Michael Gartenberg: “Tiger is a big deal and it just might be the the best OS on a PC I have ever seen for productivity use…There’s a real experiential difference here in what Apple’s offering and if you spend far too much time organizing your stuff or just can’t find it again, you need to take a close look at Tiger. What’s missing? not much for me. I’d like to see RSS persistent so I can read and search offline and I wouldn’t mind seeing MSFT add Spotlight for Entourage. Otherwise, for the moment, this OS is nirvana for productivity.”
- Tim Bajarin sums the whole thing up nicely: “ Apple is light years ahead of Microsoft when it comes to developing PC operating systems.”