Apple Computer Inc duly launched Mac OS 8 on Tuesday, insisting it was the most significant Macintosh operating system release since 1984. But most commentators say it’s not much different from Mac OS 7.x releases and that astute organizations will wait for a bug-fixed 8.1 release before buying the new software. In addition Mac OS 8 runs only on PowerPC and Motorola 68040-based systems. Its co-operative multi-tasking features still lack the native, pre-emtive multitasking and virtual memory features offered by Unix and Windows NT, and which will eventually appear in its Rhapsody operating system, not due until this time next year. Mac OS 8 is faster and has some improvements in the design and functionality of the interface, but not much else. Mac OS 8 has a multithreaded Finder for handling several operations at once and a new web sharing function enables users share the contents of their system directories over the web by using a control panel. Anyone connected over the Internet or and intranet can access the directories from a web browser. Apple went to Palo Alto, California-based Excite Inc for Web search, directory and content services. There are spring-loaded folders which open when a file is dragged on top of them, pop up windows which enable folders, hard drives or network volumes to be moved to the bottom of the screen as tabs, from where they can be opened with a single click, and contextual menus, giving a list of actions applying to a selected icon. There is a hypertext-based help system, Mac OS Info Center, written in HTML and providing live links to the Apple web site.
Internet access is carried out through a single configuration process which includes TPC/IP, PP, mail and web services. Mac OS 8 includes both Netscape Navigator 3.01 and Microsoft Explorer 3.01, Claris Emailer Lite, and America Online 3.0. There is a new QuickTime VR 2.0 browser plug-in for Microsoft Internet Explorer and Netscape Navigator and Communicator due in the fall. To playback MPEG movie clips it requires a QuickTime MPEG extension available only for PowerPC Macs. Also new in Mac OS 8 is version 1.5 of Apple’s Mac OS Runtime for Java, an implementation of Sun Microsystems Inc’s Java virtual machine. It’s actually a souped- up version of Apple 1.0 release of Sun’s Java Development Kit 1.0.2. Version 2.0 of the runtime, based on Sun’s JDK 1.1.x is due in the fall. Users will have to wait until then for a Java JIT just-in-time compiler. Also available is version 3.0 of Apple’s Internet Server bundle, which includes a Macintosh server plus a slew of web software. Mac OS 8 need 12Mb RAM minimum plus 8Mb virtual RAM. A full install will create a 100Mb system folder. It costs $100 – upgrades are from $30.