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The release of a new version of Apple's operating system is always a cause for fanfare. Friday, April 29 was no exception, with Apple fans queuing up outside stores around the world to get their hands on Steve Jobs' latest magnus opus.
However, with OS revisions appearing for the last three years in a row now, some Apple punters have begun to question the need to pay £90 every year to stay on top of the latest technological developments.
It's in this sceptical climate that OSX version 10.4, codenamed Tiger by Apple, was released at the end of last month. Tiger promised over 200 new features that would make the upgrade from the previous iteration - version 10.3, Panther - worthwhile.
In this mix of new features are some of the names you might have heard bandied about, such as Spotlight, Dashboard and Automator. However, many of the new features are 'under the hood' changes that the average user won't notice. So do the evident ones make this a worthwhile purchase?
Before we get stuck in to the core of the Apple Tiger experience, let's briefly peel the skin off the OS to get some context.
The first version of OSX (that’s OS Ten, not ‘X’) was 10.0, and was released as a replacement for the aging OS9, which itself built on a long tradition stretching back to a basic code base round about OS6. Version 10.0 was a substantial change: legacy support for many Macs was dropped, entire programs needed to be rewritten to support the new platform, and the whole changeover was more than a little traumatic for the firm.
By 10.2, Jaguar, Apple had reached the point where OSX was now a viable alternative to the legacy platform. With key products like Photoshop and Microsoft Office now up and running very nicely in the new environment, not only could users of older Macs justify jumping onto the new platform, there was also potential for Windows users to jump ship. Apple recognised this, and the original iMac/Switch campaign was based on exactly this premise.
In 10.3, Apple had found the OS it had been looking to create all along. Features like Expose, the window management system, was something that genuinely didn’t exist anywhere else. The constant security vulnerabilities in Windows, and the entire lack of such problems on Apple hardware and software attracted the attention of the mainstream, while the continual growth of the Open Source movement brought kudos to Apple for the BSD base that OSX uses.
Fast forward to today, and Apple is now starting to become a bigger player in the computing market. Its iMac and Powerbook lines have been runaway successes, while the iPod has gone stratospheric in comparison, with iPods accounting for two thirds of all new sales of MP3 players across the flash and hard-drive based markets. Never has Apple attracted so much attention – and consequently, never has a launch of an OSX revision attracted more hype.