Just a few years after a big leadership transition, Apple announced not only a brand new operating system but said they would be offering a public beta to interested customers. Sound familiar? The year was 2000 and the OS in question was the very first version of OS X. Now, 14 years later, Apple's once again inviting users to come and check out the Mac's latest and greatest operating system before its impending release.
But where the OS X Public Beta was a one-off move at a time when Apple's future was decidedly uncertain, the launch of the OS X Yosemite Public Beta this week highlights an Apple that is nothing but comfortable in its spot in the technology industry.
It is the year 2000
Back in 2000, I was a junior at college. I had a blue-and-white PowerMac G3 and a recently acquired PowerBook G3, both running Mac OS 9.0.4. As much love as I held for the classic Mac OS, I'd long accepted that it had grown somewhat long in the tooth. We few, we proud, we hardy Mac users had become the butt of jokes for our Windows enthusiast friends, and features like "preemptive multitasking" and "protected memory" were only discussed in hushed tones.
We were not entirely without hope. Those of us who regularly pored over the pages of magazines like Macworld had eagerly looked forward to a modern OS, rumored to be delivered by projects Taligent, Copland, and Gershwin. But that enthusiasm waned as those promised technologies failed to materialize. The return of Steve Jobs in 1997 may have restored some hope, but it wasn't until the release of the OS X Public Beta that many of us were willing to accept that maybe this venture wouldn't go up in smoke. I'm not sure if that was a factor in Apple's decision to release a public beta, but I wouldn't be surprised if the company wanted to reassure its user base.
Even once folks like me forked over $30 to get a disc for the Public Beta (via snail mail, naturally) and installed it on our Macs, there was still plenty of trepidation. The interface was familiar in some ways, but there was still much that was alien (why, oh why, was there a non-functional Apple icon in the middle of the menu bar?), there were plenty of features that didn't quite work yet, and most applications had to be run in a mode that emulated the old Mac OS.
In short, it was a brave new world.
That brave new world has now become the status quo. After 14 years, OS X has become a home for us--in just a few years, we'll have been using it as long as we were using the classic Mac OS before OS X's release. New users have flocked to the platform, some of whom weren't even a glimmer in their parents' eyes at the time of the OS X Public Beta's release and who can't imagine a world where Apple was ever in peril.
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