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Mac OS X Server is ten years old, already

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Apple's Mac OS X Server operating system is already ten years old.

January 7, 2009

Yesterday, at the MacWorld Expo, Apple underlined the fact that its Mac OS X Server operating system is already ten years old. But early in 1999, the Mac OS X server operating system wasn't popular. It simply lacked some features that had already become standard for most of its competing OSs.

Some of those lacking features were protected memory and preemptive multitasking. Additionally, Apple was also facing some strong competition from Microsoft, which had enormous success with its own OS but was also showing the future of Windows with the written-from-scratch Windows NT operating system.

For its part, Be Inc. was founded by ex-Apple CEO Jean-Louis Gassé and had produced the BeOS, an advanced but unproven OS. The deal came close, but Gassé wanted far too much money for Be and the deal simply didn't go through, and consequently, Be just faded out into oblivion.

At the time, it was reported that even though Be was valued at about US 20 million, the offers flying back and forth between Apple and Be ran into the hundreds of millions...

Steve Jobs, who was heading NeXT at that time, contacted Apple and pitched the NEXT-STEP heavily to the company, claiming that it was technology proven in the market, unlike the young and untested BeOS. The pitch was considered successful and Apple decided to use NEXT-STEP (by then renamed to OPEN-STEP) as the basis for its next-generation OS.

Originally bubbed as Rhapsody, several developer preview releases made their way into tester's hands, but the first official, final version of the operating system released to the public was Mac OS X Server version 1.0 in January 1999. However, it didn't start shipping until March of that year.

After an impressive list of failed projects to either modernise the existing Mac OS or to write a new one from scratch, Apple finally realized that it had to buy an existing operating system to serve as the base for Apple's next-generation Mac OS X.

Several options were considered, including a partnership with Microsoft to use Windows NT, but in the end, Apple eyed a young but promising company based in Menlo Park, California: Be Inc.

Weirdly enough though, Mac OS X Server 1.0 wasn't the direct precursor to the desktop variant of Mac OS X. Both were developed alongside one another, but would share some improvements. Several Mac OS X developer preview releases were done over the course of 1999, and as soon as Mac OS X 10.0 was released in early 2000, version numbering schemes between Mac OS X' client and server variants were synchronised together.

Apple's Mac OS X Server, which combines the proven strength of Unix with the simplicity of MacIntosh, is built on the high-performance Mac MicroKernel and BSD version 4.4, and includes the Apache HTTP web server and WebObjects application server, along with the Exim mail server.

Source: Apple.

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