Mac OS X sprouts new software

Software vendors are taking a big bite of Apple Computer Inc.'s latest operating system, including its foe-turned-friend Microsoft Corp., which made available Monday a version of its Office software suite for Mac OS X Version 10.1.

The newest version of the Mac OS, released in September, has been praised by some analysts as a clean and quick-running upgrade to Apple's flagship product, and vendors of desktop and graphics applications from Adobe Inc. to Corel Corp. are embracing the operating system with vigor.

"It is certainly the most exciting introduction of software that Apple has made in a long time," said Roger Kay, an analyst with International Data Corp. of Framingham, Massachusetts. New features in Mac OS X Version 10.1, including compatibility with Windows networks and improved graphics, are giving the platform new appeal among users and software vendors, he said.

Microsoft Corp.'s Office v. X for Mac hit retail shelves Monday, two months after the software maker offered users a first glimpse at it. The product is priced at US$499, or $299 for the upgrade version, Microsoft said.

Office v. X for Mac is considered by some analysts as the leading application available for Mac OS X 10.1. It has won accolades from Apple Chief Executive Officer Steve Jobs, who called it the "posterchild" for Apple's operating system when it was previewed in September at the Seybold conference in San Francisco. The Mac Office software takes advantage of the look and feel of Mac OS X, most notably its curvy Aqua user interface. It works with the Windows version of Office, allowing users to exchange files easily between Windows and Mac systems.

In a similar vein, the latest Mac OS includes built-in networking capabilities designed to allow Apple computers to run efficiently within a network of Windows PCs and servers.

"I think one of the key features is the ability to get on the Windows network," Kay said. "That means you're not penalized any more for bringing a Mac into that environment. With Office, you'll even get compatibility at the document level."

Canadian software maker Corel is also tuning its software for the Mac. The company announced on Thursday last week the availability of three more applications for the new operating system. With the release of CorelDraw 10, Corel Photo-Paint 10 and KnockOut 2, the company now offers seven of its titles for Mac OS X.

"We've seen a significant increase of interest on the Mac platform since launching these products this year," said Ian LeGrow, executive vice president of creative products at Corel. "Corel is recognizing the need to publish to the true Mac creative professional."

The growing relationship between Corel and Apple is notable because Corel has been without a close operating systems partner for the past few years, said IDC's Kay. Microsoft is one of Corel's biggest investors, having put $135 million behind the company more than a year ago, but Corel's productivity applications have found it hard to compete against Microsoft's, leaving it with limited room for growth in the Windows market.

Corel also made a play for the Linux market when it released its own version of that operating system, but licensed that unit in September to a start-up called Xandros Corp. As it shifts its focus from productivity applications to graphics software, the Mac platform stands as one of its best opportunities for growth, analysts said.

Adobe, meanwhile, is expected to release upgraded versions of its entire product line within six months for Mac OS X 10.1. The company has already started shipping its Illustrator software for the upgraded OS, and is tuning Photoshop for release by the middle of 2002, the company has said.

IBM Corp., meanwhile, made available Monday a version of ViaVoice, its speech-recognition software, for the new Mac operating system.

"The momentum for OS X with developers is really starting to accelerate," said Ron Okamoto, vice president of worldwide developer relations at Apple.

Besides the new desktop applications for Mac OS X 10.1, Apple is also seeing interest among Java and Unix developers, according to Okamoto. The operating system has a JVM (Java Virtual Machine) built in, giving users the application needed to run Java programs on a Mac. Mac OS X also uses core pieces of the BSD (Berkeley Software Distribution) version of Unix, opening up new opportunities for porting Unix applications to the Mac.

"There's a lot of folks out there who can now look at OS X and start to think about building their Unix applications for the operating system," Okamoto said.

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