The division between Macintosh users running Apple Computer Inc.'s new and old operating systems came under the microscope at the Macworld Conference and Expo here as Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak joined industry experts in a panel discussion Tuesday on the merits of Mac OS X.
Like Wozniak, many Macworld attendees say they do use the new operating system but also find themselves in the world of Mac OS 9 when they want to run older applications and hardware.
Mac OS X, now in version 10.2.3 and known by the moniker Jaguar, is on the desktops of 5 million Macintosh users, according to Apple, up from 1.2 million a year ago.
"We hit our goal," said Steve Jobs, Apple's chief executive officer, citing the figure during a Tuesday keynote address. "The X transition is basically over."
However, if you are a Macintosh user who depends on the Quark Inc.'s QuarkXPress desktop publishing software, then the transition probably isn't over. That's because Quark XPress is still not available for Apple's newest operating system, leaving many of the Quark faithful stuck on Mac OS 9.
"We have a few laggard applications that we need to get out. You all know which ones we're talking about," Jobs said in an apparent reference to Quark.
Quark is not alone. Although more than 5,000 applications are now available natively for Mac OS X, some others still aren't. In addition, drivers for various hardware devices, including printers and scanners, still are not available for the new operating system. That leaves some users stuck in the world of Mac OS 9.
That is not a bad thing, according to Wozniak, who is known affectionately by Macintosh enthusiasts as "The Woz." But it makes the transition tough for some users.
"You have to eventually make a transition," Wozniak said. "Some people are just not ready to convert."
"I use (Mac OS X) but I have computers with (Mac OS 9) doing important tasks. Why would I switch when it just works forever?" Wozniak said, noting that his home computer collection includes a number of desktop and notebook machines running various versions of Apple's operating system. One of those home machines is Apple's ill-fated Cube.
For one, Wozniak noted that many people might not be able to afford to upgrade from Mac OS 9 to the new operating system because repurchasing software can be a strain on the pocketbook.
"That expense hurts a lot of people," Wozniak said.
Miles Kaplan, a show attendee who manages technical support and graphics for Ace Mailing, a small direct mailing company in San Francisco, said that the cost of upgrading applications has kept him on the old operating system part of the time.
"I use (Mac OS 9) for some of the older Adobe (Systems Inc.) software that I haven't paid the hundreds of dollars to upgrade to," Kaplan said.
It was a similar case for Michael Bayer, president of Computer Telephony Solutions Inc., in Saratoga, California, who said he has a mixed environment of Macintosh computers running old and new operating systems thanks to a pricey scanner he owns that is not supported on Mac OS X.
Even still, Bayer said: "Before Jaguar, I couldn't conceive of any reason to make my primary machine run OS X."
The instability of new applications has also been a deterrent to adopting Apple's new operating system, Wozniak said. When asked what he would suggest be done at Apple to drive users to upgrade, Wozniak said, "I would urge a lot more testing of applications. These things need more testing before they come out."
Despite all his criticism, Wozniak also praised Mac OS X, hailing it for its roots in Unix, a sturdy operating system that has long been used in enterprise computing.
"I think that Unix is great because it opens up the Mac OS to a ton of computer science students," Wozniak said. "I use it for a few simple network tasks, and I'm glad it's there."
The Unix component of the operating system plays its most important role when it comes to making Apple a member of the enterprise computing world, Wozniak said.
"The real credibility of OS X ... applies to business IT departments, and even to high-level networks," he said. "It will fulfill enterprise computing needs much more than OS 9."
Finally, Wozniak suggested that new Macintosh users are best served by choosing Mac OS X for their first machine, mainly because it is the platform that Apple will best support going forward.
On a related note, he said the new operating system will offer a far better experience to new users than did some past versions.
"There was a point in time when the Macintosh crashed an awful lot more than Windows machines," he said.