On Saturday, 29-Sep-01, Apple started shipping the long-awaited Mac OS X 10.1, which brings the company's next-generation operating system a large step closer to the mainstream Macintosh audience.
The first four minor updates to Mac OS X 10.0 fixed bugs and made behind-the-scenes improvements to the initial release of Mac OS X. But they didn't change the user experience particularly, and that was where Mac OS X needed the most help. Third party utilities stepped in to help out and to restore useful bits of functionality from Mac OS 9, but even still, Mac OS X 10.0 felt distinctly rough. The good news is that Mac OS X 10.1 goes a long way toward polishing those rough surfaces. For the most part, the only downside is that Mac OS X remains a work in progress, so even though Apple has made great strides with this release, plenty more work remains to be done.
We'll look next at the major improvements and new features in Mac OS X 10.1, but first let's look at how you lay your hands on a copy.
Getting It -- The Mac OS X 10.1 upgrade is free to all owners of Mac OS X and purchasers of Macs that shipped with Mac OS X pre-installed. However, because Mac OS X 10.1's size forces it to be available only on CD-ROM, Apple is charging a $20 shipping and handling fee (plus local sales tax, which you must calculate yourself). The full upgrade package, available to U.S. and Canadian users via Apple's Mac OS Up-To-Date program through 31-Dec-01, includes a Mac OS X 10.1 upgrade CD, a full Mac OS 9.2.1 CD, an updated Developer Tools CD, and a user guide. Apple promises 6 to 12 week delivery times via UPS or First-Class Mail, though my copy - requested via fax on Thursday, 27-Sep-01 - arrived today. It's also possible to order the update directly from the Apple Store for $20 if you call them at 800/MY-APPLE - this approach could be faster than using the Mac OS Up-To-Date program.
You can avoid the fee and get Mac OS X 10.1 in person by going to an Apple Store or participating Apple dealer for an Instant Up-To-Date upgrade package that includes only a Mac OS X 10.1 upgrade CD, a Mac OS 9.2.1 upgrade CD, and a Mac OS X manual. The Instant Up-To-Date package will be available through 31-Oct-01 or while supplies last. To judge from today's reports on TidBITS Talk, supplies in many locations lasted only a few hours, although it's likely that Apple will replenish them - call ahead to verify that some are in stock.
Developers should note that the Instant Up-To-Date package lacks the new Developer Tools CD, which is necessary since the old tools will not work with Mac OS X 10.1. Although a free online membership in the Apple Developer Connection program enables developers to download the full set of updated developer tools beginning this week, the download is reportedly a massive 550 MB.
International Availability -- It appears that Apple is handling upgrades for customers in other countries similarly, given the almost identical pages on Apple's site for other countries in which Apple has a presence. To check out the Mac OS Up-To-Date program for another country, visit Apple's contact page linked below, click the link corresponding to Apple's home page for that country, append "macosx/uptodate/" to the end of the URL that appears in your Web browser's Address field, and press Return. The details of the Instant Up-To-Date program will undoubtedly vary somewhat; Kenneth Wedin passed on information in TidBITS Talk about how the Instant Up-To-Date program would work in Japan.
New Copies -- The full release of Mac OS X 10.1 is also now available for $130 from Apple, Apple dealers, and online retailers. To run it, you'll need a Macintosh based on the PowerPC G3 or PowerPC G4 processors (not including the original PowerBook G3 or processor upgrade cards) with at least 128 MB of RAM and 1.5 GB of free disk space.
For those who don't yet have Mac OS X, the question becomes: is now the time to upgrade? Read on for our take on the major improvements in Mac OS X 10.1, and after that we'll provide guidance on determining if you should make the jump now or continue to wait.