REDMOND, WASH. & CUPERTINO, CALIF. -- The Windows operating system may dominate the market, but last week Apple showed it is still in the fight by releasing a beta version of its Mac OS X on the same day Microsoft rolled out Windows Millennium Edition (Me).
Apple also announced two additions to its iBook notebook computer line. (See www.twice.com for details.)
PC Data, Reston, Va., had indicated that when Windows Me hit stores, software sales would be boosted. But sales have improved little over last year, and after viewing initial customer reaction at retailers, the research company is no longer certain Me will have a huge impact, said PCData research director Roger Lanctot.
"I think there is some question as to whether Windows Me will jump start demand," said Lanctot. "In spite of the fact that Staples, Office Depot and OfficeMax are giving away [free after mail-in rebates] tons of software and hardware, tumbleweeds are blowing through the aisles." The retail impact of Mac software, he added, will be slight because it is primarily sold through catalogs and online.
Melissa Orr, president of the in-store detailing firm Campaigners, on the other hand, said that Windows Me could help kick off the typically strong fourth-quarter sales early this year.
The Apple faithful have patiently waited through several delays for last week's launch. Apple CEO Steve Jobs said in July 1999 that Mac OS X would ship earlier this year, and this was then pushed into the summer. A full version is expected in early 2001, and at that time it will be included on all Apple computers.
According to industry reports, the postponements were due to the fact that unlike Windows Me, OS X is a total revamp of Apple's OS and not just a simple upgrade. It was rebuilt from the ground up using the open-source Unix operating system as its foundation.
New features include a desktop interface, iMovie video editing software, e-mail client, an upgraded QuickTime movie viewer and the Quartz 2D graphics engine.
Major additions to Windows Me include the ability to recognize popular types of home-networking systems, such as telephone line and wireless, and an onscreen wizard to assist in the installation of a network.
Millennium features what Microsoft calls Universal Plug and Play (UPnP) for upcoming home-automation networks, which would allow consumers to control their appliances and home-related systems through the PC. Enhanced digital camera and video editing capabilities are included, as well as an improved Windows Media Player.
Mac OS X is selling for $29.95 from the Apple Web store and is being bundled with a couple of Apple computers.
The Windows Me upgrade edition carries a suggested retail price of $59.95 but is selling at a promotional price of $49.95. It is being debuted on PCs and notebooks from Hewlett-Packard and Compaq. CompUSA took the added measure of running a Windows Me ad in newspapers across the country to hype the software.