OS X evolution: The long road to Mavericks

It was a long road to OS X 10.9 Mavericks. Mac OS X was first introduced as a public beta (codenamed Kodiak) in September of 2000, and beta it was - a radical departure from Mac OS 9, both in look (introducing the "Aqua" interface) and in operation. Mac OS X was built on a UNIX foundation, and was more closely related to the NextStep operating system that had been developed by NeXT, the computing company Steve Jobs founded between stints running Apple.

OS X 10.0 Cheetah gave way to OS X 10.1 Puma, and then OS X 10.2 Jaguar. Over the years Apple iteratively improved OS X, typically waiting until a major release before introducing major new features, capabilities and applications. Early on Apple cranked out changes to OS X on an annual basis, but once the company hit Mac OS X 10.3 Panther (Pinot), it slowed down, changing to a biannual upgrade cycle.

Apple wasn't standing still between those upgrades, either. By 2005 the PowerPC chip that had served as the basis for Macs throughout the 90s was pushing its limits. Fortunately, Apple hedged its bets, and had been working to keep OS X operating on Intel hardware as well. OS X 10.4 Tiger (Merlot) was the transition point, specifically OS X 10.4.4 Tiger (Chardonay). And so Apple was able to migrate successfully to a different microprocessor architecture without having to start over at square one.

Since then Apple's stayed the course. OS X 10.5 Leopard (Chablis) led to the "no new features" feature release of OS X 10.6 Snow Leopard, which lead to OS X 10.7 Lion (Barolo). With the introduction of Mountain Lion in 10.8 (Zinfandel), it was clear that Apple was resuming its annual upgrade cycle again, to iteratively make changes to the operating system to keep up with new technology and user expectations. And that brings us to today and the launch of OS X 10.9 Mavericks (Cabernet), the first installment of the operating system not to carry a big cat's name.

To that end, Apple has run out of big cats to name their operating system. So starting with Mavericks, they've switched to a nomenclature based on places in California, Apple's home state - places that Apple says its employees draw their inspiration from.

Mavericks is actually a surfing spot in Northern California, not too far from Half Moon Bay. That's a local spot for Apple employees, to be sure - it's in San Mateo County, only about 30 miles from Apple's corporate headquarters.

Apple's renewed focus on the Mac and Mac software is promising. If past is prologue, we should get our first look at OS X 10.10 (Syrah) in 2014. What features will it have, and what California landmark will it call home? We'll find out next year.

Peter Cohen

Managing Editor of iMore, Mac and gaming specialist and all-around technologist. Follow him on Twitter @flargh

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There are 21 comments. Add yours.

emjayess says:

First came to Apple and the Mac with Lion, and I was humbled by what I found! And grateful to be free of Windows!

Installing Mavericks from a clean install as I type--can't wait!

ungibbed says:

Having quite a history with OS X ever since 10.1 pre-installed on my once new iBook G3. At the time using OS X was wonderful eye candy but very sluggish with the hardware it came with. I then bought 10.2 and many apps were much improved but still clinging to Mac OS 9 for the holdouts and those who still had older hardware.

I feel it truly hit mainstream with Tiger and the intro to new Intel based hardware and Leopard was a huge milestone in many ways. The last release for PPC systems, and a wonderful set of new features along with finally pulling the stripes from the OS along with "brushed metal".

I can't believe it's been that long with my history of using OS X and I still am impressed with the OS which has matured nicely and much faster than Windows has.

Both share some legacy from the early days, but it's great to have an OS that is 64 bit friendly from the core and supported by more third parties than I've ever seen since the days of running Mac OS 9 and earlier. Thankfully it's been retired along with Windows 9X.

Both platforms (Mac and PC) have come a long way from the growing pains of plug & play and ease of use.

Still, even though I deal with a lot of Windows boxes, it's great to come home to my Mac. No headaches, it just works.

Rob Bowrosen says:

I hate Mavericks! Tell you the truth I should have just stayed with Snow Leopard. It's been down hill ever since!

Rick Faced says:

Oh no. Please tell us, we're on the edge of our seats!

Rob Bowrosen says:

Ok I will, I am not a "GEEK", waiting on the "edge of my seat" for the newest version of whatever. I switched to Mac because it was a lot easier than the PC to use. I use the computer for business and recreation. I was quite happy that I could also run quite a few of PC programs on my Mac. But with the newer versions, they took away "PowerPC", now I can't run those programs, but I see with every "Update/upgrade" what have you they seem to take away something else that you actually use. Also, the fact that as soon as you get used to the "New format", here they come with a new update that screws up everything. So, needless to say this "Mevericks" will be my last.

nightshrill says:

My first mac was one of the last iBook G4s running Tiger, as the years went on I upgraded all the way through Snow Leopard which was a phenomenal system. I then abandoned the OSX platform for a few years and came back into the fold earlier this year with Mountain Lion and was shocked at how much had changed. I personally did not like ML very much due to the lack of customization I once had with Snow Leopard (I was a diehard candy bar user - which yes still does sort of work with ML but not if you buy an app through the app store and no dock switching), also it seemed that ML was not as stable as I remembered being SL being but that could be nostalgia.

I do like Mavericks quite a bit and have noticed a bump in performance too, but am disturbed by apple continuing the trend they set with Final Cut Pro with their iWork suite and hope they do not follow down that path. I am a historian who uses iWork quite extensively for submission of academic papers, which I do not think requires me to be a power user but time will tell if apple continues with this trend.

luc9488 says:

Been seriously wondering for a while what the next version of OS X will look like or even be called. Will it be OS X 10.10 or OS XI or will they just drop the 10.x moniker all together and just call it OS X "insert California surfing spot here"?

Cameron Schubert says:

I'v been wondering the same thing.. "OS X 10.10" is technically the same as 10.1.. which was released in 2001 as "Puma". To me, it seems the next logical name would be OS 11 or OS XI. The "X" in OS X stands for 10. Or, at least it used to.

luc9488 says:

Their OS X branding is so strong through I would find it hard to believe they would change that aspect. I would make a bet most consumers don't even think about what OS X actually means. I do believe OS X and iOS are on a collision course and there's always a chance of their unification happening sooner rather then later. Just look at the move to 64-bit processors across their iOS device lineup (you could also peg that as a reason the iPad Mini got an A7 rather then an 32-bit A6). You could also combine this with the recent rumours over the past couple of years that they are building a version of OS X that runs on ARM based processors in parallel with x86 based processors. Who knows though. It's Apple.

Cameron Schubert says:

Yeah, I would agree that the two OSs will eventually start overlapping with their targeted demographics. Already kinda seeing that. And I could see OS X start to take a back seat as iOS becomes the standard OS for future of Apple products. I'm thinking that if they ever ditch the "X" for a "XI" thats when we would see a lot more iOS influence on the desktop OS.

AriX#AC says:

Merging iOS and OS X has nothing to do with the architectures they run on. Both OSs are written to be completely portable, and Apple already has the ability to run each OS on whatever platform they want. For example, the iPhone Simulator is literally just iOS recompiled for Intel. They could compile OS X for ARM if they wanted to, or PowerPC, for that matter. iOS and OS X are already unified; they share the same kernel and core libraries and frameworks. The only parts that are different are the UI frameworks and apps, and it wouldn't make sense to merge those anyway.

Cameron Schubert says:

I don't remember ever saying the two OSs would merge. But their markets will and have been. And my prediction is eventually several generations down the road Apple will only have iOS (from a marketing standpoint).

Edit: oh, nvm. Maybe you were replying to the post above mine.

luc9488 says:

I don't think that's true.... OS X has not been completely ported to iOS in it's current state. The underlying core (Darwin) has yes, but there's still a lot of work to be done there. All OS X applications would need to be ported to run on ARM and any third party apps would either need to be rewritten, or run in some sort of emulation software like what was previously the case when Apple made the transition from PowerPC to Intel. I'm not sure if they should but it could happen. I'm indifferent either way as long as there is serious benefits across the board for us (users) and not just a another aspect for Apple to control.

Thaipo says:

No. It's not "technically" the same.
This debate has been resolved. Your side lost:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mac_OS_X_Tiger#Release_history

Cameron Schubert says:

Oh, Didn't know I was in a competition or that version numbers didn't follow the same logic as decimal values... Thanks for the info ya dick.

hryanl says:

Wasn't the first release of Mac OS X actually Mac OS X Server 1.0 in 1999? (AKA Rhapsody) http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mac_OS_X_Server_1.0
Screenies: http://www.guidebookgallery.org/screenshots/macosxdp1

luc9488 says:

Maybe but the design language screams OS 9

AriX#AC says:

Haha, good point! That was the first release that was called "Mac OS X," though it was really just a newer version of the Rhapsody OS, which was just the Apple-ified version of OpenStep, which was the successor to NeXTSTEP. OS X has quite a backstory!

John Faitakes says:

I came on at 9, and the X beta, its what made me switch

Frederik Paul says:

"Apple's renewed focus on the Mac and Mac software"? Which strange world you live in? Apple is focus on your money and everything you have and are, your whole life indeed. And how you can call this Mac line-up and software like Pages and Numbers focus on mac software is beyond me. But you are a good Apple sheep…