Exclusive: Mac OS 9.1 lost weight say sources

More than a year in the making, the revision to the classic Mac OS shed many planned features along the way, sources said

Although it didn't rate a mention during Apple Computer chief executive Steve Jobs' keynote speech at Macworld Expo, the company on Tuesday delivered the US English version of Mac OS 9.1, its long-awaited update to the current Mac OS.

The revision, codenamed Fortissimo, has been in development since mid-1999, according to sources. Despite the long incubation period, however, some planned features have been either deferred to later revisions or have been reserved as unique features for Mac OS X, now scheduled to ship 24 March .

Originally conceived of as a "big effort" that would introduce new interface elements, new drivers and better integration with OS X, OS 9.1's scope was scaled back as its delivery date grew closer to that of OS X. Ironically, Apple warns that OS 9.1 is incompatible with the current Mac OS X Public Beta and will break the beta's Classic compatibility environment.

The most visible changes that remain in OS 9.1 do serve to dovetail its interface more closely with OS X's. New to OS 9.1 is Finder 9.1, which includes a "Window" item in the system's menu bar that lists all open windows on the desktop, mimicking a similar element in OS X.

In addition, OS 9.1 creates a folder at the root level titled "Applications (Mac OS 9)", echoing the directory structure in OS X.

The upgrade also features a revised Startup Disk control panel that lets users choose from multiple System Folders on any hard drive. Other interface changes include the ability to use the Command-Shift-Delete key combination to empty the Trash and compatibility fixes for Apple's Pro USB Keyboard with older Mac systems.

Also new is vDSP 1.0, a set of digital signal processing functions that can be used in both the coding and decoding of audio and video, as well as USB Printer Sharing 1.0 for group use of a USB-based printer over a TCP/IP network. Other architectural changes in OS 9.1 include a new Multiple User feature, a PowerPC-native General Controls control panel, a new Help 4.0 engine and 128-bit encryption for file security. Mac OS 9.1 includes updated FireWire and OpenGL extensions as well.

However, Open Transport 3.0 -- a significant revision to Apple's network communication system that was intended to include long-awaited multi-homing capabilities -- was pulled from OS 9.1 due to problems in development. Whether or not this version will make it into later revisions to the classic Mac OS is yet to be seen.

Also pulled from OS 9.1 was a new Image Capture feature that would enable the direct downloading of digital camera images, possibly replacing the need for various Twain or a camera-specific driver.

According to sources, this capability has been held and will be presented as a new capability for OS X. Similarly, Apple reportedly decided to spike a rumored handwriting-recognition named InkWell -- originally developed for Mac OS 9 -- in order to make it an exclusive feature of a future Mac OS X revision.

Registered owners of OS 9 can either download OS 9.1 for free or order a CD-ROM version for $19.95, including shipping and handling.

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