Apple Computer is banking on the
open-source heritage of its operating system to spare Tiger, the fifth
version of the software, from the security woes that have dogged
The operating system update, due to debut in the first half of
2005, is based on the Unix platform, and Apple executives reckon the
open-source nature of the product means it's inherently more secure
than certain proprietary offerings.
Bertrand Serlet, senior vice president of software at Apple, said
Wednesday that having a greater number of people keeping an eye on
source code leads to better software security. "A lot of security
problems derive from the core," he said. With open-source code,
"thousands of people look at the critical portions of source code
and...check those portions are right. It's a major advantage to have
It's yet to be seen whether Tiger will be the target of malware
merchants. The Mac OS has had its flaws in the past, but has not seen
the number of security scares experienced by rival operating systems
such as Microsoft's Windows. The MSBlast
worm attack last year was a factor in Microsoft's development of its
SP2 security update, and the company's software also took hits from the
Slammer, Code Red and Nimda worms.
Early versions of the upcoming operating system are already doing
the rounds. Cupertino, Calif.-based Apple handed out one version at its
developer conference in June so that developers could get a "head start
in building apps," Ken Bereskin, senior director of product marketing
for Mac OS X, said.
Although Bereskin called the developers' version "a solid copy" of
Tiger, there's still a lot of work to be done on the software, Serlet
said. For instance, the company has yet to finalize the arrangement of
standard "widgets"--the clock, notepad, dictionary and other favorite
accessories that a user can click down over the desktop in a
Nevertheless, Apple executives are "very confident," Bereskin said,
that they won't have the same deadline-meeting grief as Microsoft.
Constant delays have plagued the prospective shipping date of Longhorn,
the update to the Windows operating system, and Microsoft developers
were recently moved from working on Longhorn to the XP SP2 security
update, putting the delivery date back even further.
The Mac maker hasn't made it a secret that it thinks Microsoft has
been borrowing ideas from Apple's previous operating systems. When
Apple CEO Steve Jobs unveiled Tiger in late June, the conference
building was emblazoned with posters bearing the legend: "Redmond,
start your photocopiers."
Regarding Microsoft, Bereskin said: "It's good to see they're
studying us closely." When asked whether Apple expects to see MS Widget
in Longhorn, Bereskin answered: "We innovate in user features and we
get copied a lot."
The Spotlight search feature and some other 150-odd additions that
will appear in Tiger were shown off Tuesday at Apple Expo in Paris by
Phil Schiller, corporate vice president of marketing.
"Microsoft's date (for shipping Longhorn) seems to keep changing--we
just want to say how far ahead of Microsoft we are…we're years ahead of
Longhorn," Schiller said.
Spotlight is Apple's big move in the race to get a search tool
on the desktop--"the next big revolution in commercial operating
systems," Schiller said. Apple's search software works across
applications and will sift through both content and metadata, even
matching search terms to corresponding text in PDFs. The tool started
life as a feature in the iTunes music store--the little magnifying
glass that appears in the top right-hand corner of the screen--but
Apple has ramped up its capabilities for Tiger.
But Apple executives admitted at the Expo on Tuesday that even they
can't escape the Microsoft orbit. "We have to fit into a Windows
world--they're out there and they're all around us," Schiller said.
Jo Best of Silicon.com reported from London.