So What’s The Big Idea Behind X11 And Keynote?

| Editorial

These are interesting times. Not too long ago Apple products were thought of as an eccentric collection of software and hardware that only the equally eccentric of us could truly appreciate. The Apple brand did not come to mind when one thought of doing anything serious, be it work or play. Many believed firmly that Apple was following the likes of Atari and Commodore, becoming no more than, at most, a chapter in the history of computing.

What a difference a few years makes.

Not only is Apple once again an industry leader, it has established beachheads in several environments where it had once either never been or made only a half-hearted attempt at being. One such environment is the IT world. Few can argue that with Appleis selection of FreeBSD as the foundation for OS 9is successor, Mac OS X, Apple has thus far made quite an impression on the natives. Whatis more is that Apple continues to sweet-talk the IT locals, not with beads and baubles, but with real substance. It looks the natives are buying it.

Beginning with the introduction of UNIX-based OS X, Apple has followed through with a steady stream of UNIX-centric and Windows-centric upgrades and enhancements. The company is slowly but surely doing what PCs running any of the various flavors of Windows, and the many vendors of UNIX or Linux, could not do: unify the corporate desktop. The latest enhancements are an OS X native version of the X11 Window manager, the ubiquitous UNIX windowing environment, and Keynote, a presentation application aimed directly at the businessperson.

Although Apple was rather quiet about its release, X11 running natively in OS X is a big deal. Behind Aqua, Appleis Graphical User Interface (GUI), lies Darwin, which is more or less based on FreeBSD, a version of UNIX developed at the University of California at Berkeley. From the start, Apple provided a command line interface via an Aqua native terminal, but that only hinted at what longtime UNIX users needed, and that is the ability to run applications that use the X11 GUI. Doing so would mean that thousands of applications could easily be recompiled to run on OS X.

There is, of course, XFree86 X11, another implementation of the X11 windowing system for OS X that worked quite well, but it was not an Aqua based application, and could not take advantage of OS Xis hardware and software enhancements. Also, UNIX gurus love to be able to tinker and tune their GUIs, something which was hard to do with Aqua. With X11 for OS X, Apple changed all of that. X11 for OS X takes full advantage of hardware and software graphic enhancements.

One thing you will notice if you compare XFree86 for OS X and Appleis X11 for OS X is that the later activates faster and windows are just as speedy, if not faster than Aqua windows. This is a boon to Unix application developers; not only do they now write for just one GUI, the GUI is a speed demon.

X11 for OS X is an Apple blessed alternative to Aqua, which means that X11 savvy gurus can completely ignore Aqua and run one of the many X11 window manager available, allowing him or her to run in an environment in which he or she feels most comfortable.

To UNIX developers, this is a huge plus as they spend large amounts of time in front of their computers. Of course, by ignoring Aqua they miss out on one of the advantages of owning a Mac in the first place, and that is being able to run Microsoft Applications natively. Then again, maybe thatis not such a big deal, because X11 on OS X provides another nice benefit; inativei Open Office and a closer path to inativei Star Office, the full featured version of Sunis office suit. Now, a recompile is all thatis needed to release Star Office for OS X, which puts Macs on equal footing with PCs for those looking for a platform with as many options as possible, including one that is Microsoft-free.

Keynote is equally important to Appleis IT invasion strategy. Keynote is a business strength presentation application that provides an alternative to PowerPoint and perhaps eases a bit of the grip of the corporate desktop Big Redmond currently enjoys. Appleis strategy is not hard to see: Steve Jobs introduced 2 new laptops and Keynote, both are items that the businessperson uses daily and both are designed to make his or her life easier while making him or her look great. Apple wisely made Keynote so that it could take inputs from the many applications that one might find on a businessmanis desktop, including MSis PowerPoint. By doing so, and by increasing the compatibility Macs have with other OSes, including Microsoftis, Apple has made Keynote and Mac laptops hard to resist and hard for IT managers to ignore.

Taken together, X11 for OS X and Keynote establishes Apple as a new and compelling choice for IT managers looking to reduce IT costs. Not long ago Macs were all but banished from businesses under the banner of consolidation: IT managers wanted to have to think about only one type of environment, believing that by doing so they could save money.

The reality is that, for many large companies, there is no such thing as ionei environment; Unix, Windows, and Linux are often part of an ever changing landscape, a landscape that, until now, no one computer could span. With Macs running OS X, IT managers can now iconsolidatei the corporate desktop and allow both developer and businessperson to have what they need to get their jobs done. Apple has once again become relevant to the IT manager, and that is a good thing.

Vern Seward is a writer who currently lives in Orlando, FL. Heis been a Mac fan since Atari Computers folded, but has worked with computers of nearly every type for 20 years.

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