Jean-Louis Gassée on the evolution of macOS and iOS

Jean-Louis Gassée, Monday Note:

In 1984, the Mac’s software engine, which included an AppleTalk network stack and a LaserWriter driver, ran on a single Motorola 68000 CPU and needed just 32K of ROM and 128K of RAM.

And:

Today, macOS is a fully-grown computer operating system, pleasant, fast, flexible. But it’s also enormous — RAM and disk storage requirements are measured in gigabytes — and it isn’t exactly bug-free. An ex-Apple acquaintance recently told me there are something like 10,000 “open” bugs on an on-going basis. The number that are urgent is, of course, a fraction of the gamut, but like any mature operating system, macOS has become a battlefield of patch upon patch upon patch.

And:

When the Apple smartphone project started, the key decision was the choice of software engine. Should Apple try to make a ‘lite’ version of OS X (as it was then known)? Go in a completely new direction?

[Note that Jean-Louis was the founder and CEO of Be, Inc.]

And:

It appears that a new direction may have been tempting. At the time that Apple’s smartphone project began, an Apple employee and former Be engineer offered Palm Inc. $800K for a BeOS “code dump” — just the code, no support, no royalties. The engineer was highly respected for his skill in mating software to unfamiliar hardware; BeOS was a small, light operating system; draw your own conclusion… Palm, which had purchased Be a few years before that, turned him down. (I learned this when I was asked to become Chairman of PalmSource, Palm’s software spinoff)

Wow. I had not heard this bit before.

I could go on with the excerpts, but you really should read this piece for yourself. Terrific writing from someone who lived at the intersection of Apple and history.



  • it isn’t exactly bug-free

    …is he actually suggesting that the 1984 Mac OS was bug free? I’m not aware of any OS that wasn’t exactly bug-free, so I fail to understand his point in including that.

    • Mo

      Seemed to me he was referring to the kinds of problems that drive decisions about allocation of company resources.

  • Mo

    I think it’s important to have folks like Gassée around as another voice that reminds us of precedent and history that too many people willingly ignore or carelessly forget.