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Copland and NeXT: what they never told you

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Copland a name well known to those who have followed Apple's story for a few years. It represented the code name of the new and radically different operating system that was supposed to allow Cupertino to make a leap forward, maintaining the superiority it had over the competition.

But the Copland project after postponements and disappointing experiences fell amid a thousand worries and worries of the Apple of the time, worries and anxieties that cost Spindler the chair first and then also to Amelio before leading to the purchase of NeXT and the return of Jobs.

Although the story of Copland in its general lines is known to most, few know its details that can be useful to understand how things actually went then.

To fix this gap thinks, for those who are interested, David K. Every, one of the most intelligent and acute commentators in the Mac world, known for his MacKido Temple.

Every has in fact written an interesting article for iGeek from which you can learn really tasty curiosities.

In the mid-1990s, the Apple team worked hard on Copland, a new kernel and a new user interface that was supposed to transform Mac OS, Apple's classic operating system, into a modern operating system worthy of the new millennium.

There were three main problems for the team: time available, new features to be implemented and resources available.

Apple's management demanded unrealistic lead times and at the same time asked for 100% compatibility with the previous system and radical changes to the architecture and functionality of the system.

The development team immediately realized that to have many of the new features required, it was necessary to have a system capable of handling old and new applications (a bit like today with Classic and Carbon applications) unless you decide to let go of some new features. Apple's management and marketing didn't want to hear any reason, and the development team was at some point forced to do everything the executives asked for.

The problem was that the latter most of the time did not realize the difficulties (and often the impossibility) of carrying out certain requests.

At some point some members of the development team began to be fired but the maximum times required by the managers for the development were not changed. Apple executives did not realize that no team can work in a very short time and at the same time produce quality code, well documented and bug-free. The project failed, inexorably.

The following story then the one we all know: Apple bought (was forced) to buy NeXT. It is interesting to note that after a year of working with Rhapdosy the developers came to many of the conclusions that the Copland development team had already arrived at: with a new kernel no house would rewrite Mac software from scratch. An environment was needed of compatibility with which it was possible to activate "classic" applications.

Between Copland, the purchase of NeXT, the incarnation of Mac OS X as we know it today, Apple has lost five years of time.

It would be interesting to know what would have happened if Apple had given the Copland team a little more time and confidence, unfortunately, or fortunately (we don't know this) nobody can go back and change history.