Apple's interim CEO Steve Jobs took the stage Monday morning for the keynote address at the Apple Worldwide Developers Conference (WWC) '98 trade show, a gathering of Apple developers and partners, and outlined the future of the Mac OS. For the first time in almost a year, Jobs talked about Rhapsody at length, describing how it would be integrated into the Mac OS for a next-generation release expected late next year. Rhapsody, the code-name for a server operating system Apple is working on, is the latest iteration of NeXTStep, the OS Jobs pioneered at NeXT Inc. after he left Apple in the late 1980's. Apple bought NeXT and hired Jobs about a year and a half ago. After Apple fired then-CEO Gil Amelio in 1997, Jobs took charge at Apple and brought the company back to profitability.

According to Jobs, Apple will release the successor to Mac OS 8.1, which will be called Mac OS 8.5, this September. Code-named "Allegro", Mac OS 8.5 incorporates some of the visual features from Apple's doomed "Copland" project, which was originally intended to be Apple's next-generation OS.

Then, in 1999, Apple will release Mac OS 8.6, followed by their Rhapsody/Mac OS hybrid OS, which is currently dubbed "Mac OS X" or "Mac OS 2000". Apple is taking the bold step of canceling thousands of outdated APIs--the code programmers use to make programs for an operating system--in the Mac OS and replacing them with newer Rhapsody APIs so that programmers can write code that works on both Mac OS X and Rhapsody. Apple says most existing Mac apps will run unchanged in the new system.

"Rhapsody was great technology...The problem was when you ran existing apps in the Blue Box \[the part of Rhapsody that runs Mac OS apps\], you didn't get any new features," Jobs said Monday. "Nobody wanted to do this. We came to the conclusion that Rhapsody didn't give us what we wanted."

While Apple is indeed merging Rhapsody code into the Mac OS, the company still plans on releasing a Rhapsody operating system for use on servers and high-end workstations. Rhapsody is expected late this year, with versions that will run on PowerPC Macintoshes as well as Intel machines. At the show Monday, Apple gave out preview CDs of Rhapsody to developers.

Apple's latest strategy--pulling the Rhapsody technologies into the Mac OS, instead of keeping the two OSes separate--solves a lot of problems for developers. Microsoft, in particular, had never agreed to port its line of Mac software to Rhapsody, and now it won't have to.

"Apple is doing exactly what we asked them to do. They are delivering the benefits of a modern OS while at the same time preserving the investment that we and our customers have made \[in their existing OS\]," said Ben Waldman, general manager of the Macintosh business unit at Microsoft.

For more information about Apple's new OS strategy, please refer to the its Media & Analysts information page