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What versions OS's do Apple have?

techin4 asked
Last Modified: 2012-06-10

I am new to mac and was wondering how many OS's does Apple have?
I know they have tiger and Leapord but i'm not sure about Mac OS X.
Is that an OS as well?
Or is that like Windows 9x, XP, Vista etc.?

Thank You.
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That is incorrect.

Since Mac OS 10 commonly called Mac OS X (more than 10 years IIRC), there is only one Operating system, Apple's version of unix, Mac OS.  It is one codeline.  (in comparision, WIndoze has comeout with completely different "operating systems" or codelines: 98, XP, Vista ... with all the issues and problems that go with completely new codelines.)

Mac OS 10 has major upgrades 10.3; 10.4; 10.5 which is the latest, the next release currently being engineered and discussed (but not available) is 10.6.  These have project or code names: (jaguar, tiger, leopard, snow leopard).  These are major releases of the one Operating System, or major upgrades, including major new features and facilities; they do not compare with windoze service packs.  These major releases are not required for the hardware that was purchased (the major release that came free is quite adequate, and will remain adequate).  I am on 10.4 on a 3 year old Mac, and there is no value in upgrading to 10.5.  These major releases have a full licence fee, eg $160 AUD if purchased separately.  Take a look at:

Each of those major releases has minor releases, which are free of charge, and you should get the latest version for your current major version.  These do compare with windoze service packs; I am on 10.4.11.  If you have a new Mac with 10.5 Leopard, you should get the latest free minor version, which is 10.5.6.

Therefore, with regard to your original question, Apple has only One Operating system, whereas MicroShaft has had many "operating systems" in the same period ten year period.  (The previous o/s, older than 10 years, call Mac OS 9 or Classic still runs on those machines over 10 years old)

Interesting you say this.  It seems you take to bashing Microsoft quiet well here (Microshaft, windoze), but it seems a few concepts are misplaced.  Like how different releases of Mac OS do not compare to the different releases of Microsoft.  What do you think is different?  Do you think that Mac OS has not made significant changes to the kernel (ie pieces of *BSD userland, allowing different filesystem structures, Primary API's, etc.).  Next, do you know what the concept of a service pack for Windows is?  It seems to me that you are mistaking how these releases relates to the code for how the are relate to the business model of the manufacturer.  To quote you, "These are major releases of the one Operating System, or major upgrades, including major new features and facilities;" and to quote wikipedia on service pack "Microsoft occasionally releases service packs for its Windows operating systems to fix problems and add features. Each service pack is a superset of all previous service packs and patches".  Now it's no stretch of the imagination on how the simple text "add features" is as powerful as your statement of "major new features".  However, we shouldn't solely rely on that, let's see an example of what one service pack 1 for Windows XP introduced: "Service Pack 1 (SP1) for Windows XP was released on 9 September 2002. It contains post-RTM security fixes and hot-fixes, compatibility updates, optional .NET Framework support, enabling technologies for new devices such as Tablet PCs, and a new Windows Messenger 4.7 version. The most notable new features were USB 2.0 support and a Set Program Access and Defaults utility that aimed at hiding various middleware products. Users can control the default application for activities such as web browsing and instant messaging, as well as hide access to some of Microsoft's bundled programs. This utility was first brought into the older Windows 2000 operating system with its Service Pack 3. This Service Pack supported SATA and hard drives that were larger than 137GB (48-bit LBA support) by default. The Microsoft Java Virtual Machine, which was not in the RTM version, appeared in this Service Pack.[38] Support for IPv6 was also introduced in this Service Pack."   Now let's compare this to one of 10.X releases, I chose the newest 10.6, yet to be released, to take a look at: "Mac OS X v10.6 "Snow Leopard" was announced on June 9, 2008 at WWDC. Rather than delivering new functionality, Snow Leopard will focus on stability and performance improvements. It is expected to be released in September of 2009.[80] It will feature Microsoft Exchange Server support, new 64-bit technology capable of supporting greater amounts of RAM, QuickTime X, advanced GPU performance with OpenCL, better use of multi-core processors through Grand Central Dispatch, and SquirrelFish JavaScript interpreter, improving the JavaScript rendering speed of Safari by over 50%.[81] The Developer Preview released at WWDC has a version number of 10.6, drops default support for the PowerPC architecture (Rosetta can be installed as an additional component to retain PowerPC support), and requires an Intel CPU."  Support, bug fixes, etc.  Sure, Microsoft may not release "small minor releases", which is what the automatic updater is really for anyway.

The informaion you posted regarding the question asked by the seeker was incorrect.  I posted accurate, correct information.  End of story.  I am here to serve the seekers not other experts or "experts".  I am interested in making sure that accurate info gets archived.

I am not interested in further discussion or unrelated subjects.  If you have further questions, as per your post, post a question.  Maybe I will answer.  But I can't be asked to engage about irrelevant trivia for no points.

And I believe your answer is incorrect, thus why I posted information that has direct relevance to why you believed it was not the right answer.  I do not believe you expressed correct information regarding the actual question.
Given the quality of your technical post, and your civility, I am willing to work this out then.  As already expressed, I am here for the seeker and secondly for keeping the archive accurate ... not for engaging in battles with other experts.  The prevailing context (which will limit the scope of the interaction, as well as identifying criteria for the resolution) has got to be the original posted question(s); otherwise we will end up having endless esoteric arguments re the differences between MS "operating systems" and Apple Operating Systems.  

This is not a debate; this is a simple question.  The moment you step outside the scope, I will withdraw.

Do you agree to that ?

I agree.  I also do not use either operating system, so no "fanboy" or favoritism for either should show in my replies.  The auther showed confusion as to how the Apple release structure works, which is why I provided information based upon the Windows operating system, which they showed some knowledge of.  So, when answering the question, some of the questions I asked myself were what encompassed a service pack and what encompassed a sub-10 (10.1, 10.2, etc.) release.  Now, correct me if I'm wrong and please provide, I believe that a "minor releases" is a large package of bug fixes, security patches, etc.  The sub-10 releases incorporate new features into the operating system.  In comparison, a Windows service pack has all patches, bug fixes, etc. for the operating system up to its release and new feature support in one large package.  This, to me, was the same as both minor releases and sub-10 releases that Apple makes.  
I understand.  That explains your answer, why you answered that way.  Let us keep in mind the level of technical expertise of the seeker, and the duration of time involved (and not worry about other stuff such as the duration of history since 1984 to 2000).  The questions were:

>  I am new to mac and was wondering how many OS's does Apple have?

Apple Answer: One, Mac OS 10 for ten years.  100% Unix.
Windows Answer: Nine in the same period (98, 2000, 2005, 2008, XP, NT ["desktop" and "server"], Vista).  
(Note I am not counting '95 and 7.)
 (Note my post 24800455, which I am not retracting.)

>  I know they have tiger and Leapord but i'm not sure about Mac OS X.  Is that an OS as well?  Or is that like Windows 9x, XP, Vista etc.?
Apple Answer: Jaguar, Tiger, Leopard are minor releases of the one Operating system. No, they are not like seperate/different Operating Systems.  No, they are not like Windows 9x, XP, Vista etc.

Windows Answer: Yes, Windows 9x, XP, Vista etc. are different/separate "operating systems".

That's it for the seeker.


Now we go into the statements you have made

> that 10.4/Tiger, 10.5/Leopard, 10.6/Snow Leopard are equivalent to [single Windows "operating system"] Service Packs
Major Releases
Apple MacOS 10 releases  (10.4/10.5/10.6) are major releases of the single Operating System.  You get the current major release free when you purchase the machine.  You have to pay $150 to $200 if you want the next major release, which come on  separate CDs.

The WIndows equivalent is indeed a new and separate "operating system", in which your old programs may not run, and they have to be purchased separately for an additional price.

Windows Service Packs are free, they have 5 to 7 per separate Windows "operating system".  

Windows Service Packs may contain new functions or not, may be major in size, but that is not relevant to the discussion re Operating Systems.  Apple major releases of OS 10 do contain massive new functionality (to the OS) and capability; in fact entire libraries are changed/enhanced.  The determining factor is 10.5 programs will not run on 10.4 [10.4 programs will run on 10.5, without using 10.5 features]; Windows programs written for a particular "operating system" will run (or are intended to run !) on any SP within hat "operating system".

Minor Releases
Apple has minor releases of each single major release of the single Operating system, such as 10.4.9, 10.4.10, 10.4.11, etc.  These are free downloads, and automatic if connected to the InterNet.  They do not come on separate CDs (although whatever CD you get when you purchase the machine or the latest major release of the OS, will of course be the latest minor release). Libraries contain fixes but not new functions.

Apple minor releases are indeed equivalent to Windows Service Packs.  That Apple may produce 10 to 16 minor releases, and Windows may produce 5 to 7 Service Packs during the same period, is a separate point, and may not be relevant to this discussion.  They are both large in size.  They are both free.  They may include a bit of new functionality, security patches, but in general they are all straight bug fix releases.

I do note that the distribution channels, the write-ups, the fanfare for the two platforms are quite different, and that could lead to misunderstanding.  Eg. in the Windows world, you need to be very aware of Service Packs and there is attendent fanfare; in the Apple world Software Updates and minor releases are completely automatic and most users would be unaware of them, the fanfare is about major releases only.

Apple Software Updates

What Apple has, similar to Solaris or Linux, that Windows does not have, is Software Updates or 'minor minor' releases.  These are free, and completely automatic.  Each applies to one program or the Operating System; it may be a large [packaged] patch or security patch or replacement.  There may be 10 to 20 of these per minor release (10.4.11) period.  Occasionally, an Apple Software Update will increment the minor release level of the Operating System (from 10.4.10 to 10.4.11).  There are 170 in the current major release.

Importantly, we very rarely get updates for "drivers" or firmware.


Terms  such as large/small are irrelevant to the technical context, and to the seeker's question, they will only confuse things.

The term 'package' needs clarification because it means completely different things on the two platforms.  On MacOS, a Package is a true Unix Package, a .dmg file (which may be gzipped); the Unix utilities handle its installation and various considerations.  Each Software Update is a Package.  

Windows has no such thing (not being a true Operating System and not having any Unix-like capabilities).  A 'package' is simply a collection of updates/patches to different programs.
The first attachment contains the entire set of Apple Software Updates (the result of automatic download and application, and from which the log is printed), since I purchased this Apple MacBook Pro in April 2006.  All free of charge.  

Major release
I received Mac OS 10.4/Tiger when I purchased the machine and I am still on 10.4/Tiger 3 years later (there is no need for me to upgrade to 10.5/Leopard).  

Minor release
At purchase was 10.4.5, as is the one and only CD I have; the system has been automatically updated incrementally to 10.4.11, up to today.  The 3 year period has included about 170 updates to other programs and utilities (ie. not the OS).  Depending on the program, it is a true Unix Package or a complete replacement; small/large patches are Packaged.
The second attachment shows the current set of Software Updates waiting to be downloaded.  This is provided to give you further information that may be relevant to you, such as sizes, major/minor release numbers, etc.


> Now, correct me if I'm wrong and please provide, I believe that a "minor releases" is a large package of bug fixes, security patches, etc.  
Not quite.  A minor release of the OS is a single binary (which contains many bug fixes, security patches, etc).  A minor release of other programs that comprise the Mac (say Java or iTunes) is similar.  Each is delivered as a separate Apple Software Update.  They are usually Unix Packages.  These may be large or small.  The size, and the term 'package' is addressed above.

Details and evidence provided above.

> The sub-10 releases incorporate new features into the operating system.

In the major releases (10.x), Yes, definitely, major new features. And you have to pay for it.

In the minor releases (10.4.x), No.  There may be a new feature added to fix a problem but that is an exception; in general, no.  Minor releases of the OS are fixes within the major release, with no new features to the OS.


> Like how different releases of Mac OS do not compare to the different releases of Microsoft.
Different releases of Microsoft what ?

That identifies that at some level, you understand Mac OS is one item; you are comparing it to something for MS ... but they are not releases; they are separate "operating systems"; they are products.  The only releases MS has is Service Packs.

I do not believe there is any value in comparing the content of each release, major or minor or a different "operating system".  That is for non-technical people, which you clearly are not.  For the purpose here, technically correct categorisation is required, and we should stay away from size, and use terms such as 'package' carefully (where it exists as a technical term on one platform, but is only a descriptive English term on the other).  Likewise, the descriptions or comparions of content may have value in colloquial discussions, but not here.

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