Rhapsody (operating system)

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Apple Rhapsody
DeveloperApple Computer
OS family
Working stateHistoric
Source modelClosed source
Latest releaseDeveloper Release 2 / May 1998; 24 years ago (1998-05)
Platformsx86, PowerPC
Kernel typeHybrid kernel
LicenseOnly released to developers

Rhapsody is the development series of Apple Computer's next-generation operating system. Targeting only developers for a transition period, its releases came between Apple's purchase of NeXT in late 1996 and the announcement of Mac OS X (later renamed macOS) in 1998. Rhapsody represented a new and exploratory strategy for Apple, more than an operating system, and runs on x86-based PCs and on Power Macintosh. Its OPENSTEP based Yellow Box API frameworks were ported to Windows NT for creating cross-platform applications. Eventually, the non-Apple platforms were discontinued, and later versions consist primarily of the OPENSTEP operating system ported to Power Macintosh, merging the Copland-originated GUI of Mac OS 8 with that of OPENSTEP. Several existing classic Mac OS frameworks were ported, including QuickTime and AppleSearch. Rhapsody can run Mac OS 8 and its applications in a paravirtualization layer called Blue Box for backward compatibility during migration to Mac OS X.


After Apple's purchase of NeXT in 1996, Rhapsody was announced at the MacWorld Expo in San Francisco on January 7, 1997[1] and first demonstrated at the 1997 Worldwide Developers Conference (WWDC). Subsequent general Developer Releases are for a select set of x86 and Power Macintosh hardware. Apple announced a "Premier" version akin to what became the Mac OS X Public Beta, followed by the full "Unified" version in the second quarter of 1998 which was canceled. Apple's development schedule in integrating the features of two very different systems complicated the forecast of features of upcoming releases. At the 1998 MacWorld Expo in New York City, Steve Jobs announced that Rhapsody would be publicly released as Mac OS X Server 1.0, which was shipped in 1999. No home version of Rhapsody was ever released. Its low-level source code base was forked into Darwin, as the open source Unix-like foundation of Mac OS X.

In a meeting with Michael Dell, owner of PC maker Dell, Steve Jobs demonstrated Rhapsody on x86, and offered to license the operating system to Dell for distribution on its PCs. The deal failed, however, when Jobs insisted that all of its computers ship with both Mac OS and Windows so that consumers could choose the platform they prefer (which would have resulted in Dell having to pay royalties to Apple for every computer it sells), as opposed to Dell's preference that the choice of OS be a factory option.[2]


Rhapsody is defined by a heavily modified "hybrid" OSFMK 7.3 (Open Software Foundation Mach Kernel) from the OSF,[3] a BSD operating system layer (based on 4.4BSD), the object-oriented Yellow Box API framework, the Blue Box compatibility environment for "classic" Mac OS applications, and a Java Virtual Machine.

The user interface was modeled after Mac OS 8's "Platinum" appearance, which had originated with the canceled Copland prototype. Developer Release 1 (DR1) does not have Mac OS's Finder, and has OPENSTEP's Workspace Manager, Shelf, and column view. The Shelf was eliminated in favor of OPENSTEP's Dock; and Finder was added, inheriting column view.

Rhapsody's Blue Box environment, available only on PowerPC due to paravirtualization, provides runtime compatibility with Mac OS 8 applications. All virtualized applications and their associated windows are encapsulated within a single Blue Box desktop window instead of being interspersed with native Yellow Box applications.

To avoid the pitfalls of running within Blue Box and take full advantage of Rhapsody's features, software must be rewritten for Yellow Box. Yellow Box is a superset of OPENSTEP, with an object-oriented model completely unlike the procedural programming model typical of Blue Box software. The large difference between the two frameworks require significant developer effort. The consequent lack of adoption and objections by developers, including Adobe Systems and Microsoft, became major factors in Apple's decision to cancel Rhapsody in 1998.[4]

Most of Yellow Box and other Rhapsody technologies became the Cocoa API. Bowing to developers' wishes, Apple also ported existing classic Mac OS frameworks into Mac OS X and developed the cross-platform Carbon API for Mac OS 9 and X as the transition layer. Widely used Mac OS libraries like QuickTime and AppleScript were ported and published to developers. Carbon allows full compatibility and native functionality for both platforms, while enabling new features.


Rhapsody follows Apple's pattern through the 1990s of music-related codenames for operating system releases. Apple had canceled its previous next-generation operating system strategy of Copland (named for American composer, Aaron Copland) and its pre-announced successor Gershwin (named for George Gershwin, composer of Rhapsody in Blue). Other musical code names include Harmony (Mac OS 7.6), Tempo (Mac OS 8), Allegro (Mac OS 8.5), and Sonata (Mac OS 9).

Release history[edit]

Version Code name Date OS name Darwin version Platform
Rhapsody Developer Release Grail1Z4 1997-08-31 Rhapsody 5.0 IA-32, PowerPC
Rhapsody Developer Release 2 Titan1U 1998-05-14 Rhapsody 5.1
Rhapsody Premier 1998 Rhapsody 5.2 PowerPC
Mac OS X Server 1.0 Hera1O9 1999-03-16 Rhapsody 5.3 0.1
Mac OS X Server 1.0.1 1999-04-15 Rhapsody 5.4 ?
Mac OS X Server 1.0.2 Hera1O9+Loki2G1 1999-07-29 Rhapsody 5.5 0.3
Mac OS X Server 1.2 Pele1Q10 2000-01-14 Rhapsody 5.6
Mac OS X Server 1.2 v3 Medusa1E3 2000-10-27[5][6]


  1. ^ "Apple Announces Future Macintosh Operating System (OS) Strategy and Road Map". Apple.com. Apple Computer, Inc. January 7, 1997. Archived from the original on January 16, 1999. Retrieved February 15, 2015.
  2. ^ Guglielmo, Connie. "The Apple-Dell deal that could have changed history". CNET. Retrieved October 29, 2021.
  3. ^ Magee, Jim. WWDC 2000 Session 106 – Mac OS X: Kernel. 14 minutes in. Archived from the original on December 12, 2021.
  4. ^ Winer, Dave (May 12, 1998). "DaveNet:Rhapsody Cancelled".
  5. ^ "Rhapsody Media - Identifying what media you have". Retrieved May 3, 2009.
  6. ^ "Rhapsody Timeline". Retrieved May 3, 2009.

External links[edit]