MacOS Server, Adieu

Andrew Cunningham, writing last week for Ars Technica:

Apple announced today that it is formally discontinuing macOS Server after 23 years. The app, which offers device management services and a few other features to people using multiple Macs, iPhones, and iPads on the same network, can still be bought, downloaded, and used with macOS Monterey. It is also still currently available at its normal $20 retail price but will no longer be updated with new features or security fixes.

Cunningham has a good rundown of its history, and Michael Tsai, as ever, has a good roundup of links. I don’t have much to add, but we should all pour one out for Mac OS X Server.

The thing to remember is that in the 1990s, it was industry-wide conventional wisdom that no one could put a consumer or prosumer interface in front of Unix. People who were already using NeXTstep would scream from the rooftops “We already have it” but no one could hear them. Mac OS X brought Unix to the masses. But Mac OS X Server went even further, and didn’t just use Unix as an under-the-hood implementation detail of the modernized Mac operating system, but put a Mac-style interface in front of a lot of Unix-as-fucking-Unix server features.

The shift to “cloud computing” was inevitable. Yes, there’s nothing magic about “the cloud” — they’re all just computers. But before cloud computing, teams and companies really needed their own servers. Mac OS X Server — and its long-gone hardware counterpart, the Xserve — enabled small teams to do remarkable things for the time, without the expertise of a Unix guru sysadmin on staff.

Mac OS X Server was never a significant factor in Apple’s financials. But it was a huge factor in re-establishing the company’s credibility with creative people — people with taste — who understand and demand technical excellence.

Wednesday, 27 April 2022