While 2003 did not see a major shift in what most people see on their desktops, there were a variety of changes to both Linux and the Mac OS, as well as improvements to some specialized versions of Windows.
With Windows XP already old news and Longhorn still years away, Microsoft's operating system announcements focused largely on its two specialized versions of XP: the Media Center and Tablet PC editions. After several delays, Microsoft also brought out Windows Server 2003, an updated version of its server operating system, in April.
On the Media Center front, Microsoft released its first major upgrade to the entertainment OS in September, adding Dell and Sony as new hardware partners. The company also announced plans for Lonestar, a new version of the Tablet OS that boasts improved handwriting recognition, due to arrive in 2004.
And in October, the company publicly showed off Longhorn for the first time. Though Microsoft didn't say when the OS will ship--possibly not until 2006--it did outline many new features, including an updated file system and an improved graphics engine. The company also promised that the first test version will be released in 2004, though, by the end of 2003, the early version it handed out to developers in Los Angeles managed to find its way to the Malaysian black market.
In the Macintosh world, Apple Computer unleashed Panther, the latest of its Mac OS X releases. Apple first mentioned the new OS in March, showed off the software in June at a developers conference and released it in October, with a few glitches.
And what would the Mac be without new hardware on which to use the OS? During 2003, Apple added the Power Mac G5, a G4-based iBook and a 20-inch iMac. And in March, the company bid farewell to the original iMac.
Several changes struck the Linux realm as well. The SCO Group, a former seller of Linux that also owns key Unix copyrights, launched a legal attack against IBM in March that has ballooned into an all-out assault, not only on Linux but on the legal framework that governs it and countless other open-source programming projects.
In the business arena, Red Hat's premium Linux version product moved the company into profitability, while Novell announced a plan to acquire SuSE Linux, the No. 2 seller of the open-source operating system, for $210 million, aided by a $50 million boost from IBM. And in December, the programming community that produces Linux released version 2.6 of the kernel, or heart, of the OS. The new version is expected to make the OS usable on much more powerful servers.