Cost cutting and earlier release dates are the principal reasons behind Apple's decision to scrap the British version of its Mac operating system, a senior Apple manager has informed Macworld. Apple also claims that the unpopular move would mean faster hardware introductions and allow easier software updating.

In an interview with Peter Lowe, the director of Mac OS worldwide product marketing, Macworld asked why Apple has culled the British-English version of Mac OS 9 in favour - or should that be 'favor' - of an "International-English" version.

"By switching the British OS to international-English, we reduce costs and ship the latest versions faster," explained Lowe, who is on a six-day, six-country OS 9 promotional tour. During the interview, Lowe also hinted at some forthcoming changes to the Mac OS.

Lowe refuted suggestions that by dumping the British version, Apple is simply cutting the easiest corner: "Creating a UK English version of the operating system is like making a whole other language.

"There are only so many localizations Apple can do," he added. "Testing and qualification take as long as actual code changes, however minor they may be," he explained.

"While it's a matter of semantics, the changes are not trivial," added Apple UK's senior product marketing manager, Neil Thomas. Thomas also said that using an International-English version would cut down lead times for hardware introductions and software updates. In the past, UK users would have to wait weeks, and often months, for British versions of system updates and extensions, such as QuickTime. By forcing Brits to adopt the "same language", Apple claims it is "simplifying user choice".

However, the move has not been received well by some UK Macintosh users - who are aggrieved at the "attack" on the mother tongue. Following Apple's exit from its only UK Mac show, Macworld Online readers, such as London-based designer Jack Mullery, have written in to say that this move is "another slap in the face for British users".

The major differences between the previous British-English and new "International-English" versions are spelling and icon naming. The British spell some words - such as 'colour', 'favourite' and 'centre' - differently than Americans (color, favorite, center). UK users will now have to put up with the US spellings on their Mac menus. Apple will continue these changes in applications, such as AppleWorks, while bearing in mind 'several education issues".

"When users search for the word 'colour', we will direct them straight to any reference to 'color'," said Lowe. "We won't make you re-type the word as we spell it".

Ironically, Lowe was born in Britain - but is a Canadian national, now living in California. He was backed up by Thomas, who said that Apple UK polled "a large group" of British users and found them more concerned with localized paper sizes and Date-&-Time issues than with "the odd spelling incongruity".

The International-English version of Mac OS 9 is still "fully customizable" to UK keyboards and has standard British spelling dictionaries - if not menu commands - making OS 9 "as usable as previous versions", promised Lowe.

Previously, British Macintosh users dumped old documents in a 'Wastebasket'. Now, we must get used to throwing things in the 'Trash', like our American cousins. Several UK readers have complained to Macworld about this cultural garbage shift, as well as Mac OS 9 now referring to traditional 'British Summer Time' as 'Daylight Saving'.

Sadly, I must claim some responsibility for the trashing of the Wastebasket. When I had lunch with Lowe a year ago, I pleaded for the British bin to be thrown out, as the alley-way icon is clearly not an interior rubbish-collecting item (see "Theme swansong for Mac OS 8.6"). Lowe confirmed that our conversation "sealed the Wastebasket's end".

During this year's meeting, Lowe ran through the 50 new features of Mac OS 9, and ventured some new facts on forthcoming operating system changes.

On top of OS 9's voiceprint password, Apple is working with third parties on Mission Impossible-like "thumbprint readers and retina scanners" for further data-protection functionality. Referring to the continued existence of the Chooser, Lowe agreed that Apple's printing configuration is "not where we want it today". Refinements in Mac OS X and 9.5 will free printer choices from the Chooser to their own dedicated menu, much like OS 8.5's Network Browser.

Apple will "very soon" respond to user requests to make its Sherlock search engine customizable in size, following complaints that it takes up too much onscreen space, particularly on the iMac. And Lowe noted that Apple will soon release an Apple Store channel for Sherlock 2. Despite the British-English rejection, Apple's Thomas says that he is planning to encourage more UK Sherlock plug-ins.

"You say 'tomato' and we say 'tomato'," goes Gershwin's 'Let's Call the Whole Thing Off'. That's all changed with US-friendly Mac OS 9 - now we all say 'tomato', but at least we no longer have to play system ketchup any more.

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