Tiger, Mac OS X 10.4, marks a turning point in the evolution of the Mac platform. The numerous enhancements to Mac OS X 10.4 and Mac OS X Server 10.4 are clearly aimed at the broad base of IT and professional users, rather than niches with spillover into offices and datacentres. This is the enterprise OS that Apple’s IT customers and developers thought they’d get when the Xserve G5 shipped.

OS X Server is now a unique and highly practical blend of the spirit of sturdy, big-time Unix and the spirit of rich, colourful Linux. Server rings are in needed low-level features such as Access Control Lists, which define server and file access rights on a per-user level. Those who crave more functionality at the server application level will be pleased with additions such as standards-compliant blog and IM services.

Tiger’s new client applications, particularly the Spotlight search engine and the Automator zero-programming process/scripting facility, aren’t specialty items, either. Spotlight’s real-time, multiple-criteria search engine rips into the content of many types of complex document formats including Office and PDF. Spotlight and Automator are wired deeply into Tiger as core services. They’re everywhere, and their impact on user productivity is substantial.

From a developer’s point of view, Tiger’s new services and applications might seem like demos for a vast set of new APIs and tools. A new 64-bit C/C++ compiler and reworked Xcode IDE round out the delights that await loyal and migrant developers alike. Overall, it is professionals, enterprise and small/midsize IT shops, and the developers who create solutions for serious use who will reap the greatest benefits from this latest cut of Mac OS X.