Apple has set the UK price for what it is calling “the world's most advanced operating system”. Mac OS X, combining the power of Unix with an Aqua-fied Macintosh user interface, will be available from March 24 – and can be pre-ordered now for £99 (£84.26 excluding VAT).

Long wait nearly over Apple has been working on a modernized architecture for its Mac operating system for over 10 years. The path to Mac OS X has been a rocky one. Copland, Pink, and Taligent all fell by the wayside. It wasn’t until 1997, when Steve Jobs returned as special advisor to the company from his NeXT venture that Apple finally started to make headway.

Mac OS X is based on NeXT’s OpenStep operating system, but has undergone significant changes at Apple to make the transition from today’s Mac OS as simple and painless as possible.

A Public Beta version has been available since September’s Apple Expo in Paris. The company claims that 100,000 copies of the Beta were sold at a price of around £25 each.

The future of Macintosh Steve Jobs – now CEO of Apple - calls Mac OS X “the future of the Macintosh”. The new operating system is ultra-stable, according to Apple. Its memory protection means that if an application crashes, you don’t have to restart your computer, and other programs remain untouched. Other advanced features include: pre-emptive multi-tasking, advanced memory management, symmetric multi-processing, and modern networking.

Apple's Quartz 2D graphics engine with built in PDF support offers on-the-fly rendering, anti-aliasing, and compositing of PDF for “pristine, high fidelity graphics”, according to the company. OpenGL is built-in for 3D graphics - enabling professional, 3D-based applications and leading games.

Mac OS X’s Aqua interface includes a dynamic Dock for storing and managing files and applications. At January’s Macworld Expo in San Francisco, Apple showed off the latest version of the next-generation operating system, which included a refined Apple Menu and hierarchical menus for Dock-ed folders. Apple also redesigned toolbars, making them more customisable.

Classic migration Mac OS X will run OS 9 applications under its Classic emulation technology. However, applications specifically built - “Carbonized” - for Mac OS X will take advantage of the operating system’s more-modern features and run much faster than Classic programs. Apple claims that 400 developers are working on Carbonizing over 1,200 brand-name applications, with 350 already completed. Jobs promised “an avalanche” of OS X-ready applications by this summer.

Mac OS X will run on any iBook, iMac, PowerBook G3/G4, Power Mac G3/G4, or G4 Cube. Apple recommends a minimum of 128MB of RAM. According to Apple, Mac OS X does not support the original PowerBook G3 or upgraded PowerPC processors.