Nobody would deny that Apple's attempt to create a new operating system (OS) was brave. It is also brave to admit it is unable to do it alone and that Copland, the system it had under development, is a failure. Apple has shown another kind of bravery by buying NeXT Software, founded by Steve Jobs, the man Apple fired 11 years ago and who is recognised as the father of modern personal computing. Apple announced last month that it will buy NeXT for US$400 million and hire Mr Jobs to help revamp its Macintosh software. The ailing PC-maker will use NeXT technology for the new version of the Macintosh operating system, due out next year. None of this will mean a thing if Apple cannot get developers to write software for the new OS. One of Apple's most important allies is Metrowerks, a firm that rose to great heights when it brought out the first C/C++ compilers for the PowerPC chips a few years ago. The development platform of choice for so many Macintosh developers is now Metrowerks' most recent offering, CodeWarrior 11 for the Mac. Metrowerks should be a good ally for Apple because of its ability to create software development environments for other platforms apart from the Macintosh. Metrowerks now has products for Windows NT, BeBox, PlayStation, Magic Cap and others. It is the ideal company to provide tools for Rhapsody, Apple's new OS based on NeXT. The president and chief executive officer of Metrowerks, Jean Belanger, said he was delighted with Apple's purchase of NeXT. 'I think it's great,' he said at Metrowerks' booth in the Moscone Centre at the 13th MacWorld Expo in San Francisco. Speaking of the NeXT OS, Mr Belanger said: 'I think they have a rock-solid kernel.' The kernel of the NeXT OS is Unix, a robust operating system used by large organisations and universities. Many Macintosh fans have poked fun at Unix because it is still steeped in arcane commands. The attitude may change. According to Mr Belanger, the real question is what Apple can do with this new kernel. 'If Apple can make Unix easy to use, Unix will live forever,' he said. If Apple fails, the world will belong to Microsoft and Windows NT. Mr Belanger said the keynote speech at MacWorld of Apple chairman Gilbert Amelio was important. 'It was long, but it was detailed,' Mr Belanger said. 'For the first time an executive at Apple explained what he was trying to do.' Another developer said the Copland project was nothing less than 'a welfare-state-approach to writing code'. 'These guys had US$100,000 a year for the past five years and did nothing. Now that will change.' Many programmers have respected and praised NeXT, even if they have not bought it. It ran for a while on its own slickly designed black cubes and was a hit in some circles. When that failed, Mr Jobs turned the company towards software and made deals with others such as Sun Microsystems. Respect for NeXT comes from knowing that its design and implementation are well executed and software development has been taken to new heights. There is now a clear direction for Apple to follow. Copland was dragging on and on. NeXT takes its place.