Daniel Eran Dilger in San Francisco
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Anticipating Mac OS X 10.7 Lion

Daniel Eran Dilger

As Apple prepares to release its current quarterly earnings, a second announcement this week will present the company’s future related to the Mac platform. Here’s what’s likely to be unveiled.

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The company has been devoting much of its efforts toward iOS since its release, and it’s no wonder why. Mac sales are (and have been) growing about as fast as they possibly can, and there is no new competition buffeting the shores of PC Island; Apple’s Mac platform is the only storm delivering hurricane devastation to the status quo of desktops and laptops.

On the other hand, Apple’s four-pronged iOS platform has vast potential to grow far faster, inhale greater revenues and consume untouched expanses of market share among phones, tablets and music players. Apple’s hot iron is iOS, and the company is striking hard with it.

It’s hard to even fathom how Apple managed to take its maturing iPod position (remember when everyone was crowing about the inevitability of Apple losing its iPod dominance to the Zune and a variety of other devices?) and leverage it to establish the iPhone, then the premium-priced iPod touch?

And more recently the iOS has birthed iPad, which has created its own market category that not only trampled the prospects for netbooks and owned the entire market segment for “tablets,” but has also sucked the air from the sales of notebook PCs (particularly notable in enterprise environments, where Apple hasn’t even been marketing it; so much for Paul Thurrott’s “Apple is only successful because of excessive, tricky marketing that blinds consumers from following Microsoft” theory).

The fourth piece of the puzzle is a re-imagined Apple TV that integrates with other iOS devices via AirPlay, and will undoubtedly eventually add support for apps once the installed base hits a critical mass Apple can take to its developers.

Why should Apple be devoting its efforts to revamp Mac OS X when the iOS is what has driven sales and revenue over the past three years? Well, 2010 is drawing to a close, and Apple has already launched two of the largest consumer electronics products ever: iPhone 4 and iPad. How does one perform another encore without distracting away from those two products?

Shift focus back to the Mac

Apple clearly framed the coming announcement to highlight the next version of Mac OS X, not just new hardware running the same old Snow Leopard release.

Remember when the wags all predicted that Macs would shift toward using Apple’s mobile iOS? That was silly, but not as silly as their subsequent howling that the iPad would run iOS and wouldn’t run Mac OS X. Come on guys, can’t be upset either way; pick a position that isn’t ridiculous and then don’t contradict it with and equally absurd position in the same breath.

What the entire “iOS vs Mac OS X” hyperventilation of invented dramatic controversy fails to grasp is that Apple’s mobile iOS really is Mac OS X, albeit with a modified Cocoa development platform and device-appropriate user interface.

Contrast that with Microsoft, which has a desktop OS and a mobile OS that only share a name in common; the kernel design is completely different, and all they have in common is portions of their development environment, and sadly, UI elements that shouldn’t be common at all across such different devices.

Or think of how radically non-complementary Nokia’s Symbian, embedded, and Linux platforms are. Or consider the lack of similarity between Google’s Chrome OS and Android; both use a Linux kernel, but Android’s native Java-based development platform has no similarity in either concept or practice with Chrome OS’ use of modified web standards as its platform.

Sharing is caring

Mac OS X and iOS share lots of technologies, and much of the advancements being made to the iOS have found their way back to Mac OS X. Two obvious examples have been the iPhone’s animated user interface toolkit that subsequently appeared in Mac OS X 10.5 as Core Animation, and the revamped media playback software developed for iPhone that found its way to the Mac under the name QuickTime X.

In Mac OS X Lion, expect further advances in sharing, including a compatibility bump to iChat AV that enables Macs to video chat with iPhone 4 and iPod touch 4 via FaceTime. It’s also likely Apple will more fully integrate AirPlay and AirPrint, establishing both as standards for streaming media and documents wirelessly.

Enhancements to graphics and gaming technologies, ranging from OpenGL to OpenCL to OpenAL have already begun flowing back and forth between the iOS and Mac OS X buckets.

Core bundled apps in Mac OS X are likely to get a makeover imitating the look of their MobileMe and iPad cousins. Mail, Calendar, and Address Book could all use an update that tightens up and standardizes their appearance.

iOS Apps on the Mac desktop

What about bringing iOS apps to the Mac desktop, perhaps as a replacement for Dashboard as some have suggested? Well one problem is that, while Cocoa Touch apps would be nice to pull up, allowing their execution on the unsecured Mac platform (there’s no secured kernel in place) would likely make it too easy to pilfer iTunes apps, eroding the business model that has worked so well to attract developers and provide a huge catalog of options for users.

However, Apple is working on building new security into the Mac OS X kernel, limiting what apps can do (such as rejecting incoming connections on a per-app basis using Snow Leopard’s new application-level firewall) and limiting what accounts on the system can execute (via Access Control Lists). This work to secure Mac OS X system depends upon signing apps so that the kernel knows they haven’t been modified or replaced by a rogue process (such as a virus), which could subsequently commandeer an app to send out spam instead of doing whatever it was originally granted access permissions to do.

So, while Apple is unlikely in the near term to deliver a “Mac App Store” in the model of the iPhone and iPad app stores, things are working in that direction. Android has clearly proven beyond a doubt that “freedom” to install your own apps comes at the expense of having real commercial development, and brings with it lots of malware and junk apps (most Android apps are actually a ringtone or wallpaper, rather than something you might actually want to install).

There is some chance that Apple could deliver an iOS emulator environment that allowed Mac users to run iOS apps, possibly using the same technology Intel delivered in hopes of shoehorning iOS apps to run on Intel-based hardware. I still like my idea of replacing the trackpad with an embedded iPod touch, so you could perform limited touch-based functions at your fingertips and then push the result (say a calculated amount, or a contact field, or a bookmark, or a selected media) to the Mac desktop.

Even if iOS apps never make their way onto the Mac desktop, there’s a strong case for Apple to deliver the same business model to support the creation of extensions such as System Preferences panes. The reason you don’t see many of these from third parties is because there’s no marketplace. Add a secure installation and update system similar to the App Store, and developers would create all sorts of innovative apps for cheap.

Leave things “free and open” and you get the same level of excitement as you observed for Dashboard widgets, Safari extensions, Automator Actions and Android apps. Which is to say, rather hollow enthusiasm that never really results in much after the honeymoon passes and developers realize they can’t pay the rent with fan mail. So much potential wasted because the technology isn’t backed up with a viable business model. Mac OS X needs a store for applets, panels, web extensions, actions, email bundles, and Quartz Compositions, just to name a few. No revenue = no enthusiasm.

A new look

I like to anticipate what Apple’s user interface team is going to do by looking at iTunes and Pro Apps. That’s because those apps are where Apple is making its money, and so they’re a harbinger of things to come as the focus of the company’s attention. Unfortunately, Mac OS X hasn’t very aggressively advanced in its UI for some time, in part because most of the work recently has been devoted to iOS products, and in part because Apple can’t get too crazy with the Mac desktop without riling the faithful.

After some very minor enhancements to the menu bar and dock, Mac users were flipping inside out about how the translucency didn’t appeal to them and so on. Ironically, Microsoft has taken bolder steps with Windows Vista/7, even if those bold steps are 80% distractingly ornamental and 20% a copy of Mac OS X.

Things may change with Lion because, firstly, iOS is largely finished as a UI, from the iPhone to iPad. There’s room for growth, but the look is set up as a foundation and widely accepted by third party developers. That means Apple has the resources to focus on Mac OS X again.

Secondly, Mac OS X is in need of an overhaul. Sure, things are set and accepted, but the Mac desktop is growing old in the tooth and there’s too much inconsistency. Apple’s been working to get rid of Brushed Metal and tone down Aqua for the last decade, and the Unified look is striving toward a sense of consistency, but there’s a lot still being dragged ahead from the 80s.

For example, those day-glow blue scroll bars. The iOS shows you don’t need to have a scroll bar visible all the time, eating up precious pixels to indicate where you are within a document. That’s especially the case when you can only scroll down an inch anyway. Why not bring in those disappearing, reappearing scroll indicators from the iPhone?

And how about those candy colored Close/Zoom/Minimize buttons; maybe they can be packed into a stacked configuration like iTunes, or even replaced with a better, more obvious, less color-bound control that makes more sense when working with windows. And please let me expand my windows from any corner, thanks. I’m not new to a windowing environment. NeXT had this twenty years ago, remember Mr Jobs?

Other stuff that’s been obviously missing for some time now: the ability to work with multiple clipboards at once. LipService for voice emails. And how about better integration of voice synthesis and voice recognition, combined with email and voice mailboxes, so you can listen to your text emails or send dictated emails from your phone?

Another thing that needs to be fixed is the system’s notifications and active application model. When I plug in my iPhone, it doesn’t mean I want iTunes and iPhoto to slowly take over the system just to do some background syncing task that shouldn’t need my intervention anyway. Just as with the iOS, Mac OS X on the desktop needs a way to passively notify the user of events they can choose to take action on as they desire. The bouncing Dock icon and the involuntary switching of the foreground app are not real acceptable alternatives.

I’d also expect Apple to bring its PNS (Push Notification Services) system to the Mac desktop, allowing developers to notify users of breaking news, software updates, incoming messages, and other events just like the iOS, but with a passive, logging event center to manage these types of things. Your Mac could tap into the same services as your iPhone, so you don’t miss a beat.

There used to be grief from developers that Apple’s UI guidelines were too strict and didn’t allow developers to go as hog wild as they wanted to. Well after decades of awful looking Windows apps, and witnessing today’s terrible Android look and feel, it seems to have been accepted that Apple does a pretty good job of outlining how apps on the iOS should look. Apple also has a standardized model for Mac apps in the model of iWorks apps, iLife apps, and Pro Apps, each of which are quite different but all useful. I think Apple needs to push a common starting point harder.

Going Carbon-neutral

Part of this means killing off Carbon as a way to shove code from the 80s into today’s markets. Adobe and Microsoft have been dragging their hands over the last decade to avoid using the modern Cocoa, but have recently seen the light, with Adobe launching the very competitive Lightroom and Microsoft unveiling a new Cocoa build of Outlook for Mac that drops the archaic junk still visible in the latest Carbon-based Word and Excel.

Apple is pushing Cocoa as the exclusive way to author 64-bit apps, which is something similar to the way that it has made Cocoa Touch the exclusive way to create native apps for iOS devices. This is a change from the early days of Mac OS X, where Apple was trying to accommodate the classic Mac OS dinosaurs with Carbon and interest corporate users with Java compatibility. Apple wants one platform to work on and perfect, and the more it can focus on Cocoa exclusively, the better Cocoa will become.

Less sexy, more sizzle

There’s a lot Apple is likely to add that won’t excite the rank and file. Snow Leopard brought enhancements to LLVM, DTRACE and CUPS, hoped to add support for ZFS (before it died on the vine at Sun), enhanced support for web apps within WebKit and its JavaScript support, added Exchange features, and enhanced text input with system wide spell correction, Data Detectors features, and lots of other functional and useful features that don’t really translate into salable marketing bullet points.

Ten Big New Features in Mac OS X Snow Leopard
All of those features can be enhanced and embellished. We’ll also see advancements to the modern QuickTime X, including better editing and export features. I’d sure like to see Apple take the half-assed Image Capture and turn it into a great app for network scanning and printing. It’s so tantalizingly close to being great. The same goes for plenty of the other bundled apps.

Perhaps what Mac OS X really needs is a storefront for apps in general, so Apple can offer add on apps for a buck or two, just as it does on the iOS with Remote, Keynote Remote, Page/Numbers/Keynote, iDisk, Gallery and so on.

I know I’d much rather have a paid copy of a $4 Preview.app that delivered great PDF features and simple photo editing than a free bundled app that sort of acted as an 80% placeholder. I’d pay for Safari if it could advance faster. I think most people would pay for packages of apps that were a notch above the free bundled versions.

And the wild success of the iOS app store suggests I’m right.

What are you anticipating?

42 comments

1 gus2000 { 10.19.10 at 2:39 pm }

“Fake OS X” = Lyon?

2 gctwnl { 10.19.10 at 2:42 pm }

It’s an interesting option to think of a App store for OS X and a different security model. Many question marks, though. What about older apps and backward compatibility? What about multi-user? What about Apps that are really large? Too early, I think.

3 LuisDias { 10.19.10 at 3:13 pm }

I disagree with your take on the iOS being “finished”. It’s not even started. First of all, it still works as a satellite to laptops or desktops. Clearly, when we look into the future, iPads and similar devices will play an increasing role, not a decreasing one. This means that there’s a lot more to do other than including the basic multitask.

[Thanks for the comments. Let me say that I don't mean the iOS is "finished," but rather than the UI foundation is fully laid. Apple isn't still experimenting to see what works. There's more to add, but it's done enough to shift attention back to bringing Mac OS X up to speed. Also, the fact that iOS devices are "pods" is not really a UI issue; it's how Apple is positioning them. - Dan]

I do not mean necessarily to create “folders” and manage files like you do on a PC. Perhaps there are better and more 21st century ways to manage files, but you should be able to use iPads as real hubs, rather than accessories.

Because as it is now, you just can’t plug a camera or any interesting device to it and manage it directly from the iPad. How do you even use the same file on different apps? It’s a mess, and although we can understand the security reasons for it being as it is, we should be aware that it basically sucks, so it is a system that must be completely redesigned.

One of the arguments for the non inclusion of such a system is that, 1st, iOS was about iPhones and iPods, and these are basically communication and consuming devices, 2nd, the storage is pretty weak (how will you do video editing with 32, 64 GB of a disk?), 3rd security.

The iPad refutes the 1st, it’s clearly a different device (will it be sufficiently different to justify a OS fragmentation?), the second point will be refuted over time, Moore’s law an’all, the 3rd may be the trickiest, but apple software engineers are not paid for nothing.

In comparison, OS X is basically “finished”. All the revisions one can make are details, developer based, technical specs and uniformization of UI, i.e., the “cleaning” phase. This means that OS X is matured.

[But during that maturing, it has gotten old, and parts that were once fresh and new (Aqua) are now tired and in the way. - Dan]

Lastly, your idea of having a touch interface near the keyboard, etc., with widgets and all is SO un-apple. It won’t happen. Why the hell would they add an expensive 100, 200 bucks of technology so you can see the weather widget more closely near your right hand? It’s unaesthetic, goes contrary to the minimal approach, it’s expensive and silly.

[I think its closer to $50, would add a significant differentiation against generic PC laptops, and would bring the familiarity of iOS devices to the Mac. You're free to disagree.]

What you could have, and this you haven’t mentioned with the fervor that you should, is a seamless integration between iOS devices and Mac OS X. It’s not only about facetime, but about the whole of the possible activities that you can share between the computer and the iOS. This because it seems very strange to me that “finished” productive devices such as the iPad are treated by the main pc as a iTunes “peripheral”. It’s a silly integration, it’s merely happening because it follows the tradition of the original iPod being treated (rightfully) as the peripheral it was.

[I don't think the iPad is as much a product of blind Apple ideology as much as "what can we do in the time available." It makes far more sense for Apple to launch the iPad with some limitations rather than trying to deliver 1.0 with a whole universe of unfamiliar new capabilities that are half-baked. It won't be hard to add more standalone capabilities later, such as better peripheral support, direct updates, and other types of things. But compare Android, where there's no real starting point of 1.0, and everything is in a beta work in progress unfinished state. That's clearly worse.]

So there’s a lot of improvement here to be made, and the biggest part is inside the iOS and its integration with Mac OSX.

PS: One of the things being shown tomorrow will be super fast awakening on the mac air. Will it also be available on other macbooks? Dunno.

[Note that the iMac, Mac Pro and Xserve? all now have SSD bays. This is something that Apple will aggressively work toward as solid state memory becomes cost effective as a replacement for slow, mechanical hard drives. I see Apple making the shift well ahead of other PC makers, in part because Apple has a higher ASP to work in, and develops its own software.]

4 Conrad MacIntyre { 10.19.10 at 3:21 pm }

I will agree with LuisDiaz on one thing, Dan… the idea of having an iPod Touch as my trackpad seems really terrible. Like, really terrible.

[If you could try it you might like it. Just saying - Dan]

5 LuisDias { 10.19.10 at 3:31 pm }

It’s an interesting option to think of a App store for OS X and a different security model. Many question marks, though. What about older apps and backward compatibility? What about multi-user? What about Apps that are really large?

It could never be a closed system, at the most, you could have a mac store that would add to the existing options. If you closed Mac OS X like that, it would be the worst shot in the foot that Apple has done in its history.

I also do not think that this is important, perhaps it will never be implemented. People already know how to buy software to their macs, and there is, simply put, not one advantage to that newer system.

6 whmlco { 10.19.10 at 3:32 pm }

I think that many developers would welcome the chance to participate in an OS X-based app store.

It shouldn’t ever supplant existing applications, or the ability to create and distribute applications outside of the app store, but rather exist as a secure way for developers to market their wares to a larger audience.

7 bregalad { 10.19.10 at 3:34 pm }

Lots of good, reasonable suggestions Daniel. I hope we see many of those tomorrow morning.

I don’t agree with the iOS scroll bar thing though. When your screen is only 2 inches wide you have to hide your scroll bars. When your screen is 18 inches wide there’s not much need to do so. I find myself dragging scroll thumbs up and down quite frequently in OS X and wouldn’t be able to do that if an iOS UI was adopted.

An app store for applets, extensions, etc. does seem like the ticket for kick starting development of those, but Apple has long fought against anything that modified the basic appearance and/or function of the OS. I foresee a lot of rejections for altering the Mac look and feel.

[Well Apple launched Safari Extensions, it just provided no real business model for them. And Automator Actions, AppleScript, Dashboard and Pref Panes all already offer ways to modify the user interface, they just lack business models. - Dan]

I also have less faith in the economic viability of an applet store than you. My brother is 40 years old and claims he doesn’t know a single person who pays for music. As if that wasn’t bad enough I work in software development and most of my co-workers proudly show off iPhones filled with apps, music and video they didn’t pay for. This week the Chinese government even waded in with a suggestion that the iPad sucks because it doesn’t have enough free content. I’d say the future of intellectual property isn’t very bright. Luckily for Apple they still make most of their revenue selling hardware.

[The App Store claims to have delivered a billion dollars to developers. The iTunes Store is neither the primary way to buy music nor the primary way to obtain music, but it is massively influential on how and what music is paid for. You can't stop theft, but you can focus on those who pay, and that's exactly what Apple has been doing, with considerable success. ]

Like gctwnl I am concerned about kernel level security blocking the use of older apps. Most of my entertainment software is old PowerPC native stuff and I still run Photoshop 8.0 (circa 2003) because I’ve never found a consumer editing package that does decent level adjustments and I can’t justify buying the current version of Photoshop to tweak snapshots of my kids. Maybe I have to stick with Snow Leopard .

[Apps are already signed in Mac OS X, with exceptions for apps that can't handle being signed (such as those that modify themselves during normal operation (as should not be the case)). One can rather easily add support for both extension components and entire apps to be securely signed while allowing older apps to run without any security, so that's not really an issue. - Dan]

8 AlexWT { 10.19.10 at 3:57 pm }

I agree that an app store for the Mac would be great, for consumers and developers. It puts a world of apps in front of every 10.7 user and it makes it much simpler for developers to not have to hassle with update systems, which installer method to use, how to handle payments, etc. (also much more likely for non-savy consumers to trust Apple’s payment and installation methods). It would also centralize all of the software update issues. Now I don’t think it will be the only way to distribute software, but a great alternative for smaller apps and utilities.
As for the iOS look, I expect Managed Accounts to be completely modeled on the iOS home screen. No Finder really visible at all and perhaps no documents folder visible, just a new file chooser (see iWork template chooser) that acts more like a smart finder search finding all of the documents associated with the app in use.
I’m curious to see what they come up with.

9 glawrie { 10.19.10 at 4:19 pm }

Great article. One comment on your wish list. Couldn’t most of what you are looking for regarding notification be achieved simply by pre-loading Growl into OS X before it ships?

10 Conrad MacIntyre { 10.19.10 at 4:33 pm }

I’ve been thinking about it and I’ve come up with a couple things I would like to see improved in OS X.

- In iTunes I can share files between computers using Home Sharing and even stream to anyone with Bonjour, but I cannot share music with another profile on one computer. That upsets me to no end. And even if I hack around and relocate my iTunes library to a shared folder there is much to be desired as far as content-awareness goes.

- iTunes should be split up into separate apps. I have no interest in seeing what books I’ve downloaded for my iPad in iTunes. I’m not in iTunes to read books! The apps could be
1. iTunes – a MUSIC jukebox only with the ability to share between profiles and access to the iTunes Music Store.
2. iBooks – a BOOK library only with the ability to share between profiles and access to the iBookstore.
3. Quicktime – a VIDEO player only with the ability to share between profiles and access to the iTunes Video Store.
4. iSync – a management tool for iDevices with tie-ins to the App Store, iTunes, iBooks, Quicktime, iMovie, iPhoto, iWork and maybe even iWeb and Garageband.
~~ For what it’s worth I think that the iDevices should have these same apps so you know where to look for these things whether on the desktop or for mobile.
~~ I realize that this may create problems for interoperability with Windows… but I don’t care.

- I have the same complaint about iPhoto libraries that I do about iTunes and user accounts (access).

Comments? Feedback?

11 broadbean { 10.19.10 at 5:11 pm }

Fake OS X = Lyin’

12 TheMacAdvocate { 10.19.10 at 6:07 pm }

Some great predictions, Dan. Given that the timing of the event will probably lag the release by 8-9 months, I think there may be a big feature that will fulfill SJ’s original vision of the iMac as a “digital hub”.

Universal availability of content via MobileMe/Back to My Mac, leveraging the capacity of Apple’s new server farm. This could extend from media (music, videos, photos) on any iOS device or Mac, right up through OS X’s Home folder. There’s already some basic sync functionality built into the MobileMe pref pane and the “authorized devices” architecture would keep DRM intact, if necessary.

Also: no more dialog box warning of the apocalypse when you yank a USB device without ejecting it.

13 timmerk { 10.19.10 at 8:55 pm }

“Microsoft unveiling a new Cocoa build of Outlook for Mac that drops the archaic junk still visible in the latest Carbon-based Word and Excel.”

I strongly disagree with this. Outlook 2011 is clearly still 90% Entourage, and it shows; more so that Word or Excel show their age. In fact, Outlook 2011 is *still* using the (very Carbon) WASTE text engine! (just like Entourage did). I’m still blown away by that fact.

14 Alan { 10.19.10 at 9:40 pm }

As the king of the cats I am hoping Apple saved the lion moniker for some huge changes since it is the king of the cats. OS X is indeed looking a bit long in the tooth and is in need of a major GUI overhaul. Let’s home the underlying technology introduced in SL will be put to good use. I still prefer OS X to Windows 7, but even I have to admit they made some pretty big strides forward. I am also very impressed with a lot of what I have seen in the newest KDE and Gnome interfaces. It will be a delicate balance to really move forward without a huge backlash from the faithful. But now is the time to do it. Apple is kicking ass with their other product categories and now is the time to show some love for the part of the company that made it all possible.

15 John E { 10.19.10 at 11:53 pm }

well, the big question is how much of iOS’ innovations and UI find their way into OS X Lion, isn’t it?? not that there aren’t many other technical matters to attend to, but that will be the big news.

obviously a Application Store with simple auto updates of purchased software, like the iOS App Store, would be great for us consumers and a big selling point for Macs. i think Apple would be crazy not to do it with Lion next year. waiting 3-4 years instead is just too long.

likewise, replacing widgets with iOS apps would be great for all iThing owners – they are so much more powerful and useful than widgets, and we are all used to them. i think the “magic trackpad” can handle the UI with a little good ol’ Apple innovation.

changing the Mac OS UI “look and feel” to be much more like iOS is another big possibility. the Dock is already mostly there, if you think about it, but the Menu Bar is an old school mess. Windows could be rethought as “screens”.

of course the hugest step of all would be to make the entire OS UI multitouch ready.

this all sounds like a lot, but isn’t the Lion supposed to be the King of the Beasts- the ultimate?

Lion will either be the last in the line of the 2000 decade-era Mac OS X, or the first of a new 2010 decade-era.

16 John E { 10.19.10 at 11:55 pm }

and yes, btw, release of iLife 2011 tomorrow is certain. and let’s hope for something big for MobileMe and CloudTunes.

17 virtualgeoff { 10.20.10 at 12:26 am }

I’d like to invert the pod/computer thing.

I keep my iPhone with me all the time, but also use a work MacBook, a home iMac and other computers around the place. I want my iPhone to be my primary computer, and all the others to sync to it.

I want my iPhone to act like a portable FireWire drive – I want to be able to boot any Mac from my phone. Even better if it didn’t have to boot – just plug my phone into a Mac and it’s my Mac.

18 hofighter { 10.20.10 at 1:24 am }

I think one thing at which Apple has succeeded with iOS is creating a business model for developers to truly monetize their wares, whether that’s iOS apps or iAds. I think, as Dan has pointed out, that Mac OS X is ripe for similar treatment. I’m more than willing to pay for value. I spent all kinds of time messing around with Mac the Ripper, reading the forums, tossing in some cash for betas to be able to successfully rip my latest DVDs. But then I discovered RipIt, an app I happily paid for and then never had to think about again – it just worked, updated itself, and continued to work. I long for an iOS equivalent to the app store where I can discover great apps, with real user reviews, and then happily throw my cash at hard working developers that give me real value. I don’t want to Google for my software needs, I want to App Store search for them!

19 roz { 10.20.10 at 2:11 am }

I agree with Dan about getting an app store for MacOSX. Clearly not exclusive but as a way to pay for apps and find them. There are a lot of apps on the iOS devices I would like to see on my mac – no reason not to have them.

20 LuisDias { 10.20.10 at 2:30 am }

Dan,

I don’t think the iPad is as much a product of blind Apple ideology as much as “what can we do in the time available.” It makes far more sense for Apple to launch the iPad with some limitations rather than trying to deliver 1.0 with a whole universe of unfamiliar new capabilities that are half-baked.

Sure, I did not say that the iPad isn’t an excellent product of its age. Rather, it is an unique device, that is creating a market all by itself and dominating it. And rightfully too. iOS 4.2 is very good for late 2010, but as a device in itself, temporal considerations be damned, it still has a lot of things to work out and reconsider. Multitasking was the first one to correct, and they did an excellent work on that.

What I see as potentially revolutionary in the future is not how aqua could disappear and leave a whole unified “look and feel” to the OS, although that would be nice (but still in the realm of pure aesthetics), but rather how Mac OS X could integrate in a seamless manner with iOS devices. This makes sense, because it would increase the halo effect of its major success products towards buying macs, by adding a whole new level of awesomeness in dealing with iPads and iPod touches in a fluent way with your Mac OS X, while your Windows PC could still use the iPad, etc., but it would be limited on what iTunes can do about that.

This is clearly where things are going, with increasing integration between apple products, for instance with AirPlay linking iPads and iPods with Apple TVs, etc. In the future, you will be able to control, stream, direct, manage, play, etc. everything in any device with every other device. It’s more of a question of exactly “what”, “how” and the technology to do it, so there’s a lot of research needed to be done here. The target is doing something on par with “Minority Report”, not equal to it, but as amazing and as fluently as that. We are on the brink of it, 5 years out we will see amazing ecossystems around our house.

This does not mean that this is what is going to happen in Lion. I’m not predicting, I’m just expressing a possible development pathway, and if this does not happen in 10.7, it may well happen in 10.8.

21 broadbean { 10.20.10 at 2:36 am }

Interesting about choosing the male lion considering it’s the females that do the heavy lifting.

22 LuisDias { 10.20.10 at 2:36 am }

and yes, btw, release of iLife 2011 tomorrow is certain.

Doh, I totally forgot about that. Yes, this may well be where Mac OS 10.7 can increase, for the time being, integration with iOS devices. Or not.

Your idea of Mac OSX be more like iOS is silly, IMO. Mac OS X is a matured product that works remarkably well with the mouse keyboard inputs we have. To change it to be more like the devices we use with our fingers is completely silly, and it would confuse consumers and developers, create a whole new level of awkwardness between multi-OS apps (like the new Autocad, for example), etc.

No, people I think don’t even realise how awesome current desktop OSes are already. They work. Don’t change it. iOS devices are a whole new thing, if you want to change things, focus on that and the stuff you can do between iOS and Mac OSX.

23 Berend Schotanus { 10.20.10 at 2:47 am }

Hi Daniel,

I appreciate to read some strong articles from you once again!

24 nangka { 10.20.10 at 3:19 am }

@luis
horses worked and they’d just have faster horses if nothing was changed.

i’m quite sure steve jobs doesn’t subscribe to this line of thinking. we will see major changes to mac os x, maybe not lion but certainly down the road.

25 The Mad Hatter { 10.20.10 at 3:47 am }

I don’t know that I agree with you Dan, but you have raised some interesting points. One thing that you’ve ignored is that KDE has lept ahead of OS X and Windows in the looks and performance department. I’m running the latest version of Linux Mint on my antique test machine (AMD Sempron 3000, 512 MB of Ram) and it runs fine, something that Windows wouldn’t do on that old a machine, and I suspect OS X wouldn’t either. So a UI overhaul would make good sense.

But where I think there could be a real change is in the bundled apps. These apps have allowed Apple to provide added value to consumers (my original purchase of a Mac was because of GarageBand). The question is what do consumers need? Some of the bundled apps (IDVD, IPhoto, and IMovie come to mind) are junk by today’s standards. I’m sure everyone has their favorite gripe about one of the bundled apps, many of which have now fallen behind both the proprietary and free competition.

26 AndyLee { 10.20.10 at 5:01 am }

Completely unfounded guesses, just for grins:

A $59 price tag for Lion. The usual $129 might seem a shock since it’s been a long time since we paid that much for a major upgrade. Buyers will forget or not fully appreciate that Snow Leopard was an under-the-hood upgrade. The economy is tough (which doesn’t seem to have hurt Apple sales, but they have been emphasizing affordability lately).

A Photoshop replacement, maybe via acquisition of one of the popular third-party drawing apps. Go ahead, *let* Microsoft by Adobe.

27 Mr. Reeee { 10.20.10 at 5:28 am }

Another thought provoking article, Dan.

On the iPod touch as trackpad thing. I wouldn’t want that as a full-time thing, but being able to connect my iPod touch or iPad as a direct peripheral could bring up some interesting possibilities.

There are apps like TouchPad that allow direct control of my Mac from my iOS devices, which is quite a handy thing.

I find myself working at my desk with my iPad off to the side for checking things, rather than swapping windows around, or switching Mac applications. If some sort of TouchPad on steroids were available where I could copy/paste between devices rather than jump through syncing hoops, well, that would be nice. Whether it’s worth anyone’s efforts to make it happen is another issue.

I’d love Apple make it possible to access the same file from multiple apps on iOS. Having to install the same PDF 2 or 3 times is ridiculous.

28 Mr. Reeee { 10.20.10 at 5:50 am }

One more thing…

The idea of a Mac OS X App Store is a great idea. I use MacUpdate (and formerly VersionTracker) to hunt down and try cool and interesting small apps, utilities and UI tweaks. I’m always stunned that few MacPeople I know have never heard of fantastic utilities like Default Folder X or PopChar… things that have been around Macs for 15 years or more.

While the Mac shareware universe seems somewhat robust, it could be so much better. Having Apple provide a hub to find, try and buy things would be great for everyone. The Apple stamp of approval by simply appearing in the MacAppStore would help alleviate many users’s fears of introducing “foreign matter” into their systems.

We must remember that with Mac OS X market share hopping over the magical 10% line, there’s a large number of Windows refugees who were taught to fear their computers and need some special handling.

29 Mark Hernandez { 10.20.10 at 8:01 am }

I’m looking for more 3D in the user interface, e.g. Time Machine, that can deliver greater simplicity through the use of spatial relationships. Thel 3D world we actually live in so much easier to manage compared to the flat 2D hierarchical world on the screen.

Everything needed to support it is in place — the OS graphics layers, the hardware GPUs, and the trackpad and magic mouse for the new gestures needed.

C’mon Apple, be brave. Like a lion.

30 VinceH { 10.20.10 at 8:16 am }

Great article, Dan, and great comments. I hope Apple people are following this thread, especially SJ.

I’m concerned about the UI violations I’ve seen cropping up lately in OS X. We need a Tog or Tog Equivalent to come in and get a measure of UI modernization and uniformity.

31 John E { 10.20.10 at 11:50 am }

Ah, i got everything on my list (above)! – except iOS apps replacing widgets. but it’s just beginning …

32 Brian Willoughby { 10.20.10 at 11:56 pm }

As for “fixing the system’s notifications and active application model,” NeXT already had this right. My productivity went down significantly when I switched to OSX.

Under NeXTSTEP, a background application would NEVER take over active status. If you launched an app from the dock, it would become active as soon as it was finished launching UNLESS you clicked in another app in the interim. The technology was incredibly impressive, and flawless. Also, any app that was not launched by a user mouse click (e.g. an auto-launch app responding to some event) could not take over while you were actively using another app. It was brilliant, because your work flow was never interrupted, and yet you could still manage multiple apps running at the same time.

Notifications were equally unobtrusive. Cocoa had both app modal and system modal dialogs. Developers were smart enough to flag their dialogs as app model if they shouldn’t bother a user who is active in another application. Then, once the user decides to switch applications, the app modal dialog would show that the program was waiting for user input. I believe this evolved into the bouncing dock icon. Admittedly, “sheets” are a brilliant replacement for dialogs, because they’re window-modal or document-modal, adding another tier to app-modal and system-modal from NeXTSTEP.

Speaking of the latter, it was very rare for a computer event to result in a system modal dialog, but problems ejecting media or something like that would be the only thing that could interrupt a user – and always with good reason.

I don’t know what to blame for this feature disappearing, given that OSX is the NeXT OS ported to PowerPC and Intel with a polished GUI. Perhaps the allowances for Carbon meant that the active application modal broke down. Perhaps some of the early anti-Objective-C sentimentality at Apple, which resulted in menus and the Finder being completely rewritten with fewer features than NEXTSTEP, were responsible for the breakdown. I’ve never seen any criticism of NeXT’s design here, in fact I think Apple holds some patents that they inherited from NeXT, so I vote that they bring it back to full operation.

33 Brian Willoughby { 10.21.10 at 12:06 am }

@glawrie
Growl only works with applications that know about it. Pre-loading it on the system will not help anything. Also, Growl does nothing to stop iTunes from getting in your face when you simply dock your iPhone but really want to get some work done.

As my longer reply above points out, a better solution is to revive the standard that has been part of Cocoa since the very beginning.

34 gslusher { 10.21.10 at 2:41 pm }

@Brian Willoughby:

“Also, Growl does nothing to stop iTunes from getting in your face when you simply dock your iPhone but really want to get some work done.”

As far as I know, you can set iTunes’ preferences to not automatically sync when you dock your iPhone. If the only reason you dock it is to charge it, you can get a separate charger.

35 Brian Willoughby { 10.21.10 at 2:45 pm }

@gslusher:

I thought it was understood from the previous comments that people do want to sync their iPhone automatically, but there is not good reason that your Mac needs to interrupt your work in order to do this. Why can’t iTunes automatically sync the iPhone without bothering me? I prefer to multitask.

[iPhones (and iPod/iPads) sync in the background when you plug them in, but this requires launching iTunes (because of how Apple implemented sync). This could have been done via Sync Services or something without launching iTunes, but the biggest annoyance is not that iTunes (and iPhoto) are launched, but that they take over the foreground task, literally ripping your attention away from the app you are actively working on to present something that doesn't even need your active attention.

If I want to change how iTunes syncs, or if I want to import photos, I can switch to that app manually to do this. Apple clearly is aware that its notification systems on the Mac and iOS are in need of improvement (or more specifically, a major rethinking), it's just that this is the the biggest unfinished piece of the pie left. - Dan ]

36 schwabsauce { 10.25.10 at 10:08 am }

iTunes not only interrupts and slows you down, but also prevents you from starting or adjusting playback while certain iPhone tasks are taking place. it’s somehow evocative of the days when you had to download a 30 mb installer every time iTunes got a minor update – the updater they have in place for the webkit nightly is so much more elegant; if only it could be used to add new SDKs to XCode!

The app store is coming soon – but most of these predictions were not part of the announced features. The adaptation of iOS interfaces looks great, and the new iLife algorithms are mouth-watering. I worry about my computer slowing down to a crawl while it’s importing videos into iMovie, but alas. Also, will iMovie be able to edit a second project while it is uploading a first to YouTube?

Dan, your idea to add a display to the trackpad is solid. What about the actual keys though – a retina display on the actual keys seems like something that is both within reach and within Apple’s style. In terms of the distinctions between Apple and Microsoft, I like to think of it this way: Microsoft programmers assume you use a computer with your hands, but Apple engineers know that you really use a computer with your eyes. That is why they started with core technologies like bright displays and good fonts, and developed interfaces such as GUI and the mouse, animated minimizing and a visually stimulating task manager (command-tab). I suppose the need for context-aware labels on the keyboard is potentially too small to justify the power consumption of retina displays. But, geeks will recall that Das Keyboard demonstrated that opting to use keys with no labels whatsoever can result in a tripling of typing speed and accuracy. This is somewhat opposed to the approach I’m advocating, which would augment crutches of the hunt-and-peck variety; but it would also be facilitated by it.

In the vein of learning to use apps more efficiently and productively (learning and memorizing keystrokes), what about Mac lessons in the vein of the iTunes lessons? New lessons can provide realtime feedback on key presses for a midi keyboard – why not do the same for someone using keystrokes to navigate spaces, windows, menus, the dock, and application features? I always wanted to develop a game that would challenge developers to achieve speed and accuracy by learning TextMate key bindings – if Apple took some of its video tutorials and game-ified them, newcomers would be able to start to learn what the Mac is really about.

37 varase { 10.26.10 at 5:44 pm }

I’ve been waiting for (two MacBook Pros’ worth) resolution independence.

Fitting 1920×1200 pixels in a 17″ frame is great for 1080p playback, but not so great for reading 9 point Helvetica with 57 year-old eyes.

Resolution independence was started over two OS releases ago … it would sure be nice to see Apple finish it.

38 Brian Willoughby { 10.26.10 at 10:54 pm }

@varase
That’s a good point. I’m really surprised that Universal Access doesn’t have a font size boost option under the Seeing tab. That would be so obvious.

39 John E { 10.27.10 at 9:33 am }

using “Zoom Text Only” in the View Menu doesn’t count?

40 varase { 10.27.10 at 8:21 pm }

No, Zoom Text is not available in all applications and 9 point text should be 9 points tall no matter what the resolution of your screen.

Think of how many pixels tall 9 point Helvetica is on a 300+ dpi iPhone 4, and what text only 9 pixels tall would be like on that display.

41 Brian Willoughby { 10.27.10 at 10:09 pm }

Ah, yes, NeXTstep originally standardized on 92 dpi for their primary 17″ display (monochrome and col0r), which means that a 9 point font had a precise size. Things started to become less standard when the 21″ display came out at 72 dpi instead of maintaining 92 dpi. Thus, text looked larger on the 21″ screen, and some people actually preferred the spendier 21″ for this reason. Now, with OSX, I’m not so sure there is any kind of standard dpi for monitors, even though the LCD is easier to predict size than a CRT.

Bottom line: There should be an option to change the system font and other related fonts. Actually, Cocoa allows application developers to utilize the “system font” so that global changes should affect all applications. But I have no idea where to set the system font.

42 varase { 10.28.10 at 8:15 am }

There used to be a standard – all Macs (at one time) came with 72 dpi square pixel displays – now resolutions are all over the place.

Typographicly, there are 72 points/inch, and a 9 point font has a physical size which should be independent of pixel concentration.

The default configuration should be that a 9 point font is 9 points tall – an application can have a zoom command to change the view, but the ssytem default should be to display the font at the height designated – regardless of screen resolution.

Of course, this requires that the system know the screen size, but this shouldn’t be a problem with Apple displays. For non-Apple displays, it would require a one-time calibration (how many inches/cm tall and wide is the display?) – again not an onerous requirement.

Doing this would open the way for things like a retina display on a Mac – something that would obviously be impractical if things remain as they are.

I made my last MacBook Pro 17 purchase knowing that Apple was working on resolution independence, and bought the high density display anticipating that the next OS would fix the teenie-tiny text problem. My next MacBook Pro 17 (core i7) didn’t come with an option for a low density display, so I remain stuck with the teenie-tiny text problem.

I love the 1920×1200 for video and Aperture, but I do still have to deal with text and have to set text to 13 point Monaco to keep it readable on my display. Unfortunately, this means that when printing I have to set the output to something like 70% to keep the text from being obnoxiously large.

I don’t have to artificially inflate or deflate font sizes when printing – regardless of manufacturer or printer resolution. Why should I have to do it on the Mac itself – all of which (both hardware and software) is produced by Apple?

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