What’s Next for Apple: OS 11

by Hadley Stern Mar 14, 2008

There isn’t much we know about Apple’s next operating system except for the fact that we won’t have the annoying issues with OS X. No, I’m not talking about the spinning Beach-Ball (which is thankfully diminishing in influence in each iteration of OS X). I’m talking about how the debate over whether it was “OS xxxx” or “OS ten” went on for a while there.

When OS 9, or Classic as it came to be known, was at end-of-life it was clear that it was…at end-of-life. The operating system which began its humble origins inside the original Mac just couldn’t keep up with the plethora of advances that followed whether it was faster processors, color, and more and more complex applications it was clear OS 9 needed to be replaced.

We aren’t anywhere near any such conversation when it comes to OS X. In terms of the ability to handle any complex application or hardware interactions thrown at it OS X can handle itself just fine, thank you very much.

But it is very hard to imagine that this will be the last operating system Apple will ever release. So what would you want from a next generation operating system? You can comment at the end of this piece, but here are some of my thoughts.

1. A New Finder Paradigm.
Or maybe no finder at all. For better or worse the way we interact with our Macs of today is very similar to the way we interacted with the original Macintosh in 1984. We click file folders, drag documents, etc. But since then the amount of files we work with has grown exponentially the finder isn’t keeping up. But no one has come up with anything better. That isn’t to say there isn’t anything better, there is. If Apple doesn’t reinvent the desktop paradigm someone will. It’s inevitable. It could be based on the principles of search, which state that is quicker to type something in to find it than go through folders. Or it could extend the desktop metaphor beyond files and folders.

2. Speed
Up until Leopard OS X ran slower than OS 9, at least the Finder did. That’s right if you ran OS 9 on the fastest G4 you could find it would run faster than Tiger, no matter how fast the processor. Leopard finally smashed that barrier but not by much. As the files we work on our larger and the applications we open them even larger we need an operating system that can keep up.

3. New Interaction models
Looking at the iPhone and imagining multi-touch is nothing new. Microsoft copied it went and did that with Surface. The current mouse and keyboard interaction model is the primary way we all enter data on our machines. Its hard for us to imagine anything else, until we use an iPhone. Suddenly flicking pages with a finger feels like the most natural thing in the world. And indeed it is. Since Apple was the first to use multi-touch in a widely-shipping application it would seem natural that it would extend this experience to an operating system. Another oft-repeated comparison, The Minority Report comes to mind. Just like Apple revolutionized the way we interacted with machines with the original Mac it could do the same with OS 11.

4. User-Generated Applications
Many of us remember the original HyperCard application fondly. Built into the spirit of the original Mac was the premise that building custom applications (albeit simple ones) should be something any user can do. Right now creating a custom workflow or application still requires a computer science degree. Yes AppleScript and, in particular, Automator allow users to do some pretty nifty things but they aren’t applications. OS 11 should allow users to create true drag-and-drop applications.

No doubt there are many more interesting ideas and possibilities for OS 11 than I have outlined here. What would you like to see from Apple’s new operating system?


  • There is a void in current operating systems. No one has made a user interface that allows the user to interact with a computer that has a TV display. I recently discovered this when I connected my mac mini to a 32” widescreen TV. The idea: to browse the internet, check email, and view media from my couch.

    The problem: at 1366x768 pixels, the resolution is excellent, but the buttons, menu items, and icons are all way too small. Even with my glasses on, I can barely read what’s on the screen.

    Apple needs to make a next gen user interface (doesn’t even need to be an OS, could just be a shell that calls up functions from the OS).

    -It should present as the main interface, with “regular” OS X interface available by exiting the shell environment. 
    -It should have bright, clear, crisp icons that are easy to see from 6-10 feet away.
    -It should have a home screen similar to iphone that acts as an application launcher.
    -Applications should be pointer based, and require minimal use of the keyboard. When typing is required, it should call up a virtual keyboard, like iPhone.

    Now, imagine using this interface with a bluetooth mouse (or better yet - pointer device - think Duck Hunt, the old nintendo game with the zapper). You click on internet and a firefox plugin allows you to navigate with the aid of the virtual keyboard and a menu of bookmarks that is large and easily readable. You go back to home screen, click on weather, back to home, click on email (again, using a similar plugin), and back to home, then click on music.

    For movies, music, and photos, no new software is required; Apple already has it in Front Row.

    magicg had this to say on Mar 14, 2008 Posts: 8
  • >The problem: at 1366x768 pixels, the resolution is excellent, but the buttons, menu items, and icons are all way too small. Even with my glasses on, I can barely read what’s on the screen.

    Leopard supports a thing called resolution independent UI that is meant specifically to address this.

    soft_guy had this to say on Mar 14, 2008 Posts: 21
  • I think OS 11.0 (codename hammerhead (a new way of looking at things)) will support the current keyboard/mouse/display paradigm, but add the following “environment”:
    Put on a pair of gloves and a pair of glasses (or headset).  What you’ll see is yourself in the center of your data.  Touch the ipod to play/browse your media and start playing Pink Floyd’s “Is There Anybody In There”.  shove it out of the way, say at 3 o’clock high.  Now, reach up to 10 o’clock to grab your inbox and start reading mail, voice mail, appointments, text messages… wadding them up and tossing them in the trash can or shredder. 
    Half way through that, you notice your (obviously virtual) picture frame slide show displays your wife’s picture with a pink border and that reminds you that you’d better get something nice for your anniversary.  So, you reach out to the store (which is a subset of the internet consisting of local merchants) and start looking for stuff.  Since you’re still faster at typing, you grab the keyboard (dvorak layout of course) and order a dozen roses and a really nice card that has your favorite picture of the two of you that you pulled from your picture frame and scheduled it for a pick up on your way home.
    Back to the mssages.  Your kids are looking for information on the effect of a certain illegal substance on driving performance for a school paper.  You wander over to the schoolhouse to verify the assignment, then strolling over to the bookshelf (aka a subset of the internet like .edu)  and unlock articles containing references to the substance and its street names.
    After your messages, you reach behind you to grab the globe, and start to zoom in on towns that you’d like to visit and start walking down the streets of Sydney. 

    I think you kinda get the idea, Sort of Tron like, but it would blow the desktop away, and let people interact the way that they would in the real world.  You could even step up onto a device that lets you physically walk over to the store and library (think treadmill) and at the same time providing power to run the processors.

    This would be a huge change for the majority of us, but it could open up entire worlds for many including people who are physically incapable of using a mouse, keyboard or display.

    Of course, speech recognition will be released in OS 11.1 grin

    Nick had this to say on Mar 14, 2008 Posts: 2
  • I think the next interaction-shift will be towards the digital assistant they made a demo of back in the 80s. The main improvement on that idea would be that you don’t have to talk/listen. For instance if I ask something I don’t want to wait for a long response if I can instantly see a list of possibilities down the side of my screen.

    In terms of the computer itself, expect to see our data and backup moving to an online/synchronised model. If I leave my Mac at home I should be able to walk up to any Mac and login, giving full access to my files & applications (via Apple servers). Depending on my authorisation and choice, these Macs will either temporarily cache to improve speed, partially cache in an ongoing manner, or fully cache (like my home computer) so I can be disconnected for any reason or go travelling with them (eg laptops).

    This functionality will also allow us to lose a computer and grab another as if nothing’s happened, or to click “rebuild machine” if something is wrong and have it delete EVERYTHING and build a fresh copy (then reloading our personal data and applications).

    Greg Alexander had this to say on Mar 17, 2008 Posts: 228
  • I agree with everything except excerpt No. 3. Microsoft “copied” Apple’s iPhone with Surface? I hardly see how that’s plausible. What you can do with Surface is completely different from the iPhone. Did HP copy Apple with their TouchSmart PC? Not at all. Just because Microsoft came up with a machine you can use at the convenience of your fingers doesn’t mean they stole it from Apple. As far as the “Minority Report” scenario, i can’t see Apple implementing that either. I can see HP doing it, i can even see Microsoft doing it with a much larger machine running Surface. But Apple? Though it would be amazing, i can’t see them doing it.

    Iconic Emergence had this to say on Jan 29, 2009 Posts: 1
  • i just think applemac is not woking so right.. i call call ‘hEllo i hear beep ‘wat? she say.. mine son he thinking to tell hte papers but is slow het hought.. plees help she speking ‘bep wat>

    dakratzman had this to say on Aug 01, 2010 Posts: 2
  • I agree with Nick, that a 3D GUI is the logical next step, but no gloves - instead a Kinect-style interface and probably a projected keypad. And don’t forget the voice recognition aspect, either (particularly useful for those of us who type slower than we speak, but also enhances security and allows simultaneously working with hands and voice). The mic and headphones would be built into the 3D headset/glasses. In fact, for maximum security and flicker-free 3D, building the display right into the headset would be optimal (particularly to replace laptops).

    patrickw9 had this to say on Mar 25, 2011 Posts: 1
  • These features would make the prices for macs increase dramatically. But still gonna buy them. County Line Nissan

    countylinenissan had this to say on Aug 10, 2011 Posts: 11
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