What’s Next for Mac OS X?

by Albert Wan Feb 09, 2010

With all the hubub about Apple's influence in the cell phone and tablet/netbook industry, one platform hasn't received much spotlight recently—Mac OS X.

The operating system that started it all has taken the backseat in the last couple of months. Sure, the iPhone OS has been expanded to other devices like the iPad, but nevertheless it's still a stripped down version of Mac OS X. Ever since the release of Snow Leopard back in August, nothing new or exciting has come out of Apple's headquarters regarding the operating system.

Seeing as how Snow Leopard has had very few updates (it's on 10.6.2 as of this writing) it is rumored that 10.7 will be debuted at WWDC 2010, but it's possible we're going to have to wait one more year until the release of Mac OS X 10.7. If history repeats itself.

Hardware cuts are going to be prominent. Obviously, Apple will cut support on some Macs in 10.7. With PowerPC processors getting the boot on 10.6, we can expect Core Solo/Duo and 32-bit processors to lose support on 10.7.

For small features, I'm hoping Apple will implement something similar to TotalFinder and speed up Safari (can't blame everything on Adobe, Steve!), as well as new features to iChat, Mail, and other standard applications.

But the big, revolutionary features are what makes the Apple community excited about a Mac OS release. There are several possibilities Apple could venture with operating systems on laptops and desktops:

-Apple could implement a Mac OS X App Store similar to the iPhone. It would have relaxed restrictions in comparison to the iPhone's current store, and Software Update will be integrated with the App Store.

-Apple could create a cloud-based operating system, like what Google is intending to do with Chrome. Given that Google has entered Apple's turf with Android, Apple could retaliate by creating a cloud-based OS, possibly integrated with MobileMe or a new service.

-With the focus on mobile computing, Apple could release a server-like OS to the general consumer. As long as the computer is constantly running, an iPhone or iPad could access the Mac's files. Rather than storing data on Apple's servers, users would be storing files on their Macs instead, and accessing them from another Mac, a PC, iPhone, or iPad.

Anything is possible for Mac OS X 10.7, but the only thing we can do is wait. What are your thoughts?


  • I predict greater interactivity with iPhone/iPad OS.  Apple will present the proposition that if you have an iPad, you get a lot more from your iPad and laptop/desktop if you had OS-X instead of Windows 7.

    tundraboy had this to say on Feb 09, 2010 Posts: 132
  • The next major push won’t be until Apple turns on the 64 bit kernel by default. This won’t occur until enough applications have converted to a FAT file containing both 32 and 64 bit versions. Those versions are apt to be OpenCL and Grand Central Dispatch enabled. The ramifications of this change are not fully known or talked about. This will likely happen before Mac OSX 10.7. I am expecting it to occur in June or July.

    What can we expect from the conversion to 64 bit code? It means the beginning of the end for Carbon API’s and procedural code. Coming events will quickly sideline this code, but Apple is likely wait until 10.8 (three to four years) to remove this capability.

    The most noticeable change in the upgrade to 64 bit will be in speed. The 64 bit kernel better utilizes the increased registers already inside your Core 2 Duo processor chips. This alone will give you a 25 to 50% speed bump. The applications optimized for OpenCL and GCD will use the multiple cores in the CPU and GPU to give between a 200 to 1200% speed boost.

    Lastly, a host of security enhancements will kick in; ASLR, DEP and the sand boxing of most applications. This will create a foundation which will allow Apple much more control over Mac security. Apple’s 32 bit code did not allow enough address space to hide essential system files; thus, it was too predictable.

    It is still unclear what Apple intends to do with these increased capabilities. That will unfold in the year before 10.7 is released. This is necessary because many of the new features in 10.7 will rely the ramifications of 64 bit code and the Mac user base being aware of them.

    UrbanBard had this to say on Feb 09, 2010 Posts: 111
  • My prediction:  One of the purposes of the iPad was to test the scalability of the iPhone OS to a larger screen.  I expect Macs to go all touch screen like the iPad, with requisite higher specs, but with the same built-in restrictions.

    The other purpose was to dip Apple’s toes in the water of requiring all software to be sold exclusively through the App Store.

    So I predict a slick touch screen UI across the line, with some newer additions to take advantage of the large screen.

    But with the trade-off being that you can’t install anything that Apple hasn’t pre-approved.  This will mean an App Store version of not only iWork, which is already there, but of Final Cut and the other Pro Apps as well.

    Beeblebrox had this to say on Feb 09, 2010 Posts: 2220
  • I think mac is dying.

    FluExpert had this to say on Feb 09, 2010 Posts: 1
  • I think you are disconnected from reality. FluExpert.

    No computer system which is growing at 30% a year and sells over 90% of the premium notebooks (over $1000) is even close to dying. Apple, also, maintains very high profit margins and has the highest customer satisfaction ratings in the computer industry. Apple has a higher market cap than Dell and Google combined.

    Meanwhile, The PC market is flat or declining. Apple is likely to surpass Microsoft’s market cap in a year or tow. Wouldn’t we all want to be that kind of success?

    UrbanBard had this to say on Feb 09, 2010 Posts: 111
  • Well, as long as we are guessing here, lets have some fun. I think apple will eventually merge the two O.S they are currently developing. The OSX will be reduced to a cloud based, iphone type OS that is cleaner, faster and and more reliable than what they have now. For 10.7 or OSX Serval, apple will start to introduce this merger. Why have two OS’s when one can work for both? The iphone OS natively runs on multi-touch technology, OSX does not. The ipad’s success will probably set the mood for future mac touch screen OS development. If it fails, they will probably re-examine where they go, if it takes off, which it might ( i plan on buying the entry level ipad) I think it will lead the way for a merger of the two OS’s. The fact is, multi-touch is here to stay and apple will lead the way, thankfully, because Microsoft just doesn’t get it.

    chanus had this to say on Feb 09, 2010 Posts: 1
  • It’s time to disconnect us from a single computer. MobileMe becomes our “home folder”, accessible on any Mac we sit down at. We can get our full MobileMe “home” on our iPhones, iPads, Macs, or online. Synced of course to work when offline, and TimeMachine backup enabled.

    Apple doesn’t actually have to store our purchased apps (from Mac App Store) or music (from iTunes Store) - and music identified by Lala can be stored just once from multiple users. Movies seem to be the only sticking point due to size and piracy.

    Once provided, we could reformat our whole Mac one day and log back in with our MobileMe username to have everything magically back on our machine (pulling our data from TimeMachine if available - otherwise from other Macs that we’ve logged into recently, our iPhone synced data, and of course the cloud).

    This is my hope for the Mac.

    BTW: I also hope for an app store (as an option, not requirement), resolution independence, and better remote control. (And please…. iLife needs to be updated to use multiple cores and 64 bit!)

    Greg Alexander had this to say on Feb 09, 2010 Posts: 228
  • Sorry, chanus, I can’t agree with your analysis. Apple actually has three OS’s based on the same code; the iPhone OS, Mac OSX server and Mac OSX. All of them are kept up to date with each other. A number of the API’s developed for the iPhone got placed into Mac OSX 10.5 and 10.6.

    The difference between the OS’s is a result of the hardware each is used on. They are all versions of Snow Leopard which recently dropped 40% of the bulk it carried in the previous upgrade: 10.5.  Mac OSX 10.6 is clean, fast and reliable now.

    Apple has a cloud based server system now: .Mac. Cloud computing is only good for very light weight, non critical applications. What happens if your server or ISP goes down? You can’t work. You can’t access your files so you can work locally, either.

    Mac OSX has multitouch technology now, it just doesn’t have it on the screen of a notebook or desktop. Mac OSX has it on the touch pad. The multi touch code for the iPhone OS and Mac OSX is the same.

    Large touch screens have a problem which limits their use. They are very clumsy and tiring to use; you would be constantly waving your arms around. A mouse and keyboard conserves more energy and is faster. The iPad will work because it will mostly sit in your lap.

    Nor do I think that the touch screen will take over. Notebook and desk top computers are not going away. Apple is extending the computer market place by making computers easier to use for people who don’t like computers now.

    That is well and good, but the Mac is, also, used for heavy duty applications like graphics and movie editing. For that, you need a keyboard.

    I think the iPad will do quite well. But, Apple is extending the computer market place, rather than replacing it. It is welcoming people who are not served by computers now. Apple is not going to abandon us computer geeks. We pay it too much money.

    UrbanBard had this to say on Feb 10, 2010 Posts: 111
  • It’s hard to say, yet, where things are headed, Greg. I see a lot of trends. But, I can also see various ways in which they could play out.

    The Mac is a serious computer system. It can do very heavy duty work. The Mac, very soon, will become even more impressive because of 64 bit computing, OpenCL and Grand Central Dispatch. But all these technologies must be local, not in the cloud. They are application and hardware based.

    It is Google who is leading the way to cloud computing, not Apple. Its target is to steal users from Microsoft. Cloud computing has drawbacks which make it inapplicable for the heavy duty work which the Mac does, nor is the cloud as reliable as a serious user would need.

    Apple and Google will work seamlessly together. They are going after different market segments. The iPad will be bought by people who think a Google NetBook is too difficult to use.

    One trend that I see is that the computer is on the verge of fragmenting. The components are getting cheap enough so that we will have five or six computers, in our homes or office, to replace our single one.

    The iPad is part of that process; it is designed to work with our wireless LAN and other computers. Apple will be inserting the iPad into a unified whole, rather than as a stand alone devise. But, Apple is not rushing the process; it is putting one piece in place at a time. One of the biggest pieces is the 64 bit kernel. The show doesn’t start until it is turned on.

    UrbanBard had this to say on Feb 10, 2010 Posts: 111
  • “The fact is, multi-touch is here to stay and apple will lead the way, thankfully, because Microsoft just doesn’t get it.”

    I agree.  MS could have owned this market.  We could have been in the multi-touch desktop paradigm by now if MS had followed the logical step with Surface and brought that technology to the home.

    Something along the lines of the iPhone OS is the future of computing.  My problem with Apple’s approach is the aforementioned App Store monopoly, the lack of user control over the device, the lack of multi-tasking, etc.

    I’m wondering if the shift in paradigms will allow the emergence of a new player in the OS market.  Maybe a new touch version of Linux installed on the HP Slate.  At least it would be an actual computer.

    Beeblebrox had this to say on Feb 10, 2010 Posts: 2220
  • I struggle to understand why commentators above believe that the 64-bit kernel will bring about revolutionary change in MacOS.  The move from 32-bits to 64-bits simply allows a greater address space (which is irrelevant for the 95% of users with less than 4GB RAM) and access to some larger registers.  This will bring evolutionary, incremental performance improvements - but nothing more.  64-bits is as much a marketing slogan for the masses as anything else (I’m not talking about the server market here, where it is relevant).  Digital UNIX, for instance, has been pure 64-bit since 1998 but did not bring about any computing revolution - it was simply a solid server-orientated operating system.  Of course 64-bits is a wise migration to allow for ever increasing hardware requirements in the future, but don’t expect to see any extraordinary changes…

    Paul Howland had this to say on Feb 11, 2010 Posts: 38
  • @UrbanBard Funny, my idle prognosticating leads me to a conclusion totally opposite from yours.  I think we will actually end up with just one computer rather than 5 or 6.  That means that iPhoneOS and MacOS will merge in function.  We will all own a single iPhone-sized device that works as a touch screen mobile computer when we’re out of the house, but can be connected to your keyboard and screen at home to do large-screen computing tasks.  (The mobile device bcomes a touch pad.)  The key is a combination of vastly more powerful chips, vastly more compact storage, and a well developed cloud computing infrastructure.  If you need to do large-screen computing on the road, bring your laptop console (foldable keyboard and screen), slip in the mobile device at the designated compartment and voila there’s your laptop.

    But this is not going to be OS-X 10.8.  So sorry, I digress.

    tundraboy had this to say on Feb 11, 2010 Posts: 132
  • Some people never understand anything, Paul, unless it smacks them upside the head. We will see in four to five months what the changes will be.

    There are far more ramifications than simply increased address space, although that is important for security enhancements.

    What makes 64 bit code revolutionary is that it nails down the lid on Microsoft Window’s coffin. Microsoft will never be able to catch up; its reputation will turn upside down. The Microsoft FUD machine will be in tatters if Apple attains a dramatic increase in speed. What is revolutionary is that people see Apple as the leading edge.

    It has been for some time, but people often need a shock to perceive reality. It is almost impossible to get windows users to perceive how much better Mac OSX is.

    UrbanBard had this to say on Feb 11, 2010 Posts: 111
  • Make your bet, tundraboy, and I’ll make mine.

    I never said when these trends will bear out. I merely said that the iPad was part of the process.

    The computer will be composed of many parts, but the combination will be greater than the sum of the parts. All the peripherals we currently use will be specialized computers which wirelessly work with the whole. I think Apple has an advantage in such a change.

    UrbanBard had this to say on Feb 11, 2010 Posts: 111
  • UrbanBard - I didn’t mean to imply we’d be working from the cloud - just that we’d have a central ‘home folder’ for all our apps/music/photos, whichever device we’re using. Those devices would sync their relevant files and act locally on those files.

    The cloud seemed a logical place to store that ‘home folder’ - but a centralised storage on a server, home Mac, or time-capsule NAS would work just as well. I’m presuming we need a “master” home folder which has it all, which might not be true.

    This fits with your “multi-computers” idea too. The worst thing would be having 5 devices and not knowing which one had whatever data you were looking for.

    Greg Alexander had this to say on Feb 11, 2010 Posts: 228
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