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?


  • UrbanBard - yes, we’ll see.  But I doubt any of them will be fundamentally due to the shift to 64-bits.  Having used a 64-bit UNIX over ten years ago, I can assure you there will be no revolutionary change.  Just as we have seen little revolutionary change so far as Mac OS has already largely migrated to 64-bit.  I’m curious, what is it that you think you can do with 64-bits that you can’t already do with 32-bits - other than address more memory or use longer registers?  One example of a revolutionary change would be interesting.

    Paul Howland had this to say on Feb 12, 2010 Posts: 38
  • The Cloud is nothing more than “thin computing” modernized. It has its advantages and drawbacks.

    For casual computer users, the advantages of the Cloud vastly out-weigh the risks. The point is the computer market is not “one size fits all.” Mainframes didn’t disappear when the micro computer arrived. The Cloud will not replace heavy duty apps or super computers. The definition for each will be upgraded. The leading edge is toward very difficult simulations, VR, graphics etc.

    The answer to the title question, above, “What’s next for the Mac,” depends on whether your focus is on the short, medium or long term. The author seemed focused on the medium term over the next year or so. I pointed out that we have some short term events coming up within six months which we must adjust to.

    Companies are positioning themselves to take advantage of the target market which they choose to serve. For Google, that is NetBooks, low end computers and the casual computer users. They will continue to make their money through ads on their search engines and web apps.  Google, also, stands a chance of stealing away part of the recalcitrant Windows XP crowd with the Chrome OS and VMware. It will be cheaper, easier and less troublesome for many business users than migrating to Windows 7.

    Apple is moving in several different directions. The iPad, iPhone and iTouch seems aimed at serving people who do not like or use computers, now. These are people who would find a NetBook too hard to use. They comprise about half of the population.

    Another market segment for Apple is the heavy duty computer users. This is what the 64 bit code, OpenCL and Grand Central Dispatch is for. Games will become part of that, too, but mostly this is for serious work.

    Apple has already attained a lock on the upper end of the consumer market. Apple is not interested in the low end consumer market, government and big business sales, but it is interested in serving Small to Medium sized businesses.

    Windows is being pushed back into its government and big business niche by Apple, Google and Linux. The interesting trend is that Microsoft will be under constant attack from all quarters. The most devastating attack will be from computer devises not yet invented. They will be very cheap and specialized devices using open standards most likely run by Linux. They will work flawlessly with a Mac.

    This is part of the process of computers fragmenting. These devices will become cheap and powerful, because every one has it own computer inside. Naturally, this could make confusion possible, but you will carry a portal with you for your important information. That portal will know where everything is in your home, office or in the Cloud. It will display your output to what ever monitor you choose out of many.

    Your most important information will move with you, but the portal will know where everything is and what your normal preferences are. If it chooses wrongly, you can quickly correct it. That portal will look very much like an iPad or a device a little smaller. A back pocket and pocket book sized portal which unfolds into a bigger screen would work fine. But we need flexible screens or holographic projection for that. That will come in less than ten years years.

    These possibilities are driven by improvements in technology. Computers will be in everything, even your underwear. Apple seems well adapted to handle such devices without confusion. Other vendors will not be so blessed.

    UrbanBard had this to say on Feb 12, 2010 Posts: 111
  • “I’m curious, what is it that you think you can do with 64-bits that you can’t already do with 32-bits - other than address more memory or use longer registers?  One example of a revolutionary change would be interesting.”

    Ah, Paul, this technology is much like a baby. It depends on how it grows up. If you focus too closely you can miss the end result. A revolution is an abrupt event which depends on many incremental events before it. The American revolution was a hundred years in the making, but fifteen years before Concord the Americans were loyal Brits.

    Apple has had a long tendency of putting the pieces of technology in place until it has all its ducks in a row. When it adds the final piece, a revolution occurs, because new capabilities are revealed which weren’t there before. How Apple took over the music player market was a revolution, just as is how it revamped the mobile phone market. The iPad seems to be an evolution of the iPod Touch, but I believe it is a part of the next revolution.

    You could say that this is just evolutionary, but by doing so, you miss the fact that the effect is greater than the sum of its parts.

    64 bit code for a commercial device, like a server, is very different from a consumer device. Apple has inherited a long series of compromises which were forced on it by primitive technology or user demands.

    Apple, in Snow Leopard, is leaving behind the compromises it made, back in 1998, to adapt NeXTstep to the Mac. The Carbon API’s will be rendered legacy so they can disappear in five years. Many of the exciting technologies in NeXTstep can now be enabled.

    When Apple migrates to 64 bit code, it gains enhanced security and control which is impossible in 32 bit code. This is a whole new level. This is more than merely extra address space or the ability to hide essential system files in that wider space. Apple will take advantage of the new capabilities to make the Mac much more secure.

    Microsoft has ASLR, DEP and the sand boxing of XP applications, but it won’t make Windows secure. Nothing will change fundamentally. The Mac, in the 64 bit kernel, will gain ASLR, DEP and sand boxing, but it will use them in brand new ways.

    It is very long and tiring to explore the ramifications of that. And some of this is guesswork, because Apple has hinted at the possibilities but not laid out the details. You could discount my opinions as an over active imagination, but we will see soon enough.

    Are you aware that Apple changed its install procedure in Snow Leopard? Why did Apple do that?

    The installer now loads a part of the DVD on the disk, before it starts asking questions. In the 64 bit kernel, the installer is likely to be sand boxed in a virtual machine where it will be difficult to spoof. This allows Apple to close a security loophole which has been available since the original Mac OS. If you had physical access to the computer and an installer disk, the computer was at your mercy.

    I believe this will now change; the installer will start demanding your authorization to load software. Apple needs to make this as effortless as possible for legitimate Apple users, but this security loophole will, eventually, be closed.

    One enhancement is that if Apple is to secure the Mac for businesses, then it needs to lock down, erase or encrypt files on a lost or stolen Macs. This is no trivial matter to businesses. Apple already has the capability on the iPhone. I believe it will be extended to its Notebook line. But, without the 64 bit kernel, that would be impossible. This is just one ramification.

    UrbanBard had this to say on Feb 12, 2010 Posts: 111
  • honesty, im excited about the next release.. hope its worth the money..

    propellerhead reason

    brucewayne had this to say on Mar 07, 2010 Posts: 1
  • I believe it it is worth the money just to get to 90% of our user base in 64 bit code. By June or July, the Snow Leopard user base will be 60 to 65% SL and 80% of the Mac Apps will be in 64 bit code. Apple will change the kernel by default. There will be enough improvements that word of mouth will persuade the user base to upgrade. This means that over 90% will be in Snow Leopard by Sept to November—12 to 14 months after SL launch.

    Apple will be able to ignore 32 bit code as legacy. Carbon API’s will be sidelined.

    I’m not expecting new features before 10.7, but we will have greatly improved applications to get used to. I don’t expect 10.7’s release until late spring to late summer. Apple will need to deliver some system level features because 10.6 was sparse.

    Meanwhile, the Wintel market will have changes for Apple to adjust to. The Chrome OS Is apt to take over the lower half of the consumer market. Apple doesn’t want this market anyway.

    The iPad is not going after the NetBook customers, although it may get a few. The iPad is creating a new market segment. It is designed for the non-computer user—the young, the old, the technically incompetent and the technically fearful.

    Microsoft will be pushed out of the consumer market by Chrome, not Apple. Microsoft will be pushed back into those organizations which have IT personnel—government and big business. This is necessary because Windows Seven will continue to be hit with malware. The malware makers are getting quite good. Microsoft has over promised for security in Windows Seven. There will be another PR debacle for Microsoft.

    There are great uncertainties in Microsoft’s business plan. 60% of Windows computers remain in Windows XP; much of Microsoft’s market share is inactive and is unlikely to upgrade or to buy new computers soon. Microsoft’s market share,  at the Win7 launch, moved from 2% using the Win7 Release Candidate to 10% using Win7 in four months. This upgrade is twice as fast at the Vista upgrade, but is still disappointing. It is half as fast as Snow leopard’s upgrade.

    It is uncertain how much of Microsoft’s user base Apple can steal. It depends on the consumers. Many XP users will find it problematic and expensive to move to WIn7. A move to the Macintosh will be safer and more secure.

    UrbanBard had this to say on Mar 07, 2010 Posts: 111
  • I usually use the finder in column format.

    Apple allows you to have long file names that help you be precise and locate files long after they were created.

    When you open the finder to a folder in Column format, though, you always have to drag the column wider to see whole names.

    I want OS X 10.7 to give us the option to tell the finder to always automatically assume a width wide enough to read all of the file names in the selected folder.

    nevets2 had this to say on Mar 26, 2010 Posts: 1
  • Where Windows 7 offers multi-touch support to any desktop or laptop PC that wants to integrate it, OS X 10.7 won’t be powering a touchscreen iMac or MacBook. -Yochanan Berkowitz

    YochananBerkowitz had this to say on Aug 19, 2011 Posts: 10
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