Editorial

Editorial: Will iOS replace Mac OS X?

If Apple's Wednesday announcement told us anything, it's that Apple sees the iPhone OS as the way forward. Pushing it more and more in their products, it seems inevitable that it will eventually make its way into the Mac range, forcing the current Mac OS X into obscurity. There's already rumours of a 22" touchscreen iMac on the horizon, and reports suggest that Apple is planning on renaming the iPhone OS to the simpler iOS. And as much as Mac fans would love to think otherwise, OS X is confusing and complicated for new computer users. Mac OS X needs to change.

So, how would this iOS work on the desktop? Apple can't keep redesigning it every time it introduces a new screen size. That wouldn't take into account times where the screen size is unexpected. What if a customer uses their own display? Or if they use more than one screen? App developers would have a headache having to include versions of their app for every conceivable screen size. No, if anything, the iPad was a wake-up call to developers to stop assuming the size of the screen when developing. From here on out, developers will be more cautious and ensure their apps will scale to larger screens.

The only problem with the approach of filling the screen with the app is it makes multitasking much more difficult. The multitasking limitation made a certain level of sense on the iPhone, but it doesn't make as much sense on the iPad or Mac. A lack of multitasking on a touchscreen Mac would be suicide. While we managed without several years ago, these days we're so used to multitasking that not having it on a full-size computer would be insane. App management needs an elegant, simple solution. It needs to be something users of the iPhone and Mac can easily understand. It's for this reason that I think the OS X dock will stay pretty much the same. The divide will disappear, and minimised applications could instead shrink down into their dock icons, something that already exists as an option in Snow Leopard. Double tapping an app's dock icon could maximise it, and holding down on an app could provide a popover of options similar to the popovers seen in the iPad demo. Closing an app could be done with a simple gesture such as dragging the dock icon off and letting go, similar to removing dock icons in Mac OS X. Multi-touch provides the opportunity to perform many basic actions without sacrificing screen real estate for buttons.

We now need a system of app launching. I'd rather not speculate on hardware but I think the Home button will be present in some form. Apple likes consistency, and a ubiquitous Home button in their product line would be quickly understood as "This is what I push to view and open apps, as well as to search." The Home screen would be the first thing the user sees when the computer is switched on, waiting for them to select an app to get going. Uninstalling would be just like on the iPhone: hold down and then touch the cross.

Apple's current direction indicates that they see the App Store as the future, but app distribution could potentially go two ways. Either way Apple would include an App Store, as the App Store has been an overwhelming success. Updating software would also be much easier through an App Store, instead of the mess of different updaters for different applications on the current Mac OS X. But the question remains as to whether or not Apple would allow apps not sold via the app store to be run. While the idea of having a completely secure OS is probably appealing, current Mac developers already have distribution channels that they're used to. It also begs the question of what the user's meant to do if they don't have an internet connection. One thing's for certain, though: the iOS will have to have a version of Xcode if it wants to replace Mac OS X.

User-controlled file management is slowly disappearing. Apps will instead be in control of their own files. Evidence of this can be seen today in iTunes, iPhoto and iMovie, all of which include their own file management system. It all sounds a lot more restrictive than it actually is, because when you consider the fact that iPhone apps can share data between each other, and apps in OS X can see the contents of iLife libraries, what you're instead left with is a system that makes it much clearer what app can use what. Instead of having to guess what can open what and when, the app will decide for you. Users shouldn't have to worry about permissions and compatibility. Finding a file would be as simple as using the Spotlight search, and a tagging system would be a far more versatile solution to folders. If I have a folder of cat photos and a folder of photos taken in my new house, what happens when I take a photo of my cat in my new house? Tagging means files can be sorted and filtered in many ways, not just how you decided to structure your folders.

But if there's such a wide difference in hardware, architectures and design, why would Apple bother? Shoehorning a touch interface into Mac OS X would be a strange move, seeing as Apple believes touchscreens should have interfaces designed for touch, and Mac OS X simply isn't designed for touch. Then why not just start over? Because, if done right, Apple would already have a large library of apps for its new range of computers. This isn't like Mac OS 9 where developers had to rewrite large portions of apps or have users run them in a virtual machine. iPhone/iPad apps could be run under a Rosetta-like system while developers slowly move their apps over to a universal binary ARM/Intel system. Mac OS X apps could be run under a system where interface elements are rescaled to make them touch-friendly, while developers move their apps over to Cocoa Touch. This also isn't like Mac OS 9 where developers are cautiously moving their hard work over to a new platform, as millions of iPhone users are out there already. There isn't any speculation involved; it's a real market already out there. There's an even bigger advantage to this plan: gaming. Apple has half-heartedly tried to get developers interested in the Mac platform before, but with the iOS developers will already be right there.

The question of the iOS appears more to be "when" rather than "if". Apple clearly loves multi-touch, and there’s a whole group of customers out there who haven’t used a Mac but know their way around an iPhone. Simplicity is key with Apple, and the current iPhone OS has proven itself to be something a technophobe can pick up and master in no time at all. All that remains to be seen is how Apple would implement it in a way that wouldn’t alienate current OS X developers and users, but also in a way that iPhone users can understand quickly and easily.

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Interesting read...

My initial reaction was: "Nahh - couldn't work", but with further thought each objection faded away. As proposed in the article, in some ways it's the anti-thesis of MS & the way they've gotten into trouble with Windows, building/including everything in the OS. No "User-controlled file management" would be an opportunity for Adobe for example to make more $ from/with their media management products. iOS as proposed might also avoid many of the problems MS has had with developers, giving them perhaps too many opportunities to write code that, even though it works, does not play by their rules [hence the dreaded UAC for example, which was aimed at developers, not to promote Advil sales amongst users].

At 1st I thought centralized, online only app distribution could never work, but I think that's just because I've been at the keyboard for so long that the original biz model got thoroughly embedded in my mind along with everything else I've learned. In the last decade I've only bought software maybe half a dozen times from a regular, so-called brick & mortar store, & the most recent was maybe 5 years ago. As far as Apple taking a cut of the purchase price, &/or being the exclusive source, I'd think most software companies would jump at the idea -- it costs $ to place your products in stores, online or otherwise, & then more $ to try and monitor them & the selling price. Apple's already got their own distribution system, so adding software to their catalog so-to-speak wouldn't be a big deal, & that would take care of those without broadband, & if/when the download would be impractical due to size or DRM restrictions [i.e. dongles or required disc in drive].

In fact, in principle the only part I disagree with is the sort of implied assumption that less skilled [I hesitate to use the word idgit ;-) ] users would automatically flock in droves, having finally found Nirvana. The key, & one Apple has often found very well, is Intuitiveness. Simplicity is great, until you find out it means you can't do what you want to do, & that effects more idgits than pros by far -- being experienced (&/or a highly regarded tech pro) very often really means you've figured out, & are accomplished at figuring out how to get around stuff that's been designed to be simple. That ties in with the old adage: "The more you know, the more you know you don't know". If you're more tech inclined, it's extremely easy to overlook the fact that a casual user can be blissfully unaware of all of Windows' complications & caveats. They can ignore every bit of advice &/or suggestions to do this or that. And they can in fact use a Windows machine that way for years without ever being aware of any problems -- not a one. Same sort of thing goes for many other brands/models of cells, & mp3 players too.

If you approach it from the standpoint of trying to teach someone totally inexperienced everything you think they should know & do, it seems a no-brainer to think the proposed iOS would be a much better fit than anything out of Redmond. But take yourself out of the picture. This same person can go out & buy a cheaper alternative, & to *them* it works just fine. IMHO that's the core limiter of Apple's market share, & something that Jobs not only knows, but actively works around placing Apple products.

This editorial made sense. Apple is mostly about the user experience above all else. They don't really care if the individual has access to the system. A lot of iPad apologist seem to have come up with another car analogy in the past week. They refer to the iPad as the automatic gear shift and Windows (and other so-called classic operating system as manual).

It is pretty obvious where this is going. The future of Mac OS is with a slow merger between the iPhone OS and the full version of OS X. My guess is with release v4 of the iPhone OS you will get basic task switching. You might also get a slightly enhanced graphical experience to take advantage of the new screen real estate provided by the iPad (and maybe to compete with more ambitious models of model platforms: Android and WebOS come to mind).

My guess would be that by release 11 of the main Mac OS platform, the two system will have merged. They will stay on different architectures (x86-64 vs ARM), the user experience will be different based on the screen size provided, but the end user experience will be mostly the same. There will probably be a "god mode" if you will for developers (classic OS X UI), hackers and the like, but it will be limited to actually Macs and not stream of portable devices like the iPhone, AppleTV and iPad.

In the end, however, I am not sure this is such a bad thing. Why do most people need to be exposed to the guts of Unix to have a nice technology experience? They really should return the end user to the days of Mac OS (classic... pre 10) with the stability and other enhancements provided by OSX hidden (deeply) from the end user.

If as a user, you don't meet these requirements of limited usability, vendor lock-in and DRM... than maybe you should just find a new platform in the next couple of years. These changes after all won't happen overnight. It will probably take at least another decade to be fully realized. The only fallacy I would stress is if true (and it might not be) you won't have any real control over the matter. Apple has never been one for caring about what the consumer wants... it is more about what Apple wants you to have.

I think you are not so far from thruth. iOS would be a common name for Apple's OSs and also this look and feel would tend to be the same on Apple's different devices. But of course, depending on the device (iPhone, iPad, Macbook, iMac, ...), there would be slight differences between them on the way you interact with the OS.

Whatever, I think that Apple is heading towards a new revolution on computers usage. Let's see if they will keep this direction...

MarenLBC said,
I can't believe this silly article made it on the front page.

it is called a unfounded gossip and it is part of the Apple ecosystem.

This is one of the dumbest ideas I've ever heard and shows that the author - and the majority of commentators - don't understand what an operating system is. There's FAR more to an OS than the Shell that you see on the screen.

If you look at Apple's history of Operating Systems you'll find that they've never been able to develop multitasking for their OS. They BOUGHT it from elsewhere (funny enough the multitasking in OSX can be traced to a very old Microsoft cast-off). Developing a multitasking OS is FAR beyond Apple's technical capabilities.

And if anyone thinks modern computer users will put up with a computer - or even a phone - that can't do even two simple things at the same time they're barking.

I doubt it'd ever be a replacement, but I agree with the posters who said some elements would be taken and implemented into Mac OS. For example, the Mac OS Finder isn't the best creation to come out of Cupertino. I could see Apple try the iPhone idea of having files hidden within the app itself; still searchable in finder and still exportable to other programs. The problem may be, though, that you delete an app you delete the files along with it as is the case with the iPhone.

Well written article for sure...but while I agree OSX takes some time to learn the nitty gritty, it's much more intuitive than rival OSs.

Apple shares:

After the presentation :203 points.
During the first minutes of the presentation : 213 points.
At the end of the presentation :208 points.
Now :191 points.

Conclusion :shareholders ARE NOT HAPPY, i.e. i don't think that we will see another Ipad device in a near future.

Lol wow. What an article...

I can see them rebranding iPhone OS as iOS [i]maybe[/i] but no way would they scrap Mac OS X. Thats just idiotic.

Seems alot of people fail to see the potential of the iPhone OS. It's a beautiful OS built from the ground up for multi-touch, adapting it to use on the desktop PCs (with multi-touch screens) is a obvious evolution and a much better prospect then attempting to hack multi-touch onto OSX (which would be awful). To the people who complain, "I don't want an OS they can't multi-task" etc obviously a desktop incarnation would feature multi-tasking and such but use the multi-touch friendly UI from the iPhone OS. Apple wouldn't be suicidal and put just what is on the iPad and put it on desktop as is, that is just silly. Well that is my humble opinion, take with a grain of salt.

Xerxes said,
Seems alot of people fail to see the potential of the iPhone OS. It's a beautiful OS built from the ground up for multi-touch, adapting it to use on the desktop PCs (with multi-touch screens) is a obvious evolution and a much better prospect then attempting to hack multi-touch onto OSX (which would be awful). To the people who complain, "I don't want an OS they can't multi-task" etc obviously a desktop incarnation would feature multi-tasking and such but use the multi-touch friendly UI from the iPhone OS. Apple wouldn't be suicidal and put just what is on the iPad and put it on desktop as is, that is just silly. Well that is my humble opinion, take with a grain of salt.

Because it is a limited OS, even inferior (in some topics) to most portable OS. For example, it is not possible to change the background, not at least without using a illegal software (winterboard).

So Apple is thinking of making macs OS more similiar to the OS of the iPad eh?

A mac WITHOUT multi-tasking! Just what I've always wanted!!! </sarcasm> lol

The grammar and punctuation of the article is spot on. But the content...yikes. Probably would have baked it in the oven of thought for a few more hours. Thanks for taking the time to do the article.

AWBrian said,
The grammar and punctuation of the article is spot on. But the content...yikes. Probably would have baked it in the oven of thought for a few more hours. Thanks for taking the time to do the article.

That made me lol. I liked how you sugar coated it with like the worst compliment ever awesome

iOS from OSX would be like taking a step back so it doesn't make any sense at all? if anything the phone is likely to develop more of an OSX presence.

well, for one, i hope Cisco denies them the usage of iOS :p

aaand... as for "ios" replacing OSX -> whyinthenameofsomethingbadwouldtheydothat?!

The editorial is good, but the idea presented isn't.

Mac users love it the way it is and don't need it changed.

iOS or whatever you want to call it cannot simply replace an entire operating system. I like my dock the way it is and like my menu bar too!

Apple will eventually need a complete redesign of its OS within the next couple of years (OS X 10.0 was in beta in 2000), but iOS? I cannot see that happening anytime soon, as it would be literally impossible to recreate high-end apps such as Photoshop and Office with all their existing functionality for use with the App Store. At least given Apple's current restrictions on the iPhone and the iPad.

"And as much as Mac fans would love to think otherwise, OS X is confusing and complicated for new computer users. Mac OS X needs to change."
And the stupidest statement award goes to...
Mac OSX is the most easy to use and advance desktop OS up to to now.Clearly you are a big fan of mobile os.
I don't' think that ios will ever replace the OSX.

When success gets to companies they do a motorola.

Remember how they released several variations of the razr and all of them ended up a fail?

I hope this is just Neowin's attempt to beat everyone else with their April Fool's Day story.

If they're serious, they're sadly deluded. This is one of the stupidest ideas I've ever seen.

It's going to happen eventually with Apple... they will want their 30% cut on everything sold... no CD/DVD installs... no web installs that arnt from iApp Store... but yet this will still somehow be "better" in Job's eyes then being able to do what you want with your own system...

neufuse said,
It's going to happen eventually with Apple... they will want their 30% cut on everything sold... no CD/DVD installs... no web installs that arnt from iApp Store... but yet this will still somehow be "better" in Job's eyes then being able to do what you want with your own system...

When you sell an app in a physical store on a CD or DVD for say, $100... do you have an idea of the real money you get out of this? For the record, do you get more or less than 70%?

I'm just wondering if it could be a good idea or not that Apple gets so much money. I mean, for the iPhone it was good because nobodies like you and me could create an app, and we don't even need any real marketing for it, it can have a spectacular launch and bring us lots of money, like it did to a few developers. But can the same thing happen with full-fledged, feature-complete apps like those we see on OS X?

I didn't read the article, I didn't need to.. the answer is No.. the Operating System for Phones, and iPods will NOT become the new Desktop Operating system for Apple.. There's really no need to go farther into it, it's just no.

What next ? With ZuneOS replace Windows 8 ?

Let's put Android and iPhone OS in one pile, and Windows and Mac OS X in another. The phone OSs were designed years later than the computer OSs. Certainly there are lessons to be learned from the success of the phone OSs that can be transferred to the computer OSs. Apple will apply those lessons to their computer OS, and sooner rather than later.

Apple's computer OS is 10 years old. It has survived a change from Motorola to Intel processors. Apple is now making their own processors for the iPad. Around the time that Apple starts putting their own processors into computers, their computer OS will make a major change. There will be some kind of market for apps built in to the OS. The file structure will be hidden from the user much more than at present. But touching the screen will not be a critical part of the next Apple computer OS. Bigger trackpads on the laptops, yes. Perhaps even somethng like the Bamboo Touch as a pointing device for the desktop machines. Of course there will be multitasking, but it will be simpler and less confusing than Mac OS X is now.

This is increbily Naive, This is like asking why Microsoft (before Iphone and Android in the day), didn t switch all phones to small x86 chips and run full blown windows or why windows CE/Mobile didnt take over the desktop marketplace. Simple, devices are radically different, and need radically different software solutions.

Matt Hardwick said,

Cisco's operating system is called IOS.

Well Apple doesn't have anything called iOS, so they're fine. Don't know what you're all talking about !? ;)

lol "iOS" on macs ... will just start a new flame wars of how steve jobs decided multitasking is a thing of the past. Everyone can enjoy their glossy buttons and their restrictive app stores and single applications at a time that scale all over the place same time while typing on a ~45° angle flat glass surface doing your finger tips in after a couple of hours lol

How is OS X "confusing and complicated for new computer users"?? If you take a new user who hasn't experienced Windows or OS X or Linux, how would they know any different?

soLoredd said,
How is OS X "confusing and complicated for new computer users"?? If you take a new user who hasn't experienced Windows or OS X or Linux, how would they know any different?

He's referring to the name "Mac OS X"

From what I know so far, it's been rumoured to be called iOS, but it wasn't true, so the article is wrong.

Plus, it's funny to see such a headline, because I thought about it this week. iPhone OS seems a lot more popular than OS X, and everything on it is newer. It's been coded not so long ago, etc. while OS X has 10-12 years old code in it (while Windows has 20 years old code in it or something). But it seems to have more potential so far, it's growing up real quick compared to even OS X, who doubled its sales for each release.

CrimsonRedMk said,
The article has a point that this may very well one day happen. It just won't happen for another decade or so.

Another decade? Than we might as well just forget it :P I'm sure they will rewrite it completely by 2020, at least to fit the desktop platform (a little bit like they must have rewritten pretty much the whole thing for the iPad).

But by the time you've made "iOS" good enough to be used on a standalone pc you might as well have just OSX. it just seems like it would be a massive waste of time.....
That's the problem with the iPad and iPhone OS, if you're going to spend that much money on soemthing and carry around something that big I at least would expect it to be as functional as a proper pc not as functional as a phone.

This has to be a joke article? Are you serious? It doesn't even make sense first off, and second off this is like saying Microsoft is going to port Windows Mobile to a PC. Anyways no OSX is not going to be replaced by a mobile operating system. Will OSX get some features like multi-touch, etc? Yes of course.

If they made it support the same features as OS X, then sounds good. But at its current crippled state, it looks like a huge step backwards. A better solution would be to make a touch interface that runs on-top of OS X.

Shadrack said,
If they made it support the same features as OS X, then sounds good. But at its current crippled state, it looks like a huge step backwards. A better solution would be to make a touch interface that runs on-top of OS X.

Like a touch version of MS Bob. :D

Call me crazy. But this is a good idea. Nice move by Apple really. ¿Why keep developing a different OS for mobiles and desktops?. ¿Why not the same?. And there's where the iPad will make more sense. Negative part, its the restriction that will evolve on all this on the system, but that will define future parameters of security in itself. So That's kind of a step further Microsoft its doing actually with W7.

OK. You're crazy.

I can see why the idea of an App Store on your desktop would be a good idea for some. Sort of like what Steam does for games (finding, downloading and keeping up-to-date). But it could never be the sole method of adding apps. How are you going to fit every commercial, shareware and freeware app and game onto the App Store? And who is going to download the likes of Final Cut Studio or Logic Studio for each of their machines? They're enormous. Every studio and design/print shop would go Windows before then.

protocol7 said,
OK. You're crazy.

I can see why the idea of an App Store on your desktop would be a good idea for some. Sort of like what Steam does for games (finding, downloading and keeping up-to-date). But it could never be the sole method of adding apps. How are you going to fit every commercial, shareware and freeware app and game onto the App Store? And who is going to download the likes of Final Cut Studio or Logic Studio for each of their machines? They're enormous. Every studio and design/print shop would go Windows before then.

What about creating other stores, just like they did with the book store? Hmm Game store?. For Logic and others , they could change the license types.

I don't think it will happen, if Apple do it will be the last straw for a lot of users. Doing that will be Apple's hitting of the Self Destruct Button!

No it won't happen. I knew someone, somewhere, was going to try and write this article. I'm disappointed it appeared on Neowin of all places.

Speculating on what Apple will do or not do is a complete waste. Its already quite clear that Apple under Steve Jobs don't care what other people think they should do. They have a way of surprising people with their products and strategies; doesn't matter if it is successful or not.

shadowbat said,
Speculating on what Apple will do or not do is a complete waste. Its already quite clear that Apple under Steve Jobs don't care what other people think they should do. They have a way of surprising people with their products and strategies; doesn't matter if it is successful or not.

They surprised people with the iPad?

Joshie said,

They surprised people with the iPad?

Yes. The $499 price tag was the most surprising. Functionality wise... yet to be seen... people either think it is awesome, or extremely stupid.

perhaps in 15 years, when cloud computing is almost all we use - then yes, an equivalent iOS for our thin clients may be a contender and the way to go. But not immediately. not by any means.

ev0| said,
This article is so stupid, I don't even know where to start. OS X isn't going away anytime soon.

No kidding. It's been around so long people think the version number is part of the name.

Don't be foolish. Why in hell would they do that? It's like they would be asking to be hated by people for having a restricted OS on everything.

The so called "iOS" is just on portable devices because it works. I don't agree that it should have also been on the tablet, but it's there because it works.

protocol7 said,
They're more likely to stop making computers altogether than crippling what they have with a glorified phone OS.

+1.

I must admit, when I read this title, I thought this article was gonna be about replacing Macs with routers and switches....

Anyway, I don't see such a thing working out. Sure touchscreens work for phones and that, but people use computers for way more than they use phones for. Imagine trying to type a 10-page paper using a touchscreen keyboard. Even if they allow for a hardware keyboard to be connected, I don't see how they'd be able to use a mouse in iOS (I wonder how long it will take Cisco to sue them for that), as mice can not easily emulate multi-touch inputs. I can't imagine too many people having to use a keyboard, and then reach all the way up to their screens.

Joey H said,
I must admit, when I read this title, I thought this article was gonna be about replacing Macs with routers and switches....

Anyway, I don't see such a thing working out. Sure touchscreens work for phones and that, but people use computers for way more than they use phones for. Imagine trying to type a 10-page paper using a touchscreen keyboard. Even if they allow for a hardware keyboard to be connected, I don't see how they'd be able to use a mouse in iOS (I wonder how long it will take Cisco to sue them for that), as mice can not easily emulate multi-touch inputs. I can't imagine too many people having to use a keyboard, and then reach all the way up to their screens.

Completely agree. It's like with the touchscreen PC's like HP which aren't particularly useful, just attract fingerprints. However, for a portable computer, it's not such a bad idea for like when on public transport, it would be much more convenient to use touchscreen rather than the touchpad or mouse.

bmaher said,
Don't Cisco already own a patent regarding iOS?

Not quite, but almost. It's not a patent, it's the (registered) name of their operating system used on their switches and routers.

bmaher said,
Don't Cisco already own a patent regarding iOS?

LOL! When I first read this I was a bit... Surprised at that as well. Rather, I was shocked that Cisco's IOS would be replacing IOS... Then I read further down... :)

random_n said,
Well, Apple has already aped the "iPhone" name from Cisco. So why not take IOS too? :/
You speak of that like they're evil, and Cisco is now all sad, crying, and angry. They actually reached an agreement: http://newsroom.cisco.com/dlls/2007/corp_022107b.html

Cisco is happy. Apple is happy.

And thank the heavens for that. It would be horribly annoying if Apple couldn't share that name for their product when Cisco doesn't have a product out in the market using it, and just sitting on that trademark. That's not a market I'd like to see. That's just frustrating.

Edited by Northgrove, Feb 1 2010, 10:09am :

Examinus said,
Let's hope not.
Agreed. That would be the day I'd either move to Linux, or back to Windows. A move from the best desktop *nix distro there is on the market to iPhone OS would be horrible.

Fortunately, I have a hard time seeing it happen, unlike the article author. Apple maintains two segments: consumer/simple use, and professional use. Moving to iPhone OS would force Adobe to rewrite Photoshop for that, just as one example, not to mention all the in-house software developed by Apple such as Aperture, or Adobe's Lightroom.

It would be a horribly tough change of direction to pull through for Apple, and if any of those developers (like Adobe) said "f-ck that", it would be a disaster for Apple.

Never forget that Apple is pretty big among designers, artists, and publishers. These guys aren't very interested in iPads, but rather Mac Pro's.

Edited by Northgrove, Feb 1 2010, 10:28am :