My daughter loves her iPhone, and recently observed that the iPhone OS reminds her a lot of Mac OS Classic System 6 — the operating system on which we both cut our computing teeth some 18 years ago. I think she has a valid point.


My daughter loves her iPhone, and recently observed that the iPhone OS reminds her a lot of Mac OS Classic System 6 — the operating system on which we both cut our computing teeth some 18 years ago. I think she has a valid point.

Even on our respective underpowered and memory-challenged 8MHz Motorola 68000 Mac Plus compacts, with their puny 2.5MB of RAM, System 6 was amazingly lively — especially when booted from their external 20MB SCSI hard drives rather than standard, floppy-drive booting. Startup was much faster than with Snow Leopard on a Core 2 Duo, and once it appeared, the System 6 GUI’s tasteful and spare simplicity was charmingly elegant in razor-sharp one-bit black and white, although if you had a “color Mac” you could assign colors to folders. Until displaced by System 7 in 1991, System 6 provided a basic co-operative multitasking function called MultiFinder.

Notwithstanding its limitations by today’s standards, System 6 was in many respects my favorite Mac operating system version ever. It’s not very useful nowadays for anything but the most rudimentary computing tasks on antique hardware, and it never had more than vestigial Internet support, but I’ve fantasized from time to time about how great it would be if Apple were to offer a System 6 UI skin for OS X — especially back in the day when OS X running on my older, slower, Power PC hardware was more than a bit, well…sluggish. Nothing sluggish about System 6, or, back to the main point of this screed — the iPhone OS. Dual-booting the iOS on a Mac along with OS X for power and versatility when you need it would be a super value-added feature for Mac users.

Given that the iOS is a direct derivative of OS X, developed from the same Darwin core, and when you can run Windows and Linux on Macs, it seems silly for it not to be supported by the Mac, opening the vast selection of iOS apps to Mac users.

With multitasking, folder, and Bluetooth keyboard support as well as greater optimization for the iPad’s larger display all coming in iOS 4, the iOS’s appeal as a lean computer operating system will be even more attractive.

Major advantages afforded by running the iOS on the Mac would be faster boot times (perhaps even faster than old System 6) and a “greener” carbon footprint thanks to its economy of power consumption — the latter a potential major advantage for laptop users when running on battery power.

Some are suggesting that Mac OS 11 might well even be merged and integrated with the iOS, which seems plausible and logical. In the meantime, there’s much to be said for adding iOS dual-boot capability to OS 10.7.

Would the ability to run the iOS on your Mac appeal to you?

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  1. Can’t see ios coming to mac any time soon

  2. I wonder if there’s something to be said for having iOS as the ‘boot’ system, and running OS X or even Windows in a virtual system. Certainly having the choice would be useful – but question is, who would have OS X as their main OS, and who would have iOS instead? Maybe that’d depend on your usage habits. Thinking of iOS on a touchscreen Macbook is a nice idea. But then being able to flip into something more heavyweight would be useful too.

    The nicest idea would be a quick boot up into iOS so you could get started (e.g. touch screen surfing), and then in the background, OS X loads up. Power when you need it, simplicity when you don’t.

  3. I would use it. really like the iOS and as you say, why not.

  4. I wouldn’t use it, as my iMac has no touch input system.

  5. I can’t say that I would care to run iOS on a full computer complete with keyboard and mouse support – especially when Apple has wrapped the whole experience in the iPad form factor with a relatively low cost of entry.

    Beyond the technical aspects that OS X and iOS are optimized for two different architectures, I think a lot of the magic and novelty of interacting with iOS using touch gestures would be lost in translation to the desktop. While I agree that removing the size constraints of a tablet or a phone would really make iOS scream in terms of raw power, I believe that, given the rate at which technology is progressing, these portable devices will quickly catch up to desktop computers in many respects.

  6. Jerry Daniels Wednesday, June 16, 2010

    iOS on a Mac? No.

    On an iPad Plus (12 inch MacBook Air form factor)? YES!

  7. Yep, that’d be ace.

    But, it might not happen because it’d create competition with Mac apps, which could scare app developers or increase iOS app prices. For example, OmniGraffle is less than £30 on the iPad and it’s awesome, but the equivalent Mac version is about £125 (the ‘standard’ mac version for around £60 lacks features that exist on the iPad version).


  8. Ultimately I’d love it just in the form of an emulator. You’d launch an “iPhone” or “iPad” application that brings up a window that looks like an iPhone or iPad and in the window is everything you’ve got on your iPhone/iPad…which you could then just interact with directly on the screen.

    Obviously the user experience wouldn’t be great for accelerometer-based apps, but who cares!!?!?! I want what I want! :)

    1. You can already do exactly that! It’s not really an emulator, but it would work for what you’re talking about. You would have to jailbreak your iPhone/iPad and install a VNCviewer app.. Then on your Mac you would have to install a VNC client, like Chicken of the VNC… You could control your iPhone remotely from your computer.

    2. This already exists, as part of the Xcode tools. We have an iPhone/iPad simulator.

  9. Howie Isaacks Wednesday, June 16, 2010

    Great! System 6?!?? Sure, let’s return to days of instability. I’ve used every version of Mac OS starting with System 4, and I can tell you that I would NEVER want to go back. As for iOS running on a Mac, I have to ask why. iOS is a customized version of OS X that was developed with mobile devices in mind. This article completely misses that point. Is the author of this post really this interested in Apple cutting their own throat to fulfill his fantasies?

    1. Adversarial much? Try yoga.

    2. As far as I can remember, I’ve never used something below System 7. I have a black PowerBook (Lombard or similar, haven’t yet been able to confirm its full name), running System 9, sitting on my table left from me. I love playing around with the OS every now and then, and I really like it. It’s pretty powerful for its time and has some neat features I even miss on OS X. However, it has the nasty “freeze” that is there since (I think) System 7 and most likely all its predecessors. (“Freeze” means that your Mac just… freezes – it stops accepting input and nothing changes on the screen – you have to do a hard reset. It happens frequently and randomly.) It’s a good OS, it really is, but if Apple wouldn’t have made OS X out of NEXTstep, they’d probably have ended up having an OS that’s based on decades old and outdated code, is unstable, polished up on the very surface, keeps crashing and needs to be reinstalled every year or even more often. In other words, Windows. Only by Apple.

  10. Marin Todorov Wednesday, June 16, 2010

    Let me disagree :) The iOS applications will be relevant only when running on a mac which supports multitouch touch screen, accelerometer, compas, location services, and so on. Basically such a mac is the iPhone and the iPad, which already run iOS :) There ya go

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