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Summary:

Today marks the 10th anniversary of Mac OS X. OS X has seen some big changes over the years, and it represents a huge leap over OS 9, the operating system it replaced, but the biggest changes are yet to come.

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Today marks the 10th anniversary of Mac OS X, the seventh major revision of which will likely be released in June of this year. OS X has undergone major transformations over the years, and it represents a huge leap over OS 9, the operating system it replaced, but the biggest changes are yet to come.

Apple has made clear that going forward, we can expect to see a very different OS experience across all its devices, and the Mac is no exception to that rule. OS X 10.7, also known as Lion, is already available as a developer preview, so we have a pretty good idea of what we’ll see when the update gets a general release later this year. And what we’re getting is a healthy injection of iOS in our beloved Apple desktop operating system. Full-screen apps with swipe to switch; iOS-style animations, menus and navigation; app installation, organization and management taken directly from Apple’s iDevices: All of it adds up to a significant sea of change.

Of course, OS X is still OS X, with the menu bar, Finder, Dock, Software Update and many other features carrying over. But don’t expect the familiar to outweigh the new for that much longer. Apple may provide a gradual transition to avoid alienating existing customers, but iOS is the way of the future, and the numbers back that up.

iOS’ share of the overall operating system market (desktop and mobile) has already climbed to around two percent of global totals, approaching OS X’s five-percent share according to NetApplications. It seems like small potatoes when compared to Windows’ 90-percent overall share, but it actually represents considerable progress when you consider how long Microsoft completely dominated worldwide OS rankings by an even-wider margin. iOS’ growth has been so rapid compared to that of OS X, and Apple continues to ship more and more iOS devices each year, while Mac sales remain relatively flat, so Apple will go where the buying public wants to be, and that means iOS.

As if to seal the deal with a symbolic gesture, the father of Mac OS X, Bertrand Serlet, announced his departure from Apple on Wednesday. As is often the case with most high-level executive departures, it’s difficult to determine who decided it was time to move on, but I suspect Apple has decided Lion will be the last installment of OS X, and the move is intended as a clean break before the arrival of something different.

And it will be something different. Don’t expect to necessarily see menu bars, the smiling Finder icon, or even folders or a readily accessible filesystem explorer in the next iteration of Mac OS. If iOS is the model by which the next Mac OS will be cut from, look forward instead to a surface-deep computing experience that automatically handles file storage, saving and association. Expect a dramatic re-imagining (or even an outright replacement) of the concept of a windowed computing environment. Most of all, expect things to be easier, more gated, and more focused on touch-based input than we’ve ever seen before. Whether or not this is a frightening or promising vision of the future depends on how you use and think about computing, but it doesn’t change the fact that it’s coming.

If you want to see the future of Mac OS, don’t open the clamshell of your MacBook Pro; pull the iPhone out of your pocket or take a peek under your iPad’s Smart Cover. There may be considerable hurdles to bridging the gap between traditional and post-PC computing, but no company is better positioned to tackle them than Apple.

  1. OSX is just FreeBSD derived…and FreeBSD is 30 years old…so how is there going to be anything new? It can’t, it’s all FreeBSD…and there is nothing else out there. Microsoft should have grabbed Linux when they had the chance and pulled an OSX. But OSX is now like Microsoft…to big to make a radical change just like MS was in 2000 when they were too big to snag Linux. Your just dreaming. You have no evidence except regime change.

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    1. Lorenski, your quite misinformed about the nature if unix. The kernel of OSX is an apple invention. FreeBSD shares a parent with OSX in the BSD roots, for admin applications. The GUI is completely apple, etc. Calling either a derivatioon and implying that limits innovation is quite wrong.

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  2. so in the future our computers will have phone and tablet based operating systems?

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  3. Of all the “wonderful” things promised for Lion, the only one that interests me is auto-save, and that is no reason for me to even think about installing it. The establishment of the mac appstore, makes me very leery of any purchase of Apple software. I don’t want any automatic updates, and I don’t want to spend my time downloading new software. I want to be able to get my new software on a disc,and download updates if and when I want to.

    Apple has amply demonstrated that if you don’t like what they want to sell, its just too bad (as with matte screens).

    Apple has forgotten what it means to need to listen to its customers and eventually that will come back and bite them. There is a world of alternate OSes and perfectly good apps out there which don’t have the Apple cachet, but which work well.

    I feel that sooner or later the MacOS will follow the path of IOS and become a totally enclosed and censored system. If that happens
    It will be a sad day for apple and the computing industry

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    1. I agree with you, Apple is trying to sell more stuff to everybody, but that’s understandable – make more money (like they didn’t made enough money with all the products that starts with an “i”)
      Anyhow, I would prefer OS X in combination with Mac, over the “other” alternate OS’s

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    2. 10 years later and the windows people will still never use a Mac, but their excuses sure are different!

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      1. I switched from windows years ago. I have 3 macs and wore 2 others out. I love Macs.

        What I don’t love or even like is Apple’s forgetfulness. It was guys like me who kept alive back in the days when Apple appreciated its customers. Now that they have made it big,they like many other media stars forget how they got where they are.

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    3. Ed, even your own example of Matte screens refutes your point. Apple had almost completely eliminated Matte screens, but now offers it on both the 15 and 17″ Macbook Pros.

      You don’t need to buy SW from the Mac Store if you don’t want to. Even if you do, they don’t automatically update.

      You can still buy discs like you used to (provided the devs would like to continue wasting their money on the shipping, distribution, and retail costs involved in discs).

      I find it hard to give credence to your conclusions when every existing complaint is not true.

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    4. Hamranhansenhansen Sunday, March 27, 2011

      How are you going to manually update hundreds of applications that these days can easily have 5-10 updates per year? How are you going to install them all manually on multiple Macs, and a new Mac every 3 years? Do you have a real job or are you a full-time computer enthusiast?

      Auto install and auto updates are a power user feature. So is auto save with versioning. So is full-screen apps, which is made for giant apps like Logic Pro, to give them their own Space. Lion is all power user features. It’s the next version of power user OS X: Mac OS. It is being totally misunderstood by nerds just like iOS is totally misunderstood by nerds.

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  4. I’m excited to see what Apple has in the future, but Lion doesn’t excite me at all. However, Thunderbolt definitely does. Multiple monitors without a bunch of adapters will be awesome.

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    1. Hamranhansenhansen Sunday, March 27, 2011

      If you have multiple monitors, you will certainly want to give some apps their own monitor. You won’t want to be reaching to one monitor all the time to touch the menus. You won’t want to be tracking which of your many monitors has unsaved changes. Therefore you will want Lion.

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  5. Prof. Peabody Thursday, March 24, 2011

    I think the most interesting and bewildering thing about OS-X Lion is that for the first time Apple will be introducing central features of the OS that a regular desktop computer *won’t* have access to. All of the iOS swiping stuff, Expose, etc. will be unavailable to someone who still uses a mouse.

    Even the Magic Mouse won’t do those gestures. It has trouble with a sideways swipe, let alone four finger madness. You will *need* a laptop or at least a desktop trackpad to access Lion’s most basic features. Very strange IMO.

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    1. Hamranhansenhansen Sunday, March 27, 2011

      There are hot keys for everything. Not only do you not need a trackpad, you don’t even need a mouse, and never have. Some Mac users cannot use a mouse or a trackpad. They can still use all these features.

      But Apple will likely start shipping Magic TrackPad with iMac and Mac Pro when Lion ships. The wireless Pro Mouse was really the ultimate evolution of the mouse, and Magic Mouse was a bridge too far. Now it is time to go to trackpads all the way.

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  6. Self organizing data combined with the creation of data is a different animal than sandboxing apps and data. So far Apple has only shown they can do the later. A nice/different GUI is one thing but sooner than later the rubber has to hit the road.

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  7. I think the next area to crack for Apple is storage and accessibility for a variety of devices including mobile devices. Apple looks like they’re beginning to address this with lion, bundling lion server with the client os. Let’s see what they do with mobileme in the run -up the lion’s launch

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  8. @Darrell, 2012 will be the end of the world at least for Mac OSX ;-)

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  9. It has been 15 years since it stopped being true so please stop claiming that windows had 90 percent share and OS X has 5 percent. First off these numbers have always been a conflation of sales with share, report upgrades if windows as new share while ignoring upgrades of OS X, were derived from data only looking at the business market and ignored the longevity of machines in operation, not to mention the many other opemerating systems PCs run. For instance if I bought a PC and reformatted it to run Win XP your count that as two sales of windows,when reality it us zero sales of windows.

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    1. Hamranhansenhansen Sunday, March 27, 2011

      You don’t even need stats, just look at any college class. It is all Macs.

      The Mac only competes in one PC market: high-end ($999+) notebooks and desktops. The Mac has 90% share in that market. That is why you go into Genentech and it is 100% Macs, or Google and it is 75% Macs, or Stanford and it is 90% Macs.

      That is also a big reason for Vista’s failure. It was a high-end Windows that shipped into a low-end generic PC market. The Intel Mac had already taken the high-end. Windows PC’s were selling for $450 and did not have the GPU and other resources to run Vista right.

      The truth is, the current Mac user base represents almost all of today’s serious PC users. People who are using a Windows PC today are doing iPad-level work: Web, email, music, movies, word processing, spreadsheets, presentations. The few serious Windows users are running a particular power app that doesn’t run on the Mac, like a 3D tool. And a lot of them are running that on Macs also.

      As far as market share domination, the Intel Mac is as big a success as iPad or iPod. You just have to be honest to see that, not lump in other markets like low-end PC’s to try and hide that fact. That is why iPad taking away low-end PC sales scares PC makers so much, that is their only market. That’s why HP had to buy Palm and go 100% into that.

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  10. I perceive a risk for Apple in all this. I bought my first Mac in 2006 because at that time Microsoft were at their lowest ebb. XP was ancient and virus prone and it was clear that Vista was a giant step sideways, at best. We also had our first baby, so the iLife apps were a godsend to manage and show off our growing collection of video and photos. Our trusty 24″ iMac has served us well.

    However when I come to replace it, I have ever fewer reasons to need a Mac. I just ordered an iPad2 and if that will handle my photo and video need, I won’t need iLife for Mac anymore. Windows 7 is a solid OS. I’ve not made a final decision yet, but in 2006 my choice was clear. Now it’s not as obvious which way to go for my next desktop.

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    1. Same here. I’ve just ordered my iPad 2, it’s available in Canada now. Very excited!

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    2. Hamranhansenhansen Sunday, March 27, 2011

      So you’re a fan of the iPad and you think a Mac is a less obvious choice if it can optionally work more like an iPad? That doesn’t make any sense to me. Once you have an iPad, you are even more spoiled for Windows and its needless complexity.

      I think you are making a mistake thinking Lion is a baby Mac OS. These are power user features. Auto install, auto save, versioning, are all needed by power users who now have hundreds of apps and thousands of documents, just as much as by basic users who need help with a small number of apps and documents. And Terminal is still there. UNIX, Apache, PHP, etc. is all still there.

      Also, you get additional iPad features with a Mac. With a PC, you lose Faces, Places, Events. You lose Time Machine backing up your iPad backup to an external disk.

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