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OS X should adopt more than just features from iOS

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Mac OS X LionRumors are circulating that features from iOS(s aapl), like iMessage and AirPlay Mirroring, are on their way to Mac computers via OS X. That’s great, and I’ll welcome those additions, but Apple should think about taking things one step further, and bring the core update philosophy behind iOS to its desktop predecessor.

Big features headline frequent updates

With their extensive, near-constant beta testing schedule and early looks at upcoming features in both minor and major point iOS releases, Apple does a good job of keeping up hype even when what’s new isn’t all that flashy from an end-user perspective. The key is in highlighting a few big, noticeable changes, and making sure they stay both in and out of view thanks to “closed” developer access.

Then, make those updates more frequent than the releases we currently see for OS X (even if they’re arguably less dramatic) and include major feature additions and changes even in some big minor point upgrades. As it stands, only big cats make big splashes with OS X; doing away with that kind of update nomenclature altogether and more closely mimicking the simple iOS system would make event-caliber updates a much more frequent occurrence — and help OS X feel as nimble, dynamic and anticipatory of user needs as its mobile cousin.

All rides included in the admission price

At $29.99, OS X costs remarkably little as it is, especially compared to the competition (which makes sense, since Windows (s msft) doesn’t make money from primary hardware sales). But why not take it one step further, and offer OS updates free for the life of the product, the way they are with iOS? Admittedly, that would carry costs; but Apple can offset those costs by driving more users to the Mac App Store (where it gets a 30-percent cut of all software sales), which should be energized by more frequent feature additions and new APIs for developers to take advantage of, if OS X takes the path outlined above of more frequent, feature-driven updates. The App Stores accounted for $3.6 billion in revenue since the iOS version was introduced in 2008 according to figures from July; the Mac App Store, which debuted in January, could probably still be doing more to contribute to that total.

Free updates would also have the benefit of making for an even more unified user base, in terms of the software version they’re running on their Macs. That would help keep the user experience more consistent across the board, and result in fewer dollars spent on software support and customer service for legacy software.

Expand the warm glow of the halo effect

IOS has had a very positive effect on Mac sales, something dubbed the “halo” effect. Apple’s iOS user base continues to grow at an astonishing rate, and bringing those customers into the fold for OS X will be easier if the relationship between hardware and software on the one platform more closely mirrors that of the other. Apple is still selling a record number of Macs, too, but the growth of its mobile division is still outpacing that of its traditional computers.

For many, the idea of a device that you buy that’s then provided with frequent, free software updates for basically the life of the product (or at least the two to three years many own a smartphone for) is now standard practice. If that becomes the norm for owning a Mac, too, it will be a great advantage Apple’s computers have over other Windows-based PCs that are available. Removing the financial impediment to being current is going to be a huge advantage with younger device owners, who prize cutting edge tech.

When software stops intruding

iOS has done something very well that the competition hasn’t yet been able to master: Make software as invisible as possible. Part of that has to do with how its updates are handled and distributed. OS X paved the way for iOS (it even was called OS X in its early days, somewhat confusingly), but now that relationship should be reversed, to help the Mac keep growing as Apple’s mobile efforts take up more and more of the spotlight.

8 Responses to “OS X should adopt more than just features from iOS”

  1. Peter Depuydt

    I have a more granular feeling about these propositions.

    1. Streamlining the end-user experience across the hardware product board (iPod, iPad, iPhone, iMac) does make sense for the majority of computer illiterate people. As they grasp the concept of either iPhone/iPad the same experience on a Mac would be beneficial. And thus should also the update concept be in sync.
    That said.

    2. For the “power” users amongst us it would be a ‘bad’ idea. But I don’t see any reason why Apple could not adopt dual end-user experience for OS X. A kind of option you can set, to either make OS X behave like iOS or OS X. The underpinnings of both OS’s are the same.

    3. From a upgrade perspective I think we should make destinations between patches (security and bug updates) and new version updates (Lion). You can also turn the question around and ask yourself why we ‘need’ version upgrades ?? What if these new features would actually be introduced continuously make version upgrades basically non existent ?

    In the end we all dislike change as such because it forces us to adopt new ways of working, but in the end that is inevitable as it is on of the foundations of life in general. But by making those changes so ‘small’ that they are hardly noticeable this can be achieved. Just look at the iPhone. The fundamental end-user experience has not changed significantly and that I assume is for the masses a very strong selling point.

    As a techie I am amazed to see how non-technical people look at computers and technology in general. For them it is basically like a watch. They want to be able to look at and understand what time it is or how it works, without effort.

    Just my 2ct.


  2. Andrew MacDonald

    Dude, I disagree with every point you have laid out in this argument. I love my iPhone and iPad and the frequency of updates, but I also like to know that im not going to get a background update on my Mac tomorrow that will screw up my video, sound and photo editing applications. I want a stable ‘base’ from which to work, and am happy to iron out bugs once a year when major OS releases hit the shelves.

  3. You do get free upgrades for OSX, exactly the same as for the IOS.

    Major releases (where the second digit changes) cost you on Mac and on iPod’s. (iPhones get special treatment here for contract purchases).

  4. Our World

    I am very disturbed about a proposed change to OS X. So much so I hesitate to recommend it any longer until more is known.

    That is the idea that Mac apps must be SANDBOXED begging next March to be in the app store.

    One of the biggest problems in usability of the iPad is the extreme sandboxing of apps which makes sharing and accessing data you want to work with very difficult. IMHO that should be a disaster on the next Mac OS X and beyond.

    It would make the Mac extremely unfriendly and difficult to use for anything creative.

  5. Richard Elliott

    I completely disagree with EVERY point you make. I own Apple products because of the lack on need for CONSTANT updates. Do you even own a mac? Use one regularly? I just don’t think you get it.

  6. Ron Sherrell

    no, no, no, no…My desktop OS and the mission critical applications that I run on it are too important to risk even the remote possibility of instability. I do NOT want OS X updates to increase in frequency. Adding opt-in “features” would be one thing…for instance, providing iMessage to the App Store. But there is a vast difference between the kind of work and stability that I require from my desktop OS and what I might want on my phone.

  7. Steve Jobs

    stfu dude, the last thing the mac needs is to have more hidden files. anyone who actually uses a mac to its full potential knows this. theres more than just iMovie u know…