Apple have announced the next version of OS X, to be named ‘Lion’. This version of the operating system continues the trend of being named after big cats, following on from OS X Snow Leopard. There will be many improvements, and changes in Lion, notably a transition towards a more iOS-style user interface. Whilst the changes announced and demoed are fairly subtle, this has sent ripples of concern around so-called Apple enthusiasts, some of whom are claiming that the end of the Mac, as we know it, is coming!
So here’s the thing: Apple have become pretty successful in recent years (let’s say the last 5 – 10, for argument’s sake.) It all started with the first iPod in 2001, with a 5GB hard drive touting “1,000 songs in your pocket”. Now this was amazing at the time. Sure, there were other MP3 players around, but none tied so tightly into the iTunes eco-system (which had been announced at the beginning of 2001), letting us mere mortals download songs and albums, and easily sync them to a portable player. Anyway, I won’t bore you with a complete history of Apple (as much as I’d like to!). The iPod followed a natural product-line progression, spawning multiple versions, sizes, and so on as it evolved. Apple then went on to release the iPhone in mid 2007—a touch-screen smart phone which was an instant hit, mainly due to an incredible operating system that made the device absurdly easy to use. When the first iPhone was released, it was competing with the likes of Nokia and Blackberry, who were taken completely by surprise at Apple’s new phone. Its ease of use, was unparalleled in the industry, and so Apple proved that it could make handheld devices just as good as its computers.
All of the success, of course, was down to the operating system: beautifully designed menus, buttons, and icons—not to mention the method of interaction with the system. Multitouch, enabling users to make use of innovative gestures, such as ‘pinch to zoom’ (a gesture which has become fairly synonymous with the iOS operating system now, in fact Apple even has a limited patent on the gesture) I mean, the hardware was pretty impressive too, but nothing that other competitors couldn’t do if they had chosen to. No, the success of the iPhone was due to the operating system. So, the iOS operating system progressed with yearly updates, to the refined and optimised system it is today (iOS 4.2.3). It’s no surprise then, that when Apple came to update the operating system for the Mac, they would ‘borrow’ some of the best features of the incredibly popular iOS system.
Let me explain why this can only be a good thing.
The more users a system has, the more feedback, errors, and complaints will be generated. By making the two operating systems more alike, Apple is able to make both systems better at the same time. Users are worried that the typical file-explorer, window-based operating system they are used to on the Mac will disappear—and yes, it might—but that’s not necessarily a bad thing. Systems move on, and methods of working and workflow also need to move on. I think the thing people are most worried about is that the advanced functionality available today on computers, will be limited. as with the iOS operating system. That’s never going to happen. Apple still need Macs for the millions of developers to write apps for the iOS App Store, and the new Mac App Store. Yes, Apple are introducing some more iOS-style features (the Mac App Store is a prime example), but they’re not getting rid of the Mac.
So I guess that’s my first rant over. It was just bottled up inside of me, and I had to share my opinions on the matter. I may be completely wrong, but honestly, if Apple were to ‘lock-down’ the Mac, iOS Style, how would they have any Apps for the iOS devices in the first place? Computers are changing, new methods of interaction are appearing (Microsoft Kinect, MultiTouch, etc.) and the operating systems need to evolve alongside them. So please, embrace the change, don’t worry about it!