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  • The 10.6 Report — Making Up for Apple’s Mistakes

    March 26th, 2008

    You and I both know that the next great version of Mac OS X probably isn’t going to arrive until some time in 2009, if then. However, that doesn’t mean it’s too early to say something now. You see, with Leopard settling down for most of you, I rather suspect any updates from here on will be largely to fix those remaining defects rather than add new features.

    Certainly, with the 10.5.2 release, they fixed the Stacks feature to incorporate most of the previous elements of handling folders in the Dock. That way you can make your own decisions how best to deal with the look and the feel. You can also turn off menu bar transparency (I’ve left it on), so some of your treasured desktop backgrounds can appear without making the menu bar invisible.

    The Dock’s 3D look? All right, you have me there, but after all, if it upsets you so much, you can pin it to the left or right ends of your display or use a third party utility, such as TinkerTool, to turn it back to 2D. That ought to be sufficient to handle the most significant complaints.

    Over at One Infinite Loop, you can bet Apple is busy working on Leopard’s successor. In fact, they probably began to draft the new system release long before Leopard was released last October, and they very likely have a basic idea what features might be incorporated.

    One of the biggest problems Apple will face now is that a few frills among another 200 or 300 changes will not be sufficient to overcome resistance to yet another upgrade, even if it’s 18 or 24 months after Leopard’s debut. Certainly Microsoft has encountered similar difficulties getting companies to upgrade to Office 2007. Yes, there are objections to Vista too, and part of those objections relate to the fact that XP works pretty well for most Windows users. However, Vista also has performance and stability shortcomings, still, even after the SP1 update that was recently released. In fact, Microsoft has set up a free support program encompassing even customers who had the software preloaded on their PCs (in other words OEM versions), because of the rampant difficulties.

    Apple’s huge dilemma is that Leopard, for the most part, has garnered a high level of customer satisfaction. More than 80% are extremely pleased with the upgrade, according to a survey published earlier this year. As Apple continues to sell over two million Macs a quarter with Leopard preloaded, you can bet it won’t be long before it holds a majority stake among Mac users.

    So what do you do for an encore? Does Apple add more of the same, or do they go back and look at some core problems with previous versions and do something to address them? Now that Classic is history — at least for Leopard and/or Intel-based Mac users — what about restoring more of the lost features?

    Well, chief among those might be a full-featured Location Manager. No, not just for storing your basic network and Internet settings as you can now, but something that would encompass an entire range of adjustments, such as the applications you’re using, the specific printers you require and any special system-related configurations you need at a particular place. This feature might use an interface reminiscent of Parental Controls, which allows you to customize the user experience for a family member, in order to monitor what they’re doing and make them safe from Internet predators.

    So when you’re on the road, you can choose Hotel, Office, or whatever, and the things you need will be automatically configured. Maybe the system could do some of that for you, by sensing certain network configurations, such as the hardware address of an office router, to help guide you to the proper choice.

    For me, this wouldn’t be a serious issue, but as millions of MacBook Airs hit the streets, I can see where there will be a demand for a Location Manager on steroids. I realize there are third-party possibilities, but this is something that is really Apple’s province.

    That goes for the Help menus as well. Why, for example, do they use a smaller type face than the rest of the menu bar commands? I see no logical reason for that, but I think Apple needs to go farther to provide the help you need depending on your user level. This takes us to the controversial issue of Active Assistance that I’ve talked about before. It means that, upon installing Mac OS 10.6, or setting up a new Mac on which it’ll be preloaded, you’ll select what you regard as your level of expertise, and the nature of help you are given will be adjusted accordingly. System Preferences will offer you an opportunity to alter that experience level as you discover you’re really a power user, or confront the possibility that you know less than you thought.

    The other feature sadly in need of rebuilding is the Open/Save dialog. Take a look at Jon Gotow’s excellent work in Default Folder X and you’ll see what I mean. No, I don’t want to put Jon out of work. He’s a great guy, a family man, and needs to earn a living. Maybe Apple would do well to hire Jon and discover some of his secrets and meld them into a revitalized Open/Save dialog for 10.6.

    For starters, just being able to access recent files and having the dialog box rebound to the last opened file would be a great plus. Then Apple can incorporate more Finder-level features, such as the ability to rename a file before you open it.

    Again, this list remains preliminary. There are fundamental changes we can talk about that Apple might be considering even now, such as a true 3D-style interface that incorporates the X-axis as well, perhaps to age your files and folders in the Finder.

    The possibilities are endless, and your comments are welcomed.



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    16 Responses to “The 10.6 Report — Making Up for Apple’s Mistakes”

    1. shane blyth says:

      What about 10.6 drop the cat name as it is totally new. Call it imTouched as everything is touch based. Every new computer from now on is a totally touch based system. Leopard is the end of the line for keyboard based systems sort of like PPC chips.

      Ok I am being crazy but who knows what things will be happening in the OS department in a few years especially with the idea of the iPhone touch based systems are the new platform.

    2. shane blyth says:

      Hey what happened to Ajax ability to edit your post in the first hour ? No option anymore… Ahhh hang on didn’t you say you were cleaning up your sites so they are all iPhone friendly so the flash and ajax has gone ?

    3. Walt says:

      I have no inside scoop, but if *I* were Apple, I’d try to be the Gateway to the Internet for my users in their various incarnations. Transparent file sharing across my laptop, iPhone and work PCs, so as long as I’m “in Apple” — whatever THAT’d mean — I have my bookmarks, songs, Word documents and spreadsheets, NetNewsWire status, subscriptions, etc.

      What’d that require? Synch services on steroids. The Time Machine moved into 4 dimensions, not just 1. Real calendar / contact apps, not those dippy iCal and Address Book, with a way to have them visible to my work Notes or Office — maybe, an open interface challenge to groupware and other devs.

      Unlimited — or rather, infinitely extendable for a price — file storage, on- and off-site, also through the Big Internet Cloud.

      That could more or less do it for 10.6

    4. Hey what happened to Ajax ability to edit your post in the first hour ? No option anymore… Ahhh hang on didn’t you say you where cleaning up your sites so they are all iPhone friendly so the flash and ajax has gone ?

      Well we still have Flash and Ajax, but we’re using a new version of WordPress (2.5-RC2 as I write this), so you may see a few glitches. You should still see the edit ability most of the time though.

      Peace,
      Gene

    5. Stephen Vaughan says:

      Another thing Apple needs to rectify is the interface for Spotlight. Apple has a tendency to all of a sudden drop good design on a feature. In Leopard they did optimize Spotlight to search faster, and in new ways, but in the process eliminated one of the most attractive aspects of Spotlight that was introduced in Tiger : the search view that appeared where column view resides in general Finder browsing.

      What was most appealing about the search view was the way it placed files into categories according to file type. For example, in a project organised by a smart folder, one could quickly locate all pictures relating to that project and run a slide show or hide or show more or less files that are gathered according to criteria. This feature may not appeal to all but there are other view available for searches. The search view, for me, was more important the speed that search results are returned. I suspect that it may have been dropped for the very reason that having to group files by file type was a drag on the search process or that shoehorning it in terms of design into the new look Finder may have posed problems in development. Note that if you now run searches and want to group files by type you spend as much time doing so as the old Spotlight.

      Also the Tiger method of selecting at the top of the Finder during searches, the locations to focus those searches was much more flexible and broad. In Leopard the options This Mac and the current directory are clumsy if one needs to relocate the focus on other locations or directories. It is frustrating and time consuming when the file you know is available is not returned in the search. I suspect that the speed increases in the Leopard Spotlight are down to Apple using a smoke and mirrors approach by removing parts of the original mechanism that were a drag on searches. In the process they have crippled the best parts of Spotlight. I hope able can reinstate these at some point during the life of Leopard and not some future version of the OS.

      Apple also crippled the implementation of Stacks. In early builds (I have the video) one could open a stack and then click a folder which would change the stack view to reflect the contents of the new folder and so on down through folders. You could also navigate back through the path back to where you started. This was exciting. It evoked memories of those pop up folders that had a brief life in OS 9. These were great as they were folders that if dragged to the edge of the screen, snapped to the edge with the folder name as a tab. Clicking the tab popped up the folder and the folders could be navigated. Double clicking a file opened the file in its associated application and the folder snapped closed again to the edge of the screen. This was what stacks were meant to be only stacks are better as they are more visual.

      You were also supposed to be able to gather files selected from many different directories into a stack and add or subtract items from these stacks at any point in time. I suspect that if Apple had got this correct that there would have been less hubbub about the return of the hierarchical menu for folders in the Dock as the proper stack would have addressed many of the concerns users had about stacks.

      The other thing Apple needs to do (and this relates to what you say about Help) is they really need to advertise all the small new features that are introduced with a new OS and even in 10.x.x point releases. As it stands it is tantamount to an Easter egg hunt that continues for months. Many good features are overlooked and users are not getting the best use out of their Macs.

      For example, early on in the life of Leopard, I was following a discussion online whereby members were desperately trying to figure out how to remove items from their Time Machine backups that they had not intended to backup. Some were digging around the directories on their backup drives to route out unwanted items. I did some digging around in the Time Machine interface and and found that the Action menu in the Finder tool bar had tools to deal with items in Time Machine.

      Apple needs to also add a new item to contextual menus in the finder: Back up this/these item/s Now so that users can back up critical items at once in a manual manner. I run TM off and use the Back Up Now feature when I want to back up. Doing this in a more granular way would be helpful in avoiding having a drive filled quickly, if one choses to do so in this manner.

      Apple also needs to be transparent and honest in things that break in OS upgrades. This would leave users less frustrated. For example not till 10.5.2 did the Automator action Rename Finder Items get repaired. This led to discussions describing long attempts on users parts to find out what they may have broken themselves. A footnote on OS release stating which features are not working and will be addressed in future updates would be helpful.

    6. Will says:

      For 10.6, we should have (hopefully) ZFS fully implemented rather than the ‘read-only’ implementation currently adopted.

      This single change alone will provide a far greater upgrade to Mac OS X than the hundreds of ‘new features’ in OS X since its inception.

    7. Wim Vis says:

      Now calling over the internet (VOIP) gets more important every year, the lack of a decent SIP Voip program (softphone) on the OS X platform is obvious to anyone who wants to make voip calls via his Apple computer.
      Why not let Apple incorporate SIP Voip capabilities in the next generation OS X or make its own stand alone calling program just like it did with Apple Mail? Name suggestion: Apple Call.

    8. rwahrens says:

      I have no inside scoop, but if *I* were Apple, I’d try to be the Gateway to the Internet for my users in their various incarnations. Transparent file sharing across my laptop, iPhone and work PCs, so as long as I’m “in Apple” — whatever THAT’d mean — I have my bookmarks, songs, Word documents and spreadsheets, NetNewsWire status, subscriptions, etc.

      What’d that require? Synch services on steroids. The Time Machine moved into 4 dimensions, not just 1. Real calendar / contact apps, not those dippy iCal and Address Book, with a way to have them visible to my work Notes or Office — maybe, an open interface challenge to groupware and other devs.

      Unlimited — or rather, infinitely extendable for a price — file storage, on- and off-site, also through the Big Internet Cloud.

      That could more or less do it for 10.6

      Actually, you have most of that now, if you have the .Mac service. You can sync most of your machine settings, plus your Contacts, iCal calendars, and so forth.

      File sharing is dead simple easy – your Mac uses bonjour to find other Macs on your LAN, and links to them and even screen sharing is as easy as a click of the mouse! What more do you want?

      I no longer keep my files in the Home documents folder – they are now stored in my documents folder in my iDisk – where they are automatically synced with .Mac almost instantly – and so are available to ALL my computers, no matter where I am, as long as I have Internet capability.

      And, yes, you can – for that price you mentioned – extend your included 10 GB storage by 10 gig increments at a time for as much storage as you wish!

      I have my entire iTunes library on my iPod, which offers to sync new songs that are on the iPod but not the computer I just plugged it into back onto that computer, so I have a synced Library of songs – and photos! so I can buy songs from any computer I own, and sync my iPod, and it’ll sync all the rest of my computers as I plug it into them. Sweet!

      Now, if 10.6 would offer to sync those libraries over my LAN, that would be a nice addition, tho.

      10.5 has brought together a lot of the stuff we saw coming in Tiger – that’s why a lot of folks didn’t see Leopard as a really good upgrade. But it has brought them together and sweetened the pot with a well rounded Ui that has really made OSX a great OS.

      But I see 10.6 as offering some new technologies. It is the just-past-halfway point of the OS X upgrade numbers, if you want to look at it that way, and it makes sense from that view to start with new stuff as a way to start moving towards whatever may come after OS X. (OS XI?? or some new paradigm?)

      New stuff is coming – we’ve seen some cool patent filings, and new technologies have been tantalizing us from third party companies for a while now. Who knows what Apple has up their sleeves – they do spend a lot in R&D. I feel that touch will be big – we know that – but will speech? Or how about new display technologies? Has Apple been working on AI? With the new multi-core technologies, is there finally enough CPU power to play with that stuff for real?

      All I do know is that, whatever Apple does, it’ll blow us away.

    9. rwahrens says:

      Now calling over the internet (VOIP) gets more important every year, the lack of a decent SIP Voip program (softphone) on the OS X platform is obvious to anyone who wants to make voip calls via his Apple computer.
      Why not let Apple incorporate SIP Voip capabilities in the next generation OS X or make its own stand alone calling program just like it did with Apple Mail? Name suggestion: Apple Call.

      Why a new program? They could just add VOIP abilities to iChat. It already has the right name.

    10. Zygot says:

      I wish Apple would bring back the Classic method of double clicking on the top bar of an open window to minimise it in place. Windowshade X, by Unsanity, does the job so why can’t Apple? Apple’s method of the window moving down to the Dock is too much like Microsoft’s Windows.

    11. None says:

      Two words. “Resolution Independence.”

    12. Two words. “Resolution Independence.”

      There were rumors that you’d see that feature in Leopard. Alas, it never came to be in the final version.

      Peace,
      Gene

    13. vanfruniken says:

      You write
      …restoring more of the lost features…

      When will people stop to reminisce about MacOS9? MacOS9 is dead and MacOSX has surpassed most of the features that some nostalgic people have been clinging to.
      – True enough, MacOSX has been a work in progress, but what needed to be fixed is already fixed.
      – Some features won’t *ever* return because they are no longer conceptually acceptable.
      – Apple is gradually addressing the few remaining issues such as positional finder behavior and metadata, by introducing modern and extensible technologies.

      Let’s no more focus on the past but think about the future! Small incremental changes that polish the MacOSX experience are fine (yet so “more-of-the-same”), but sometimes big steps are needed.

      On the top of my wish list I have
      – Single Sign-on, even for small workgroups (such as a family home networks, where typically, each family member is getting his own workstation) WITHOUT the need of MacOSX server (after all MacOSX client is perfectly able to do this, only the GUI is lacking).
      – Remote graphic login a la X-window, which is more than the current screen sharing (thank God we already got that one built-in). The difference is that multiple users could have a GUI session on the same workstation, without the workstation’s screen being taken over. (Macs have now become powerful enough to support multiple users and multiple active screen sessions).

      These two features are sorely missing and would remove the hurdle in small enterprise that is preventing them to switch from Windows to MacOSX.

      Windows has been championing this approach for years now (Since Win-NT), and that is how they made their way into the enterprise (allowing self-serving end ever expanding IT-support depts. to dominate corporate IT-decisions to promote MS-only solutions to ensure further lock-in and job security).

      What Apple needs to do is to make it EASIER (than in the WIndows world) and more SCALABLE (starting without the need for MacOSX Server –or an expensive .Mac subscription–, allowing even single person IT depts. to figure out (even on their own home setup) what it would be like to have Apple based centralized authentication/home directories and remote login for everybody.

    14. Marc Abrams says:

      I’ve been using Marco Polo (http://www.symonds.id.au/marcopolo/) for awhile now and while it’s not quite finished, and there are quite a few bugs remaining, it’s a very impressive and full featured location manager.

    15. Chris George says:

      What they really need to do is rework Finder. It’s partially adequate now, but the breadcrumbs could be infinitely better, the ability to do history, and go through folders more quickly could be redone as well.

      They also need to rethink the dashboard thing… because sometimes you want those widgets ON your desktop, not hidden until I hit F12. And I know people will says ‘download yahoo! widgets or google widgets.’ Well Y! Widgets are great, but not native to OS X, and Google widgets are a horrid attempt to rip off of Y! Widgets.

      Either way, I certainly hope we do get a new Finder.

    16. jj says:

      the funny thing is that many of the features you’re asking for on the next OSX already existed before Mac OS X 10.0 -_-

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