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  • Has Apple Forgotten the Mac OS? (Updated!)

    April 12th, 2010

    You know that sales of new Macs are increasing at a speedy pace, generally faster than the rest of the PC industry. You also know that Apple’s mobile platform has long since surpassed the Mac in terms of total user base. With 80 million and counting, against roughly 30 million folks owning Macs, you might see reason for Apple to care less about the computing platform that made it famous.

    Also consider how Apple has promoted new Mac hardware. Pretty much all recent upgrades have been announced with simple press releases, even the iMac, said to be the hottest desktop computer in years. At the same time, Apple’s mobile platform and even the iPod both earn special media events, where the press is invited to San Francisco or Apple’s campus in Cupertino to get personal treatment and even time to get hands-on experience with the new hardware.

    All right, it’s true that new versions of the Mac OS also get the full treatment. Then again, special demonstrations plus lots of WWDC sessions are essential to help developers learn about new features and updates to Apple’s development environment. No way to avoid that.

    Now in the wake of the unveiling of iPhone 4.0, there are reports that Apple has put off Mac OS 10.7 in order to allocate more developers to work on the mobile platform upgrade. Of course, it’s not that anyone outside of Apple can know for sure. There may be loads of reasons for a presumed delay, if one exists, and perhaps it’s just to give Apple more time to devise a load of sexy new features and make sure they are fully integrated into the existing OS structure.

    It’s not as if you actually need a new version of Mac OS X. Snow Leopard is still pretty new in the scheme of things, and the vast majority of apps still don’t support the most important new features, such as better performance with multicore processors and harnessing the power of advanced graphics chips.

    Even the enhanced 64-bit support hasn’t lit much of a fire when it comes to companies who build the software that takes best advantage of accessing more system memory. In the forthcoming Adobe’s Creative Suite 5, out of over a dozen apps in the various production packages, only three —Photoshop, Premiere Pro and After Effects — are listed as providing 64-bit support. Then again, I doubt Adobe could offer any reasonable excuse if these high-power apps didn’t gain that capability with this revision, since the Mac was bypassed in CS4. At that time, by the way, Adobe’s excuse was that Apple just completed its Intel migration, and thus there wasn’t enough time to take advantage of Apple’s revised development tools. Then again, Adobe does a lot of cross-platform stuff, and didn’t Steve Jobs poke holes into that approach because he regards the results as “sub-standard”?

    When it comes to Mac hardware, it’s not as if speed bump upgrades have been coming at a fever pitch. On the other hand, Tuesday morning’s MacBook Pro upgrade — a step that vindicates the pithy email from Steve Jobs telling a customer not to worry about the long delay since the last refresh of this model — does indicate that Apple is still in the business of delivering compelling upgrades.

    Although the announcement arrived in press release form, in keeping with their recent posture, it does offer the promise of up to 50% faster performance. The graphic chip dilemma, the response to the conflict with NVIDIA and Intel over the former’s license to build integrated graphics for the latter, was resolved in possibly a less satisfactory fashion. Basic graphics are now handled by an Intel HD Graphics chip, with the option of using the discrete NVIDIA GT 330M when you need superior performance.

    As with the previous model, pricing for the cheapest MacBook Pro starts at $1,199. The 17-inch version, the only one containing an ExpressCard/34 slot, lists for $2,299. Battery life is estimated at eight to nine hours, due to the greater power efficiencies of the new parts.

    Now as to the OS itself, remember that Apple exists to make a profit, not to upgrade its personal computer operating system on a fixed timeframe. That upgrades comes when they decide that they can provide value in a new version, perhaps sell lots of upgrades and, more to the point, push out more Macs that take better advantage of the new features. If sales are moving along at a good clip, and Mac users aren’t filling Apple’s Feedback pages with loads of complaints about a long-in-the-tooth operating system, I suppose there’s no real incentive for them to move forward any faster.

    Then again, maybe the rumors about a delay in 10.7 are just that — rumors. Maybe Apple is working full steam ahead on getting the new version out according to an internal timetable that, of course, we know nothing about. Yes, it’s true Apple delayed Leopard’s arrival to finish the first iPhone OS, but don’t assume history is about to repeat itself.



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