More Nonsense About OS X From the Pundits

June 21st, 2013

I could probably devote every one of my columns to the silly comments tech and financial pundits make not just about Apple, but other companies and products. Every time I think a sense of sanity is returned, there’s not another example of someone who has gone off the deep end.

Take a commentator who works for a certain financial publication that will go unnamed. The topic under discussion is OS X Mavericks, and it’s clear that the writer in question isn’t impressed. All right, everyone is entitled to their opinions, but in this case a small wish list is presented, three ways, as it were, to improve OS X.

Now Apple has traditionally boasted of some 200 new features or enhancements in recent OS X releases, with the notable exception of OS 10.6 Snow Leopard, meant to offer under-the-hood improvements and not much else. In those days, I suppose some of you wondered if Apple had lost their creative juices, or had other priorities, such as the iOS platform. In any case, I have little doubt that Apple will have a lot more to say about the changes in OS X Mavericks between now and the release day. The presentation at last week’s WWDC was just the beginning, but it clearly indicated a focus on less sizzle, more meat and potatoes, and forgive me if you’re a vegetarian and don’t appreciate the metaphor.

In any case, Mavericks will contain significant improvements to system management, meaning more efficient use of memory, key power saving features and improved performance. If nothing else changed, that would be sufficient to warrant an upgrade. But there’s more, and again it’s focused on the things that improve the user experience, such as Finder tabs and tags, and key changes to Safari that’ll make it run a whole lot better. Notifications and managing multiple displays will be handled more efficiently, and there’s iCloud Keychain, a central repository to contain your passwords, credit card numbers and other secure data in a form that integrates with your Mac and your iOS gear.

So what is left for Apple to improve?

Well the financial pundit in question believes that OS X needs to “merge” with iOS. Why? Because that represents what Microsoft tried to do with Windows 8. Only thing: Windows 8 is regarded as a failure, a gigantic misstep from Microsoft. Apple CEO Tim Cook says that the PC and mobile platforms work differently, and require different operating systems. He’s explained why on a number of occasions. You can take him at his word, and Apple’s approach has been quite successful, or go with Microsoft, which hasn’t worked.

Which would you choose?

What about the user interface? Well, maybe it needs flatter icons, transparency and layers more akin to iOS 7. Or maybe it doesn’t. Are people clamoring for huge changes in the look and feel of OS X? Is there a need for significant changes? Aren’t there things that Apple could still do to make the user experience better? So why worry about the theme right now?

In saying that, I suppose there could be some interface adjustments down the road, before Mavericks is released. But that is just window dressing and doesn’t represent the most significant things Apple needs to do.

The final improvement demanded by that writer is to expand iCloud integration. Perhaps. iCloud is still troublesome, although Apple continues to hack away at it to make it run better. Putting iWork, Maps synchronization and password management help make iCloud a more important tool to improve your experience and better integrate OS X with iOS. But it’s also clear that Apple isn’t going to jump and release features because people say so. Every single change has to be carefully developed and tested. iCloud is far from perfect, and it makes sense for Apple to take baby steps until it is certain whatever is changed or added just works without causing trouble for developers and customers.

Now the real wish lists for OS X can be quite extensive, and it’s curious this writer focused on three issues, two of which are simply polar opposites to Apple’s proven approach. Apple ought to look into a more modern file system, for example, one that more efficiently addresses the needs of the 21st century user. Maybe the nuts and bolts of file management could be simplified in a way that focuses more on the document than on the raw file and which folder you put it in. Such niceties are relics of a bygone era, and it’s time to move on.

In fact, any system function that requires extra steps and extra thought ought to be fair game for improvement. Children can master an iPhone or iPad in minutes. OS X seems incredibly difficult by comparison, and surely Apple can find better ways for you to manage your stuff. Clearly Apple plans to continue to invest significant resources into OS X, and a real wish list, with meaningful changes, would make much more sense than questionable stuff from uninformed writers with grandiose pretensions. And, once again, the full feature set of Mavericks has yet to be revealed.

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9 Responses to “More Nonsense About OS X From the Pundits”

  1. Ted Wise says:

    The merging of iOS and OS/X is going to happen, but not necessarily in the way that consumers would see. New frameworks are being designed to be identical between platforms and I would expect that the iOS frameworks that supersede the OS/X versions are going to migrate to OS/X over time. So, from an engineering perspective, the merging will continue.

    Personally, I’m thrilled with Mavericks. I love that Apple does the occasional Snow Leopard-type release that tightens up the OS, makes it more efficient and more usable. My families old iMac is eagerly awaiting a release that uses less memory and less CPU.

  2. Articles you should read (June 21) …. says:

    […] “More Nonsense About OS X From the Pundits: I could probably devote every one of my columns to the silly comments tech and financial pundits make not just about Apple, but other companies and products. Every time I think a sense of sanity is returned, there’s not another example of someone who has gone off the deep end.” — “The Tech Night Owl” ( […]

  3. DaveD says:

    Numero uno on my wish list is for pundits, financial or tech, who write stupid trivial things on what Apple should do would go away. The reading public would benefit greatly not getting daily doses of drivel. I do believe that good solid analytical articles by the more knowledgeable writers who understand Apple and its ways are read by those at One Infinite Loop.

    If one is to use common sense (which has been lacking for some time) a smartphone or tablet is operated close to the body and the tips of the fingers or thumb are close by to interact with a touch-based UI. It is so easy to see what is wrong with a touchscreen on a traditional notebook or desktop PC.

  4. Kaleberg says:

    The file system problem is a big problem, but it isn’t about changing from HFS+ to ZFS or another such underlying base. The real problem is finding things now that our computers are full of ten or even twenty year old stuff. This is a hard, unsolved problem. Spotlight and Quick Look help somewhat, but they are both rather awkward and far from a complete solution. I am sure Apple is working on this internally, but I’m sure they would love it if someone else found one or more solutions.

  5. GJS says:

    I think the points about the file system are well taken.

    Finder tabs? Great, but that is hardly groundbreaking.

    In recent years, Apple has a clear policy of foot dragging on issues that don’t benefit them directly. Regarding the Finder, their ultimate goal is to move your files and their management to the Cloud. Therefore, an issue that people have been complaining about since 10.0 lingers.

    There is no question that conformity, not innovation or user need, is driving Apple’s OS updates. Some have suggested that resources have been focused on iOS at the expense of the OS. I suspect this is true. It certainly makes business sense. However, the cost of such a strategy is a string of OS releases without any serious innovation. We are in maintenance mode. However, that lack of new thought when it comes to the computer’s operating system is the very reason that such a large percentage of users are sticking with Snow Leopard and will continue to do so even when 10.9 comes out.

  6. rich says:

    @GJS: I think the main reason people, myself included, are sticking with Snow Leopard can be summed up in one word: Rosetta.

    I have a couple mission-critical apps that require Rosetta, and would require significant work to convert to non-Rosetta.

    So until a production application that requires a newer OS inflicts itself upon me, I plan to stay with 10.6.8.

  7. Steve says:

    the main reason ~30% of the installed base of Mac remain on 10.6 is that the CPU is from Motorola.
    These Macs simply cannot upgrade – they will fade out by attrition only over time.
    This is the real world cost of the vendor change.
    Apple is stuck with this immovable segment and there is nothing to be done except wait for the aging process to obsolete these machines…

    • @Steve, This is a legitimate issue for which there will be no solution from Apple. But it would be interesting if it was possible for a third party to license Rosetta technology and try to deliver an app that would provide this capability, since many of the PowerPC apps such people require will never be updated to Intel.


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