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  • 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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