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A Perfectly Silly OS X Claim

So there was an article in a certain blog claiming that we are nearing the end of OS X as we know it. If true, that raises all sorts of fascinating possibilities about what Apple might do, and how Mac users might be impacted. Indeed, when I first saw the article, I expected to read speculation on future generations of the operating system.

Imagine how I felt when I discovered, instead, it was all about a name, about branding.

The logic is pretty basic. The operating system for the iPhone, iPad and the iPod touch is iOS. The operating system for the Apple Watch is watchOS and the operating system for the fourth generation Apple TV is tvOS. Indeed, when Apple was in danger of being forced by the courts to create an operating system that would allow the authorities to unlock an iPhone, they referred to it as govOS.

The upshot is that this article was all about rebranding OS X as macOS to keep with the prevailing style for other Apple gear. That’s all!

I could not help but feel disappointed. If anything, the new name would be the least of it. Rational, yes, but it wouldn’t change how it works, or the feature set. Instead, I had hoped to read suggestions on how Apple might flesh out the features of macOS and perhaps improve the ones that are already there.

That’s where there’s plenty of meat and potatoes (or whatever solid food you prefer). I can start with Mail, which remains foolishly ignorant of handling even ordinary account settings. So, yes, it’ll figure out the server configuration for such services as iCloud, Gmail, Outlook and some others. But it can’t begin to guess the proper setup for other email systems, even ones with “autodiscover” and “autoconfig” directives that should allow for automatic configuration.

Worse, Mail usually fails to automatically map local folders to server folders when you set up IMAP email. What this means is that the mail you send would ordinarily be placed in the corresponding mailbox on the email server and so forth and so on. It’s quite elementary, but Mail usually forces you to do it manually using the Use This Mailbox As command in the Mailbox menu for such options as Drafts, Sent, Junk and Trash. If you don’t follow this simple step, you may find that messages aren’t correctly synced, which is especially important if you check your email on different devices.

Despite the fact that I am not enamored of Microsoft Outlook for Mac, it usually manages to correctly map local to server mailboxes without manual intervention when you set up an account.

Another problem with Mail: If you want to change some settings, such as the incoming mail server, it has to be done in the Internet Accounts preference pane. The setting is grayed out in Mail’s preferences  Alas Internet Accounts only lets you adjust a few account settings, so you have to go back and forth between the two when you reconfigure an account. Does this make any sense?

Yes, it’s nice to be able to annotate an email, and to send attachments of up to 5GB regardless of the limits of an email system. But more attention needs to be made to existing functions that remain incomplete or buggy.

I could go on and on about Mail. It is usually fast and fairly reliable, but little feature glitches such as the ones I’ve mentioned prevent it from being the best of the breed. So whether future operating system versions are branded as OS X, Mac OS, Mac OS X, macOS or whipped mashed potatoes, Mail still needs work.

How Apple handles the next version of OS X becomes more important because the lid will be off in a little more than two months, when the 2016 WWDC is held. As per custom, you’ll no doubt learn all about the new OS for Macs, i-gear, and perhaps Apple Watch and Apple TV. Developers will get early access to betas — which will later go public — so they can bring their apps and other products in line to exploit the new features.

Whatever name Apple chooses, the real question is how OS X will change. Will the looks be further refined, will it take on more iOS features. Indeed, will it be another major feature refresh, or will more efforts be made to shore up reliability. Clearly El Capitan hasn’t received a lot of love from Mac users even though it was supposed to be the refinement release that would only have a small number of new features and enhancements.

Just sitting back and going feature by feature to see what’s missing and what can be improved, without doing a lot that’s altogether new, would make for a compelling OS upgrade. Indeed, iOS could use some fixing as well. Mail for iOS may be a tad smarter than Mail for Mac, but not to a large degree. It needs work too.

So an article focusing strictly on naming conventions was hardly worth reading.