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How much will Apple change iOS and OS X?

Ted Landau | June 5, 2013
Ted Landau argues that Apple should be announcing major overhauls to its two flagship operating systems at WWDC.

I believe Martin both exaggerates and too easily dismisses these concerns about the future. However, I concede that the matter remains unresolved and is open to debate—besides, the only way it will ever be settled with certainty is if and when Apple makes its long-term intentions clear. And the way Apple typically does this is through the changes it introduces in each succeeding version of OS X.

This brings me to OS X 10.9. If Apple has plans to push iOS-ification to any sort of extreme, this year seems like the perfect opportunity to make such plans known. After more than two years of wading in the shallow end of the pool, why delay any longer? By now, Mac users are as primed to accept a bigger change toward a more iOS-like Mac as they are ever likely to be.

Does Apple plan to require sandboxing of all apps, even ones not sold from the Mac App Store? Does Apple hope to eliminate the Finder in favor of a navigation system more similar to iOS? Will Apple make it more difficult (or even impossible) to access Terminal and other "under the hood" apps, similar to the absence of such apps on iOS devices? If so, now would be a good time to make this evident.

Personally, I believe this is exactly what Apple would like to do. Apple may not desire an OS X that is as "locked down" as iOS, but it would certainly like something close to that. In fact, in some alternate reality where the creation of iOS preceded OS X, rather than the other way around, I believe this is the way that OS X would work already.

That said, I also believe that Apple realizes such a shift is currently untenable and would lead to a user revolt. But that doesn't mean such a move is out of the question. Apple has made decisions in the past that risked a revolt, and it could do so again. But I doubt it will happen in this situation. Apple is more likely to keep any extreme changes optional, just as existing iOS-ification features work today: Launchpad can replace the Finder for launching apps, but you're not required to use it. The user's Library folder is invisible by default, but you can still access it.

So it will be with most new iOS-like features in OS X 10.9. One other possibility, as I speculated previously, is that Apple splits OS X in two (although I suspect we would have heard rumors of this by now, if this were the plan for OS X 10.9). At the very least, Apple needs to retain enough of OS X to keep the Mac viable as a platform for developers to create new apps (both for OS X and iOS).


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