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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.

This should be the year that Apple lays its cards on the table. If there are few or no signs of further iOS-ification of OS X, I would assume it means that Apple has gone about as far as it intends to go in this direction—at least for the foreseeable future. If we instead see a major expansion of such features, I would assume that a complete transition to a more iOS-like version of OS X is well under way. Even features that remain optional today will become required over the next few years, as the old "legacy" technology is dropped. Which way is Apple going? We should know for sure in a few days.

iOS 7 ossification
With iOS 7, the situation is almost the opposite of OS X 10.9. Rather than a concern that iOS 7 may introduce too much change, the worry is that iOS has succumbed to "ossification" and may, if anything, not offer enough change.

When Apple released iOS 6, it touted more than 200 new features. But few of these features substantially changed the look, feel, or operation of the software: Siri added some new capabilities; Facebook was "integrated"; Photo Streams could be shared; FaceTime could work over cellular. While these are not trivial additions, they are not the sort of changes that turn heads. Granted, iOS 6 also had a major new version of Maps—and as you may recall, that didn't work out especially well.

This restrained rate of change has generally held for all iOS upgrades over the past several years. In fact, much of the current iOS interface—from the lock screen to the home screen to the virtual keyboard—appears almost identical to how it looked and worked all the way back to the release of the first iPhone.

This is not necessarily a bad thing. As the sayings go: "There's no point in change for change's sake," and "If it ain't broke, don't fix it." You certainly don't want to rush an unreliable new technology to market (see Maps). But after several years of limited advancements, Apple is at the point where we can reasonably expect some major new features this year. And given the advances made by competing Android devices, there is increased pressure on Apple to do so. Apple's next big thing doesn't have to be a new hardware device; it can be a revamped iOS.

For starters, how about allowing customization of the lock screen, so that users can check things such as weather and stocks without having to unlock the device and pull down Notification Center or launch apps? How about permitting widgets, small apps that can pop up while you remain in another app—such as a calculator you can use without having to exit your currently active app? Even better, how about full multitasking, so you could do things like scan your Twitter feed on the left side of your screen while a video plays on the right? The rumor mill has hinted at other features that may be coming, from fingerprint scanning to expanded methods for making digital payments.

 

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