If you haven’t heard, Apple’s operating system for the Macintosh in it’s next version coming later this year will simply be called “OS X" rather than “Mac OS X".
So, is it Apple slowly getting rid of the “Mac" name because it can’t shake the stink of a loser in the desktop OS race? Is it because 10.8 “Mountain Lion" will almost complete the iOS-ification of Mac OS X, and it will no longer be truly “Mac OS" (sound of old Mac die-hards leaving)?
I think it’s probably more about simplifying and generalizing, but also transitioning. To me, it shifts the name “Mac" completely over to their computers. Sure, a “Macintosh" has always been this complete integrated system, but in the early days, the system software was not adorned with the Mac name, it was simply called “System" with the version number.
Such simplification could precede a product shift. Some believe it is just a step toward iOS across the board. I could see that. Remove “Mac" from OS X, then just before you have to decide to release 10.10 or call it 11, you dodge that by having just iOS. I think if they did this, it would not be as many who fear this think, where the mouse and filesystem are banished, causing old computer users to complain they can’t get any real work done. Mountain Lion will have both the traditional file system and the iCloud file sync, but it remains to been seen if the version after it leaves just the iCloud way or keeps both.
Some assume that if they went iOS on the desktop that it would be terrible because they are extrapolating iOS on the iPad in their mind. Clearly, Apple would think about what to change just as they did going from the iPhone to the iPad. It seems totally possible to me that by aligning UI elements where it makes sense, you can then just call it iOS for the desktop because underneath, it’s just OS X without the Mac desktop UI, which has been referred to as simple “OS X" all along. Like the iPad extended the iPhone OS rather than simply scale it up, I can easily imagine taking it to the desktop would similarly extended iOS to something that makes sense. Given where Lion has taken OS X and the coming changes in Mountain Lion, it seems we’re very nearly there.
I see Mountain Lion as being the thing that iOS device customers see and realize that their desktop computer could be as enjoyable as their iPad and be instantly familiar rather than something that they believe is similar enough to Windows as to not merit considering.
Computer geeks who talk about this stuff still don’t realize that most people don’t want infinite options or a lot of computer geek legacy baggage —- they just want simple. iOS on the desktop, assuming it were extended to do more things, would be fine for them. I think it would be possible for there to be such an iOS for Macs with an OS X for the geeks. Of course, there’s really no need for all that. I think Mountain Lion is going to try to see if you could put both together. Geeks have no problem with complex, so just fire up Terminal and have at it.
The fear is that Apple will finally lock out the geeks at some point. I’ve thought about it. Will I one day not be able to install some open source things or a LaTeX system? One thought is that open source projects could apply for code signing certificates, assuming that the terms aren’t incompatible with their own license terms. Certainly, there will still need to be some app development scheme, so at worst, it seems that I might have to become a paying developer to get under the tent to do all my geekery. This might not be that big a deal since I’m likely headed that way anyhow for iOS development.
Of course, I can see Apple going the other way, where they mix OS X and iOS for consistency, then one day, OS X becomes OS XI and there’s no unification. Apple would probably even have one of their corny ads for it saying “the new OS is here, and this one goes to 11".