Saturday, October 09, 2010

So what's next for Mac OSX?

I've been using Macs for a long time now; for the last couple years, a Mac has been my primary machine. Let me start with this so you don't think I am either a Mac fanboy or an apologist. I am not under any misconceptions about the Mac platform in the Enterprise - a Mac is as frustrating to use in a corporate environment as Windows is to use at home. The primary driver for the frustration is the lack of tools and services designed to be used with anything other than Windows. That these corporate services are made by Microsoft might have something to do with this, but that's how Microsoft makes money - one division rubs the others' back. Support for other platforms is an after-thought, and rightly so - Windows owns 90% of the enterprise. I forgive Microsoft for this "protectionism"; what baffles me is Open Source applications don't work on Mac as well as they sometimes do on Windows.

Let's take Eclipse for example. Or Firefox. Or, well name an Open Source app that is cross-platform that actually treats the Mac as a first class citizen. New Firefox features are first designed for Windows. Eclipse is a DOG on my Mac (it has 4GB of RAM and a 2.2 GHz processor). NetBeans, Wireshark, etc.; the list is endless. You must wonder why I endure rather than get a PC...

Well, I have started having a crisis of confidence in my choice too. For many people like me that have used Windows 7, the gap between the 2 platforms is fast closing. My Mac is almost 5 years old, which means it will soon be time for me to buy a new laptop. With what I know about Windows, the $500 plus dollars I can save at the checkout register by picking PC (Sony Vaio for instance) is tempting. The buzz around Windows 8 is slowly picking up too, and I don't know much about what's going to be in there, but that team has the wind behind its sails. It's not like Steven Sinofsky to squander the momentum that the Windows team has picked up with the 7 release (he ran Office, and we know that's a slam-dunk). I want Apple to give me a sign, to show me something that keeps me from jumping ship. What does that sign need to be? Glad you asked; here's my categorized wish list for Mac OS 10.7:

I. Platform features
1. Resiliency
A single rogue application shouldn't bring the OS to its knees. Flash in Firefox and Eclipse both have a way of deadlocking my Mac to the point where I have to hard reset my box. If an application does get into an unusable state, there needs to be an always available "Force Quit" menu or a magic key combination like Ctrl+Alt+Del that lets me identify and kill the hung app.

2. Crash Recovery
I made this suggestion to the Windows team a few years ago but they had bigger fish to fry - Application hibernation. The feature has been implemented to some degree in iOS and Android - this is how the state of background applications is saved and how crashed applications are restored. The idea is simple - periodically, the state of all your currently executing applications is saved (usually on your hard drive) so that if they unexpectedly crash or the machine reboots or they need to be forcefully killed, you can recover all the information and resume from where you last left off. How many of you have lost that all important presentation or document or paper due to a reboot. This video might resonate with you:

Ellen Feis is a cult figure for all the wrong reasons, but her point remains. An OS crash shouldn't make me lose all my work.

3. Integration with Cloud services
Either Apple's new cloud services or those of a provider like AWS (Apple is not about to get in bed with Azure). It's about time that I can backup my data via Time-Machine to S3 or equivalent service. I don't want to entrust a 3rd party with this task; I trust Apple more than I trust some Joe-Schmo development house.

4. Reduced boot time < 5sec Load only the absolutely essential services at boot-up. Opportunistically load the other services based on the user's usage. By streamlining boot-up, fewer people will feel the need to leave their Macs running (even in Sleep mode, the Mac consumes power). If boot-up was almost instantaneous, and the state of all my apps was saved so that I could resume from where I left off, I would never leave my Mac on.

5. Better Java support
Apple, in its infinite wisdom, has decided to vet all Java releases rather than let Sun release the Java Virtual Machine for Mac along with its releases for Windows and Linux. What this means is that the Mac platform usually lags behind its counterparts when it comes to Java support. Apple, stop trying to do too much; let Sun/Oracle release Virtual Machines for Mac. With HotSpot, they definitely know what they are doing. Focus on your core competency - building great UI for the classes.

II. iOS, Mac OS. How does it matter?
Bring a few cool features of the iOS platform to Mac OS. Enable a few features that allow the 2 operating systems to talk to one another seamlessly. Blur the lines so that customers of either can barely tell them apart.

1. Wifi Sync - I should be able to sync my content over Wifi between my laptop and iOS devices and vice-versa. Even I have the Internet now, and even when I didn't, I had not one but two wireless routers in my house. The Zune had Wifi Sync Circa 2008!

2. Native iOS Emulation/iOS Virtual Machine
Like Classic Mode and Rosetta, OS X.7 should have an iOS mode that can run iOS applications. This would enable the native execution of all my iOS applications in a specialized virtual machine. Apple could engineer this Virtual Machine to be aware of its host operating system and apply a slew of optimizations that make the iOS mode run at > 90% efficiency. Can you imagine playing Angry Birds or some of the EA games you downloaded for your iPad with enhanced graphics? I have numerous friends who swear by their iPad applications, RSS readers and the like. With iOS applications costing a fraction of their Mac OS counterparts, people will buy apps rather than pirating them, enabling more sales from the App Store. And Profit.

3. Facetime for Mac OS
'Nuff said.

4. Backup and Restore from an older version a la iPhone backup
Tied to the Cloud Sync services, I should be able to save an image of my operating system to either the cloud or to a backup drive. In the event that I get hit by a virus or I get a new hard-drive, I should be able to restore my entire computer to an older, known good state. It's unclear whether this option exists in Time Machine today, but it isn't surfaced enough for a computer nerd like me to know of it.

I almost made it to 10. What features would you like to see in the next Mac OS?

1 comment:

  1. Loved reading this! I actually felt like I understood what you were saying for the most part, unlike other hi-tech blogs :)

    I've not actually download lion yet, but I think some of these things are included . So good job!