Apple’s hosting various members of the tech press for an event titled “Back to the Mac.” The invitation, whose cover image sports a lion, indicates that the next version of the Mac OS — presumably Mac OS X 10.7 Lion — will be previewed, amongst other announcements.
I have no inside sources.
What could Apple have up its sleeves for the next iteration of OS X? Sure, Steve Jobs & Co will tell us that it’s X times faster than ever before, that it packs more than100 new features, and that sort of thing. But what will the tent-poles be?
Cloudy With a Chance of Storage
One hypothesis is that Apple will finally embrace “the cloud” — the notion of Internet-based storage that’s always available — system-wide. What would that look like in OS X? The answer is easy, because it already exists, just via add-ons not baked directly into the OS.
Dropbox provides the single best cloud-storage solution around. You drop files and folders into your Dropbox folder, and they magically show up on all your other computers that use Dropbox. You can share files and folders with other Dropbox-using friends. It’s reliable, requires essentially no configuration or maintenance, and just works.
Apple currently offers a similar product, in the form of Mobile Me’s iDisk. iDisk works fine, but a Mobile Me subscription is $100 a year.So what could “better cloud computing” at the OS level mean? iPhoto automatically hosting your photos with Apple, with an option to avoid leaving the originals on your hard drive? I don’t see why such a change — or a cloud/subscription-based approach to iTunes — would require an OS upgrade.
If Apple’s going to better embrace the cloud with 10.7, I don’t quite see how it could, with one possible exception: If Apple offers iDisk for free, or creates a full free tier of Mobile Me service, that could be a significant move. Like the iPhoto cloud concept, a free iDisk wouldn’t require a new version of the OS, but with free, ubiquitous iDisk storage for Macs, the OS could conceivably offer more and better hooks everywhere.
Other OS upgrades seem inevitable: While I’d love to see a complete iChat makeover, I think integration with iOS’s FaceTime protocol is a gimme. I’d love to be able to “call” my family from my iPod touch and video chat with them as they huddle around Lauren’s MacBook.
Pie In The Sky
While I think it’s very unlikely, I’d love to see Apple revisit Dashboard. The concept — rip off Konfabulator, make attractive desktop widgets containing useful information — was solid. The implementation, though, remains laughable: Trigger the Dashboard, wait a couple seconds for the widgets to update, get the information eventually. I want my widgets right on the desktop without a hack. I doubt I’ll ever get it, but a man can dream.
I’d also like to see Safari not bog down the entire OS after running for a while.
And I know we’ve debated the notion of true multitouch computers for a long time, and there’s currently no sane way to do it without leading to very tired arms. But there’s something there, and don’t be surprised when Apple figures it out first.
Smarter, better-informed pundits than I have suggested that a MacBook Air revamp is coming on October 20th, too. There’s a lot of that Apple could do with that thin form factor and that concept.
I remember some Mac rumormongers ended up disappointed that the original Air didn’t include free, “always-on” 3G Internet service, like the Kindle does. But let’s remember that no one surfs the web on a Kindle more than once or twice; you only use that 3G connection for buying books. Apple might subsidize a 3G connection if you could only use it to buy stuff from iTunes and the Apple Store, but that’s obviously not happening.
I can, however, conceive of some major re-imagining of multitouch on the Air. A bigger trackpad, new gestures, and maybe some touchscreen options? I’d drool over some Frankenstein monster hybrid between an Air and an iPad — a thin laptop that could also run iOS apps with a true touchscreen. I don’t know how to build it right, but maybe Steve does.