iOS-ification is Coming. Why It’ll be Good For Us

| Hidden Dimensions

“If you keep chasing yesterday’s question, you’re gonna miss tomorrow’s answer. ” — Don Sabatini

Why are some users fretting about Apple’s plans for the Mac Pro? Why is there angst, in some circles, about iOS-ification? What forces are causing Apple to shift its consumer focus? Let’s dig into this and see what’s going on.

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Once upon a time, companies built computers because there was money to be made by putting computational power into the hands of skilled individuals. In the Apple II days, people who bought them likely were already working with computers at work, and they revelled in the idea of having some computational fun at home. Heck, they could even write some BASIC code, mess with ViciCalc or play Pong.

As home computers became more powerful, they started to inherit the capabilities of the more serious computers we used at work. The difference between a PowerMac G5 running Panther in 2003 and, say, a top end Sun workstation, running Solaris, was not so great.

The possibilites for the home, technical user became enormous. One could write thousands of lines of C code and compile in seconds. One could write a darn good aircraft carrier landing simulator. One could edit video. One could build a 3D model of a molecule and explore its chemistry.

While this was all great fun, and the opportunities sold a lot of Macs (and PCs), the basic structure of the computer limited its marketability. The geek factor of such a computer was still more than many people could deal with. They’d mess around, and many got into trouble. On the other hand, expert users, from their workplace, knew how to keep themselves out of trouble, in terms of malware, as the household transitioned from dial-up to broadband.

When this enormous geek power was thrown against an entrenched Windows market, it thrilled the scientists and engineers, but failed, in general, to catapult the Mac into a major position. The Mac never exceeded single digit marketshare.

Serendipity

What technical users liked about the early Macs was its UNIX underpinnings. The GUI was great, and greatly facilitated exploration and operation, but didn’t get in the way. Apple helped promote this by showcasing the idea that you could have X11 in one window, a terminal in another, Microsoft’s Windows in another and the Finder to round it all out.

Such a system in the hands of an expert user could lead to surprising synergies. Scripts could make the Mac jump through hoops. Clever code could marshall enormous UNIX resources. One could do creative play, explore, build, munge, and revel in trial and error. The Mac was so fast at this point that one could try things never before possible. Who knew what synergy would arise? Oh, such power. Heady stuff.

FOX's Terra Nova

iOS-ification. Even Hollywood believes. (Image Credit: FOX Broadcasting)

Consumerization

Without going into great detail, several forces converged to change all that. Broadband and the public Internet changed the game. Suddenly, personal computing wasn’t about computing. It was about commerce. The iPod brought us a thousand songs in our pocket. Web commerce hatched Amazon. The iPhone brought us mobile apps.

So Apple had to ask itself some interesting questions

  1. What notions are holding us back?
  2. What is the potential market?
  3. What technologies (and issues) in OS X are keeping us from exploiting the consumer market?

Mac OS X is based on BSD UNIX, and UNIX, despite its strengths, constant security audits, good control over user privileges, still needs a little help when it comes to dealing with the severity of threats from all over the Internet. That’s why we have a host of new features like ASLR, digital signatures, sandboxing, and so on to help this OS, born in an innocent era, cope with the constant onslaught of threats.

Doing all that has allowed Apple to provide desirable consumer services. iTunes, the App Store, the Mac App store, and the iBookstore bring in substantial revenue. Apple has 400 million consumer credit cards on file. Apple’s ecosystem promises great looking hardware, easy of use, security, and a boatload of cool products and services, like iCloud. Advances in computational speed and graphics are, naturally, applied to the consumer experience, not esoteric computation for computation’s sake.

iPad & KidsWhat’s happening in those minds? Abstraction level of the iPad is enormous.

Image Credit: Apple

The Source of Concern

Personal computers are used more and more by the masses as consumer oriented devices. We play music on them, watch video, buy books (for reading on an iPad), explore websites that have news or stories of interest. The community watering hole of the Internet has shifted from computation and personal technology to commerce, communication and expression.

Naturally, the focus on the design of OS X has shifted accordingly. The amazing success of the iPad is a guidepost. It tells Apple what the customer wants. Meanwhile, Apple’s under the hood feedback system tells Apple what customers are doing with their Macs. As a result, Apple product managers have a good feeling about problems customers face and what changes need to be made to help them out. Old metaphors like how documents are saved are unable to protect average users from lost work, so changes were introduced. The result has been what we call iOS-ification, the merger of OS X and iOS in many respects.

This bowing at the altar of the consumer has many people who grew up with the Mac, born 28 years ago, concerned.

A Sense of Loss

Ted Landau’s terrific article,”The Splintering of OS X,” explored, for the sake of discussion, some of these issues. How can an OS meet the needs of both the explorers, the experts, the developers, the university researcher and the consumer market? How can we preserve the sense of control, surprise, exploration, OS-level creative activities and preserve the fun, ease of use, security and consumerization of the Mac? The extensive discussion after that article explored this nuance.

It was argued by some that little is to be gained by dwelling the computational past that we grew up with. They think Apple should move forward at a relentless pace and believe that OS X and iOS will merge. It is argued by others that very experienced technical users (and developers) would like to preserve the raw power surfaced to the customer in, say, Snow Leopard, perhaps the pinnacle of the personal UNIX OS.

I was impressed by that body of knowledge the readers created.

By way of compromise, some readers felt that no matter how much iOS-ification there is, experts will always be able to dig in under the hood and access the kinds of computational and OS resources that allows them to have their way with the Mac. Others saw the hand writing on the wall and proposed that the Mac Pro, once a symbol of Apple’s commitment to computational computing, is a dying animal. It will likely be replaced by something of the same name, but with a different commercial focus. Some, in my own experience, realize that to pursue what they may need in academia, they may have to turn to high-end Linux workstations (or even clusters).

Mac Pro RIPMac Pro, R.I.P.  To be gloriously reborn in 2013

Personally, I don’t think that Apple will splinter the OS. One reader suggested a mechanism whereby an admin password might be able to unlock and unleash some previous capabilities. That’s tempting and in keeping with the current model. For example, Apple hasn’t removed the terminal app from Lion, but it’s most assuredly not in the Dock, out of the box. So my take is that Apple will leave expert usage to the experts and march on with the consumer market.

For the small percentage of users, nowadays, who really need to preserve their computational legacy, sense of control, sense of OS exploration and creative, technical play, many options remain. I mentioned some in “6 Ways to Outsmart Apple’s iOS-ification.”

Moving Forward

When Apple’s CEO Tim Cook started his WWDC 2012 keynote presentation, he highlighted some stories about how customers are benefiting from the power of Apple technology. The key takeaway from these stories bears directly on this issue and is worth emphasizing.

Ever higher levels of OS and framework abstraction provide increasingly higher levels of technology, solutions and customer benefits. This is how Apple moves relentlessly forward.”

In other words, those decades of computational development have now produced an enormously higher level of computer utilization thanks to layers of abstraction. This has led to geofences, GPS assistace for the blind, scientific visualization on the iPad and Siri just to name just a few.

As for me, knowing that I have resources, that there are some very smart developers and technologists out there, knowing that there will always be apps outside the Mac App Store unbridled by the sandbox, that other smart people will tunnel into any sufficiently complex OS and provide us with endless geek fun, I’m ready to move on. I’m not going to worry about iOS-ification anymore. Instead, I look forward to what we can achieve with our Macs and iPads.

We’ve lost a little but gained a lot. It’s time to stop fretting about iOS-fication and move forward smartly, see where it can lead.

Comments

Lee Dronick

Just subscribing to the coming conversation, time for my lunch.

geoduck

My new MacBook Pro arrived yesterday. It was my first exposure to Lion. I stayed on Snow Leopard because I’d heard about how dumbed down and locked out Lion was. I’d heard about all the bugs and compatibility issues there were. I’ve seen articles all over about “How to Do XXX in Lion” with the implication that Apple had taken something essential away. Articles like your 6-Ways to Outsmart Apple’s iOSIfication fed my impression that all this was a bad thing. That Apple was turning it’s back on what made a Macintosh a Macintosh. I think I’ve written as much here and elsewhere.

Well, you know what?  I was wrong. Much to my astonishment I really like Lion. I was very dubious but I like Launchpad a lot better than how I hunted down Apps before. Sure some things are hidden by default but so far (OK <24 hours) that hasn’t been a problem. The only Apps that I am having trouble with are older ones I needed to upgrade anyway. It works and looks great. I’m looking forward to Mountain Lion in a few weeks. It should be even better.

If this is iOSification then I have no problem with it. Mac OS changed a lot from OS 6 to 7 and then when 9 went to OS-X. Macintosh changes to fit the times. This is just another evolution.

Lee Dronick

I was very dubious but I like Launchpad a lot better than how I hunted down Apps before. Sure some things are hidden by default but so far (OK <24 hours) that hasn?t been a problem.

Organize some into folders, applications that are related such as Creative Suite. Speaking of which

The only Apps that I am having trouble with are older ones I needed to upgrade anyway

It seems every time that I upgrade OSX then Creative Suite apps don’t play well and I need to upgrade them where other apps work fine. I am looking for alternatives. I dropped DreamWeaver and started using Coda. I have been using Pages instead of InDesign, and I am considering Acorn to replace PhotoShop. I understand that Adobe also has to make money and if they don’t sell upgrades then they are not making as much. However, see to me on features and not on bugs.

Anyway, I like Lion and feels strange when I have to use an older version of OSX.

geoduck

Anyway, I like Lion and feels strange when I have to use an older version of OSX.

Agreed One thing that I was most concerned about was how the scrolling was upside down. You scroll like you do on an iPad, not opposite like you do on Classic Mac. However, in the end it took me like a minute to get used to it. I just makes more sense.

Organize some into folders

In Snow Leopard I did that. Applications Folder, containing a Games Folder, Graphics Folder, etc. I’m setting up Launchpad the way my iPod Touch and iPhone are, with screens for Commonly Used Apps, Less Commonly Used Apps, and Things I don’t access Much, the latter being things like QuickTime that I don’t open but files and other apps do. Also on that screen is the Utilities folder. This just feels right.

ilikeimac

I was very dubious but I like Launchpad a lot better than how I hunted down Apps before.

I fail to see how Launchpad is an improvement over “hunthing down apps” in the Finder, assuming you’re clever enough to put the Apps folder on your Dock and aren’t in the habit of storing apps elsewhere. I suppose Launchpad is better looking, but it’s no more productive that tools that were already available.

Like most power users I far prefer keyboard-based app launching. Specifically, I use Butler.

graxspoo

The biggest problem I have with their direction is that they want to hide the file system. Steve Jobs spent a lot of time on this in one of his last keynotes. While it makes a lot of sense on a cellphone, for a desktop doing this severely hampers the flexibility of how you put together your workflows. Most ‘pro’ workflows involve multiple apps and multiple file types. So far Apple’s workaround for this sort of thing has been pretty shallow and lame… For example, your image browser now has an explicit “send in an email” button. Great, so now rather than using a single program (the Finder or Terminal or Automater) to wire together the steps of my workflow, each app has to have custom coded connections to each other app. This is not a step in the right direction. I understand that in many ways the file system is an antique concept, but rather than just hiding it, it needs a more powerful replacement. So far Apple doesn’t seem to have the creative brilliance to pull this off. I’m not saying it will never happen, but thus far, I am not impressed. In fact, I’m mostly depressed.

Lancashire-Witch

Steady there geoduck.

Lion is fine now we are on 10.7.4; but a year ago it was a different story.  Yes, I quite like many Lion features like Mission Control and full-screen apps; but the early issues were a pain from keyboard and trackpad connection problems to excessive paging.

I’m not going to be in the same rush to install Mountain Lion. I’ll be waiting for 10.8.1

Bosco (Brad Hutchings)

Iosification made for much funnier titles of these articles.

davidneale

One thing that I was most concerned about was how the scrolling was upside down. You scroll like you do on an iPad, not opposite like you do on Classic Mac. However, in the end it took me like a minute to get used to it.

And if you can’t get used to it, change it back to the old way in System Preferences. When I think of the nonsense that has been written about how bad Lion is and how you can’t do this and can’t do that anymore. Jeez. Lion offers options for just about everything it “changed” and offers some superb extras, such as automatic versions. As for the Launchpad, again, if you don’t like it (I don’t) then don’t use it (I don’t). You have the option, for heaven’s sake.

graxspoo

When I think of the nonsense that has been written about how bad Lion is and how you can?t do this and can?t do that anymore. Jeez. Lion offers options for just about everything it ?changed? and offers some superb extras, such as automatic versions.

Someone please tell me how I get the old window resizing back. The Lion way is too fidgety. Or, give us visible resize handles the way Windows does.

ilikeimac

As for the Launchpad, again, if you don?t like it (I don?t) then don?t use it (I don?t). You have the option, for heaven?s sake.

Absolutely. I have no problem ignoring new features I don’t need or don’t like. I’m just surprised to hear someone say they considered Launchpad an improvement over their former method of launching apps. I’ll allow that it helps novices to separate the concepts of “Launching an app” and “Opening a file” to put different interfaces on them, but functionally, it’s no better than viewing your applications folder in icon view or on the Dock in grid view.

skipaq

On the matter of Iosification of OSX, that is going to continue. But this is different than splintering OSX. That would to three or more operating systems rather than what is ongoing. The desktop/laptop is mouse and keyboard driven. Mobile devices are touch appliances. Voice operation is only useful in certain applications. Where there is overlap the mobile and desktop/laptop OSes will merge.

graxspoo

I?m just surprised to hear someone say they considered Launchpad an improvement over their former method of launching apps.

Launchpad: Let’s see, a window that has a bunch of icons that abstract the ability to run programs from the actual program install location. Just as originally debuted in Windows 3.1!!!! And they’ve already switched to Windows style window resize. What will they think of next, Minesweeper? Sometimes progress looks a lot like regress.

mrhooks

Lion offers options for just about everything it ?changed?

Not for the one thing that I used in previous OS X versions more than just about anything else: Show All Windows.  More than anything any other change to OS X, I wish Apple would bring that back.  I also hate the new window resizing, and I still have problems with certain folders changing to column view after an Open or Save dialog box appears, as well as having to “lock” the folder view in Cmd-J to prevent it from changing (which doesn’t even work 100% of the time, as I just mentioned).

The window order of Cmd-` has also changed to something weird.  Try opening a bunch of links on a web page in both Lion and SL, and then cycle through them, and you’ll see what I mean.

As for scroll direction, whether one way makes more sense than the other depends on what kind of device you’re using, and whether you imagine it as manipulating the scroll bar, or manipulating the page directly.  I prefer the old way, because I use a mouse wheel and the page up/down keys, and it makes them work the same way.  Also, I have always imagined it as manipulating the scroll bar;  the only way I can imagine it as manipulating the page directly is if I am “touching” the page, a la iPhone.  Even a trackpad is too far removed for me.

The there’s the horrible and completely unnecessary “aesthetic” iOS-ification of iCal and AddressBook.  If they were widgets, they wouldn’t look so out of place.  But not on the regular desktop, where all the other windows look similar to each other.

iJack

?Once upon a time, companies built computers because there was money to be made by putting computational power into the hands of skilled individuals.?

The very people who built the rest of the personal computing/Internet industry into a global phenomenon.  Designed the buildings to house them.  Made movies and wrote books to inform and entertain them.  On and on.

?Suddenly, personal computing wasn?t about computing. It was about commerce.?

Someone else?s reality, not mine.

?Personal computers are used more and more by the masses as consumer oriented devices.?

The masses?  Good gawd, man!  We of the masses have always been the consumers, and the educators, and the creators.  Few of us ?compute.?  We use the best tools we can afford.

?I?m not going to worry about iOS-ification anymore. Instead, I look forward to what we can achieve with our Macs and iPads.?

And what if that turns out to be no more than tweeting , texting home, playing Angry Birds, and the occasional Netflick?  You OK with that?

?We?ve lost a little but gained a lot.?

Your reality, certainly not mine.

?It?s time to stop fretting about iOS-fication and move forward smartly, see where it can lead.?

That sounds suspiciously like ?you?re about to be screwed, so lay back and enjoy it.? 
Not me.  I will not back down.

Do I sound a bit snarky?  I?m not feeling snarky. I?m f**king furious!  Furious with a company whose banner I?ve lugged around for 30 years, mostly in the face of a barrage of insults from the Winblows crowd.  Do they think I can design buildings or plan cities with my fingers, or by telling Siri what I need?  I saw something like this coming the day they switched to Intel processors, and brought that mindless PC crowd along with it.

But mostly, I am furious with the thinkers/reviewers/writers that I depended on to have my back, now that I no longer have the will or the energy to be on the bleeding of this technology myself.  Where is an analysis of why it would not be a good thing?  Why not tell us why the ?consumerization? of the Mac is good for us, the users?  I don?t think you can.  It?s clear that only profits drive Apple, but what is driving you?  You won’t care, but you’ve completely lost my trust.

I got smacked some for a similar, but lesser comment on Landau?s article on Wednesday, and I fully expect repercussions for speaking out here, but Apple seems to have dumped me, why not TMO as well?

Paul Goodwin

I have the latest 10.7 looking and acting as close to Snow Leopard’s user interface as I know how. I’ve only had it a couple of weeks now, so I’m not in tat deep yet. But at least it was simple to set it up to be a familiar space.

I agree on the comment about iCal and Address Book turning into non-standard widget-like things. Standardized application looks and user interfaces are what was great about the Mac. Please, let’s not disassemble that.

And what’s up with the no Save As pull down file menu. Can that be changed in the OS or are we stuck with that bad idea. I don’t want to use the Cloud for document revision control, and it seems that iCloud drove the Save As command to disappear. The focus teams that arrive at conclusions resulting in changes in standard useful features need to go to their rooms and think about it.

Yes, maybe I am resistant to change. I admit it. Changes that provide minimal benefit, cause loss of productivity, or just frustrate the user bother me. It’s rampant in all kinds of businesses. The MS Office Ribbon is my example of the worst software change in the history of personal computing. People fiddling with something that is very very good are dangerous.

I love my iPad; use it more than my iMac. But I don’t want to swipe on the iMac, I don’t want the dumbed down file system, I don’t want or need the cloud doing anything but syncing my mail, contacts, bookmarks and notes, and I don’t want iOSified apps. Cool iOS apps running on the Mac. That’s great if all you need is the simplicity. But when I get on the Mac, I do it when I need to get serious. Many a time I’ve wished I could get a little more serious on the iPad. Like why Notes (with no find function) instead of TextEdit on the iPad.

Again, my request is for more OS Xification of iOS, not the other way around.

Bosco (Brad Hutchings)

But mostly, I am furious with the thinkers/reviewers/writers that I depended on to have my back, now that I no longer have the will or the energy to be on the bleeding of this technology myself.? Where is an analysis of why it would not be a good thing?? Why not tell us why the ?consumerization? of the Mac is good for us, the users?? I don?t think you can.? It?s clear that only profits drive Apple, but what is driving you?? You won?t care, but you?ve completely lost my trust.

There’s not much of a market for what you and I want, which is a passionate, thoughtful take on multi-vendor solutions.

graxspoo

That sounds suspiciously like ?you?re about to be screwed, so lay back and enjoy it.?
Not me.  I will not back down.

I feel you pain, and I feel much the same way. Unfortunately the market forces are clear. Apple sells about a bazillion more i-Doo-dads, than they do Macs. And look, they just turned their “pro” laptop into a (pricey) consumable throw-away with no user serviceable parts inside, and no expansion capabilities. Sorry, but that’s not for me.

Not coincidentally, I just bought the very first PC of my career. Seriously. Over 20 years in the computer industry. All Macs. Until this week. It’s got Ubuntu on it, which has become a lot like OS X, and I can boot into Windows if I need to as well. Apple, are you hearin’ me?

rwahrens

iJack & graxspoo;

Don’t let the door hit you in the butt on the way out, if that’s the way you feel.  Face it, times change, markets change, and Apple, if it wants to continue to sell computers, will have to change too.

I’ve used macs since 1987, and I, too, supported the company through the bad times.  But then, I’ve also managed to struggle my way through the various changes, modifications and alterations of how to use those tools as the OS has grown and matured.

I agree, Snow Leopard is the pinnacle of the personal OS, the stand alone personal computer.  It was, and remains, a great OS.  I use it at work.

But this is, as Steve mentioned, the post-PC world that Apple is creating.  iPads, iPhones and iPod touches dominate Apple’s ecosystem now, and bring in most of its revenue.  Do you seriously expect the computer to remain a stand-alone device?  And do you seriously expect the OS for that device to stand still?

No way.  Apple is clearly moving towards a convergence, not a fragmentation, of OSes.  The functionality of every device in the ecosystem is converging to where that functionality will be effectively similar across the entire system, with only input differences depending on whether you are using an iPhone or an iPad, a laptop or a desktop. 

And eventually, even those differences will probably lessen considerably.

I use several different methods to launch apps.  Launchpad I use occasionally, the dock I use daily, and I open docs as docs (which launches the app) all the time.  I do this depending on what I’m doing at the time, but I do like the way I can launch a app using the Launchpad with only a few swipes on the touchpad on my iMac.  A 27 inch screen is a lot of real estate to maneuver across, and the launchpad makes it easier.  Stuff I use daily is on the dock, where it is quickly available.

I use Mission Control daily, and the swipe with four fingers to change between full screen apps is so damn convenient for workflow that moves between two apps that it is amazing.  It shows the different windows for apps that aren’t full screen and allows rapid app switching that makes past versions of Mac OS look slow and clunky.  I miss it more and more at work, where we use SL, it is now so ingrained in how I work.

Frankly, I am looking forward to not having to think about where to put docs within an increasingly irritating folder-within-folder hierarchy that’s been in use on my computers and migrated across newer and newer versions of Mac OS X since 2002.  It’ll be great if Apple comes up with some way to find docs for me without my having to remember where in the hell I parked that last item.

And if they have a way for them to be available across the entire spectrum of my devices, no matter where I am, then that’s even better!

If you guys want to remain stuck in the past’s jumble of hierarchical folders, then go ahead, keep running Snow Leopard, the rest of us won’t miss you!

Dirt Road

I’ll continue to use OSX as long as it suits my needs. Right now, (still on Snow Leopard with a mid-2007 MacBook), there’s nothing more comfortable. I live and work with one foot in a Unix shell and one foot in Mac GUI heaven. Scripting is what makes me more productive, and I won’t give it up.

But if some future version of OSX ceases to suit my needs, I won’t have a problem moving to something else. That “something else” would probably be some flavor of Linux, as I still don’t see Doze as something that would suit me. At work, I always advocate having an “exit strategy” in case we have to change our primary workflow??and I have one for my personal stuff as well.

Apple can point out that they make their money from hardware. I would point out that if OSX stops being the best choice for me, I have much less incentive to continue buying their hardware.

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