TMO Short Take -- iNET (not .NET): Apple?s Next Digital-Hub Application

He who lets the world choose his plan of life for him, has no need of any other faculties than the one of imitation. He who chooses his plan for himself, employs all his faculties.

John Stuart Mill

The reasonable man adapts himself to the world; the unreasonable one persists in trying to adapt the world to himself. Therefore all progress depends on the unreasonable man.

George Bernard Shaw

After a few months of daily and exclusive use of Mac OS X, I have had time to dream up a wish list of what Iid like to see in the OS X world. They all fill in the gaps that I see in the X experience. For example, Iive already argued for a tuned-up AppleWorks as one of the next "iApps."

Like you, Iid like to see the return of spring-loaded folders (coming soon, according to the rumor mongers), as well as a beefed-up, along with the revival of features like random desktop pictures and other design flourishes that made OS 9 such a fan favorite, but, that isnit what is most important to my Mac usage.

I work in a Windows world, and I would love to be able to connect my Mac to the PC world and use my iBook as a mainstream laptop. OS X boasts the ability to do such things, for example, with the inclusion of SMB support with the advent of OS X 10.1**.

I "play" with Windows-using friends. Iid love to be able to take my iBook over to a PC-useris home, plug my Mac into their network and commence to networking, file sharing and flat out "geeking out," without having to jump the hurdles of cross-platform connectivity. Sure, this can be done with todayis OS X, but not in a single window, the way you can handle your pictures within iPhoto, your music within iTunes, and your video within iMovie and iDVD.

What is missing from Appleis arsenal of digital-hub applications is an easy-to-use networking application, complete with the intuitive, minimalist interface Apple is becoming known for... again. Like I said, OS X already has networking functionality, but what is needed is a networking application that allows any Mac user to easily connect a Mac to a Windows network or just to a Windows PC.

There are already applications out there like Thursby Systemsi Dave software, that give more features than the OS X built-in PC-networking support**. But it shouldnit be any problem for Apple to build on both Dave and OS X. And there shouldnit be any cry from developers whose interests may be jeopardized by such an Apple effort. After all, there were plenty of photo applications out there, but iPhoto was hailed as a much-needed program. Ditto for iTunes, iMovie and

Apple could just purchase Dave and "Aqua-fy" it into a killer-networking app. And while theyire at it, Apple could include a built-in VPN client (for remote connection to corporate networks via PPTP). Again, just because there are already apps out there for features like this doesnit mean that Apple canit put one out (for VPN, for example, look at the shareware "PiePants")

Side point: What I am suggesting is the same thing that Microsoft is being pilloried for by its competitors. I didnit think about it until I started writing this column, but there are many Mac users I talk with who are wanting Apple to design additional applications to take on digital-hub tasks. Then again, Microsoft is trying to bundle everything into the OS. I am arguing for an application that does the networking, not a feature-laden OS that does everything. In addition, Microsoftis sin is not in adding features to the OS, but in adding features to the OS designed to lock out competition when they have monopoly power. That is the difference between Appleis situation and that of Microsoft.

Networking is a missing link in Appleis digital-hub strategy. Correction: easy-to-use- and easy-to-set-up networking is whatis missing from the digital hub. More correction: there is no one-stop spot for networking cross-platform. Apple can provide this for Mac users as a right-out-of-the-box experience, hopefully at no detriment to developers who currently provide such software functionality. Regardless, it is needed. When Steve Jobs announced version 10.1 of OS X, he hailed its inclusion of SMB support as the means to make the Mac a first-class citizen on Windows networks.

But, the Mac isnit quite in the first-class section yet.

I hope that Apple isnit closing the book on its creation of iApps, because I like to think that Iive proven that the hub still has missing elements. Kudos to them for the bunch oi apps they have currently, but "digital lifestyle" comprises more than music, video and photo. Digital means, to me, networking, first and foremost, be it cross-Mac or cross-platform. Therefore, a networking iApp is needed.

This is a million-dollar idea that I will give to Apple for free. Then again, now that I have said it, it will probably never happen :-)

OS X already allows the user to connect to a PC network:
1) enable file sharing on the PC(s)
2) Connect to the PC server from the Mac (select Go --> Connect to Server from the Finder)
3) To connect to the PC, enter the IP address or computer name, preceded by smb:// -- smb:// or smb://iBrothais iBook

Rodney O. Lain puts OS X desktop pics on his work PC every chance he gets. When he isnit trying to Mac-ify his IBM ThinkPad, Rodney writes the occasional editorial for The Mac Observer. By day, he is an unassuming IT supervisor for a Fortune 50 company somewhere in Minnesota; by night, he fights the never ending battle for truth, justice and the Macintosh Way as The Mac Observeris "iBrotha."