Apple is Slighting Mac OS X at WWDC. Will it Matter?

| Editorial

Apple has all hands on deck for a discussion of iPhone OS, the iPhone and iPad at WWDC 2010. There won’t be a lot of fanfare over Mac OS X. With 50 million iPhones out there and 1 million iPads sold in 28 days, it makes perfect sense. Here’s why we don’t need to worry about Mac OS X and Macs.

Remember that Apple’s World Wide Developer Conference is not a public event. Only registered Apple developers are invited to attend. And to get those developers excited, Apple focuses on the hot topic: how can developers learn more about the technologies that will make them Big Money.

Moscone West

Credit: Apple, Inc.

I’ve attended WWDC for 17 years now, missing only one in that period, and I can tell you that focusing on the hot technical area, and causing many to fret about other neglected technical areas, is not new to Apple.

When I was at Apple, I know that Apple lost money every year on this event. (That may have changed since.) Apple accepts that because developers (say it fast, three times) are the lifeblood of Apple’s products. If, somehow, developers ever got the slightest notion that the upcoming WWDC would be just another boring conclave of techno geeks discussing the latest Cocoa APIs, then there would be a massive, collective sigh of ennui. Attendance might not beat last year’s. Mr Jobs would be looking at empty chairs. And the press, invited to the keynote address only, might photograph those empty chairs. For all practical purposes, WWDC, while not a publicly atended event, is still an important showcase for Apple. Some shrewd lighting up of the feverish crowd of entrepreneurs — some of Apple’s biggest boosters — is called for.

Also remember that most consumers don’t pay as much attention to the Apple technical community as we here at TMO do. They just come home from the Apple store with their goodies and enjoy them. Of those who are avid readers of the Mac Web, not many of them pay a lot of attention to WWDC’s technical aspects because, duh, they’re not developing.

By the way, that’s why those of us who cover WWDC and are under NDA for the technical content try to bring you a more complete picture of what’s happening there. For example, keynote coverage and commentary, interviews, news from developers, and so on. I’ll be doing an encore of my developer interviews that I did last year.

All in all, Mac OS X developers will have their opportunities. One of the big ones is the developer labs for Mac OS X where developers can sit down with an Apple engineer, compile their code and look at problems, performance issues, and other gotchas that are hard to solve from a distance. This is a major reason for Mac OS X developers to sign up, even if the majority of technical sessions cover the iPhone/iPad.

Of course, the opportunities for developers to socialize and maybe even talk business with each other is vital. Important things happen in the halls of Moscone West, but some equally important things happen in business meetings in those hotel rooms.

Finally, you may hear that this signals the end of Mac OS X as a living, growing operating system. That’s nonsense. Mac OS X and iPhone OS are intimately tied together. Advances in one affect the other. Also, remember that Macs will be around for millions of customers for another decade. You need a Mac right now to:

  • Sync and back up your iPad, iPhone and iPod
  • Develop apps for the above
  • Make movies
  • Write a novel
  • Manage your iTunes and photo library
  • Manage your money
  • Compute and file your taxes
  • Run Windows even better than a PC
  • And about a thousand other vital things we do with Macs.

If you hear someone say that this year’s iPhone OS emphasis means the death of Mac OS X or that Apple is giving up on the Mac OS X OS, just ignore them. Recently, Mr. Jobs was asked about unfounded rumors that Apple would convert Mac OS X 10.7 to an app store model in which Apple would have to approve apps. His one word answer was “Nope.” I am confident that the same answer applies to any crazy ideas about abandoning or deprecating Mac OS X.

All that you need to know is that Apple’s amazing marketing machine depends on self-inflicted frenzy and expectations. Getting developers wound up about the financial prospects of mobile computing for the next decade and growing the conference size and importance is crucial. Apple always hits the ground running at WWDC with the Thing that’s most important for the near term. Right now, that’s iPhone OS. 

Oh, and one more thing. Chances are, you’re reading this on a Mac.



Don Carlile

Nope.  My iPad.  All your other comments are accurate, however.  That’s why, as a Mac os x developer, i’m going to wwdc.

Lee Dronick

It might mean that there will not be a major revision of OSX this year. Developers can write for the iPad and iPhone without worrying about big changes in OSX creating a lot of work for them.

Disclaimer: I am not a “developer” though I have an Apple Developer account, for this story I am mostly a kibitzer.


It might mean that there will not be a major revision of OSX this year.

You could see this one coming light-years away.  I personally don’t see a major rev to X coming until late 2011, ready for sale at MW 2012.

Right now I’m perfectly happy with 10.6 and can’t imagine any new features that I just gotta have and can’t wait nearly two more years to get.


Lee Dronick

Right now I?m perfectly happy with 10.6 and can?t imagine any new features that I just gotta have and can?t wait nearly two more years to get.

I bet that Steve Jobs has though of features that we just gotta have. However, as you say late next year, or perhaps the late summer when new iPads may need the new features in OSX.


Points well taken, John. Certainly not the beginning of the end (or whatever) of OS X, but most definitely on hold for now. Personally I would like to see Apple host another developer conference later in the year for Mac OS, but seriously doubt that’s in the cards.

As an aside, I prefer the techno remix. smile

Mark Hernandez

To help us understand what Apple’s thinking is here, I think it would be interesting to consider what Apple would/could do to OS X next? 

Aren’t OS X developers still working on standing on the shoulders of the 64-bit OpenCL-accelerated infrastructure that Apple has just provided?  We now have a supercomputer-class hardware and software infrastructure that’s still being taken up by developers as we speak.

The only thing, then, that Apple might bring to OS X would be a refreshed and more advanced human interface. And even if they had one ready to provide, what would be the potentially conflicting impact of advancing the desktop interface just as you started advancing the next wave of computing devices based on a touch interface?

My point is, when we stop and think about what Apple might introduce next for OS X, it might be even clearer to us that it makes perfect sense (as this article points out) to keep their laser focus on the mobile space for now, which is currently in overdrive, with a lot of chihuahuas coming up fast and snipping at their feet.


As a Mac Devs for 20 some years, we’re packing up shop and moving to something less prone to the winds of fashion or whims of Steve.  I’ve never understood why so many people pay thousands of dollars to go to WWDC even though they don’t write or even sell software.  As Mac Devs we can’t afford to go anymore.  Have fun?


Well, Apple DID say they were slowing down the pace of OSX releases to at least 18 month intervals. How old is Snow Leopard again?

Brad Cook

My 2 cents: Apple is going to wean consumers away from OS X to iPhone OS-based devices. Who’s to say Apple won’t release the iPad in larger form factors? Why can’t they get the iLife apps running on them?

Sure, HD space is an issue, but you can just store your data in the cloud and access it from anywhere.

For a consumer who wants to do digital video and photos, read and write email, surf the web, watch movies, listen to music, and play games, why can’t Apple enable them to do all of that on an iPhone OS-based device?  (Okay, I’ll leave aside the Flash issue for the moment.)

Then Apple can leave OS X to software developers, people who need to do hardcore video work with Final Cut Studio, pro digital photographers, etc. They can keep the Mac Pro tower refreshed for those folks, and maybe even eliminate the iMac and Mac mini. Why couldn’t an iPad replace the consumer desktops?

So it’s not about killing OS X and replacing it with the iPhone OS; it’s about a gradual shift toward the latter in the consumer space, where Apple can maintain control. If your average consumer doesn’t get up in arms over it, then Apple could pull it off. And, no, I don’t think the average TMO reader = the average Apple consumer.


What does Mac OS X need right now that would require a new version?  Snow Leopard could certainly be a more solid.  (I’ve never had so much trouble with a version of OS X!)

I suspect Apple will watch how (& where) the iPhone OS goes and return the best to OS X.  Maybe with the focus in the capabilities of their laptops’ touchpads.  I imagine Apple will hear plenty from the people who’ve bought an iPhone/iPad/touch first and then a Mac - they’ll be wanting to know why their Mac doesn’t “work like my iPhone”.  maybe . . .


My 2 cents: Apple is going to wean consumers away from OS X to iPhone OS-based devices.

I think in this case, Apple is most certainly following their strongest business growth (and shoring up against the biggest threat from competition).

IPads are really nice, but while they excel at a one-app-at-a-time immersive experience and content consumption, they fall mostly flat at productivity. Could be the portable computer of the future for a lot of folks, but to get there it’s going to have to take on more OS X-like capability.

I suspect Apple will watch how (& where) the iPhone OS goes and return the
best to OS X.

They certainly do have a history of taking good design elements and using it elsewhere. Interesting point about the “why doesn’t it work like my iPhone” comment. We should all remember that the original iPod eventually got whittled down to a single click wheel, thanks to the more popular iPod Mini.

Play Ultimate

OSX and iPhone OS have so many of the same APIs that to talk about one is, in some respects, to talk about the other.  The purpose is to gear up and inform about what is coming. What is coming is iPhone OS 4.0. This is what the developers need to learn about. Also, many of the iPhone Apps are developing sister programs for the Mac (eg. Things, OmniFocus)
Seems like a non-issue.

Brad Cook

IPads are really nice, but while they excel at a one-app-at-a-time immersive experience and content consumption, they fall mostly flat at productivity. Could be the portable computer of the future for a lot of folks, but to get there it?s going to have to take on more OS X-like capability.

Well, yeah, I’m thinking a few years down the line, when Apple has iPads with various screen sizes available, that A4 processor they dumped so much R&D cash into is even more powerful, and the iPhone OS has reached version 5.0, 6.0, etc.

I don’t think Steve is going to hit the stage at WWDC next month and say “The Mac is dead,” nor do I think he’ll ever say that.  I think they’ll simply work on making iPhone OS devices so wonderful to use that consumers will naturally migrate in that direction, where Apple has greater control over the whole widget than they do over OS X.  Then OS X is left to DV editors, VFX people, sw devs, etc.

So, I think this is something Apple hopes will happen naturally (organically, as they say in corporate-speak) over time, rather than something they’ll force by doing something crazy like killing OS X.

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