As Apple Moves From OS X to MacOS, What's in Store for Users?

We're geting fairly strong indications now that Apple is going to rebrand "OS X" (formerly "Mac OS X") as "MacOS." This would, in name, bring about a pleasant synchronization with tvOS, iOS, and watchOS. But more to the point, rebranding both suggests and offers the opportunity for significant change. What might be in store for Apple's customers?

I must admit that I am a dreamer and a futurist. I keep looking for pleasant and big changes in my favorite OS, still called OS X. When I read about some buried "macOS" strings in an El Capitan framework, I wasn't convinced. However, when it gets to the level of an Apple environmental webpage, and the emphasis is on the proper noun, "Macintosh", and we see the new use of the term "MacOS," then I'm starting to be swayed. 9to5Mac lays it all out here: "Apple hints at future ‘MacOS’ name change on new environmental webpage."

Coincidentally, this is the time of year when we start thinking about what features Apple might announce for the next version of OS X at Apple's Worldwide Developer Conference (WWDC) in June.

Recall that OS X Yosemite was a bit problematic. It introduced a lot of new features, many of which didn't get used and others failed to operate reliably, such as AirDrop to iOS. Wi-Fi networking issues plagued early versions, as did Continuity.

El Capitan was ostensibly designed to be a maintenance release and fix some troubling issues in the same manner as the previous Snow Leopard release. In my estimation, it has done that. El Capitan on my Mac Pro has been a blessing. One might expect, therefore that the next version of OS X, perhaps rebranded as "MacOS" will introduce some exciting new, fundamental features. What's listed next is a mixture of what I think is reasonable and represents grand challenges, not just throw-away features.

1. Version name. I've seen many suggestions, but the ones I personally like are: Mojave, Monterey, Sequoia and Big Sur in that order.

2. Siri on Mac. We've been hearing about this for years, but it never happened. I think that with pressure from Microsoft's Cortana now in common use and the Siri technical and UI issues worked out, we'll finally get Siri on the Mac. From Digital Trends:

According to the source, Siri will reside in a menubar icon in the upper-right hand corner of the user’s Mac, next to the Spotlight and Notification Center icons. When active, it will be represented by a dark, transparent interface, much like those found in iOS 9 and tvOS. Users can activate it the digital assistant by clicking, or through a user-defined keyboard shortcut.

3. Better Handling of Secure Erase/Empty Trash. In El Capitan, Apple had to give up the pretense that Secure Empty Trash worked properly with Flash memory. A Flash memory controller technique called wear leveling tends to prevent full erasure, and private data can linger, unwanted in Flash (and SSD) storage systems.

The iPhone encrypts data with a hardware key, and that key is kept in a special memory location, exempt from wear leveling, called effaceable memory. Delete the key there, (with a Reset) and it's really gone, and all that's left is scrambled, encrypted data in the rest of the storage. One way to fix the OS X/Flash memory problem is to always encrypt the Flash storage and add effaceable storage. That way, Mac owners, like iPhone owners, can feel safe when they sell their (Flash-based) Macs.

4. A New Filesystem Architecture. HFS+ is very old, going back to 1998 and Classic Mac OS 8.1 and lacks many modern features desirable in a modern filesystem. We've been waiting for Apple to modernize it for years. Perhaps now is the time.

In my opinion, Apple would likely not adopt one of the popular, modern Linux/UNIX filesystems but brew its own superset of HFS+, perhaps called HFS++. The advantages of course are control, freedom from any licensing issues, and backwards compatibility with HFS+. One can, Obi Wan, only hope. Or maybe rethink the filesystem altogether. Apple is prone to make giant leaps that way, and we love them for it.

5. Fix the Dreaded iTunes. While not a strictly OS X thing, this possible rebranding might also be an opportunity to come out with a new version of iTunes. Apple might go the iPhoto to Photos route and give us a suite of apps: Tunes, Sync, and Movies (which would include all videos, TV shows, etc.) I've seen rumors that Apple is working on this. Just don't expect the playback apps to be separated from the iTunes Store and Apple Music.

I"ve seen a few other minor. fanciful ideas, but the truth is that OS X is a very mature OS. Adding features for the sake of coolness just introduces more bugs, weighs the OS down, and keeps it from "just working." And so, in my mind, the things worth doing are the Big Things listed above that will make life fundamentally better, not just add a list of gizmos. Now is the time.

Next page: The Tech News Debris for the Week of April 11th: The end of apps?

The Tech News Debris for the Week of April 11th


Apple is working on a next generation version of Safari. It's available now as the Safari Technology Preview. While intended for developers, you can experiment with it and run it side-by-side with the current version even if you're not an Apple developer. (The Tech Preview has a purple icon.) Read about it here: "Introducing Safari Technology Preview."

Another thing Apple is working on is the adoption of WebRTC into WebKit, the final nail in the coffin of Adobe's Flash. Read about it here, as Computerworld's Jonny Evans explains: "5 reasons Apple’s stealthy WebRTC adoption benefits everybody."

Have you been wondering what Laurene Powell-Jobs has been doing lately? She's been working to "...find and develop designs for the next generation of high schools. She announced last year that she would be contributing $50 million to the effort." Here's the story: "Laurene Powell-Jobs says prototype of future classroom to hit the road this month."

So, if you thought the iPad Pro 10 is just a smaller version of the iPad Pro 13, you might want to check this out. "Display expert: The 9.7-inch iPad Pro's color accuracy is 'visually indistinguishable from perfect'." The question is, will the advanced in the display Apple is making translate into user appreciation and demand? I expect they will.

Image credit: Apple

We hear a lot about the emergence of supercomputer-based intelligent agents that could, someday, rival human intellect in every respect. At that point, if they are designed correctly, these machines could actually assist humans with many aspects of our own evolution, genetic and intellectual. Even so, are there uniquely human skills that machines may never duplicate? Here's an interesting discussion: "Are humans the new supercomputer?"

Finally, with more than 1.5 million apps in Apple's App Store, where does it all end? Long before now, customers have struggled to search for and identify useful apps and learn to exploit them for some advantage. What if, someday soon, that could all change? What if, for example, the only app you'll ever need in the future, besides games, is a chatbot that acts as your intermediary to all the Internet's wealth of information? The self-contained app could end up being a dinosaur.

This wave is just beginning. And despite its overused, cliched and ancient origins, for some reason, I keep thinking back to Apple's Knowledge Navigator concept video. That's the Holy Grail of computing, Star Trek style, not a myriad of apps on an iPhone—in my view. Here's an introduction to the concept. "Facebook is playing a dangerous game with Apple."

Read that, then watch the classic Apple concept video from the late 1980s and see if you'd rather sit and fuss with apps for the rest of your days. 



Particle Debris is a generally a mix of John Martellaro's observations and opinions about a standout event or article of the week (preamble on page one) followed by a discussion of articles that didn't make the TMO headlines, the technical news debris. The column is published most every Friday except for holidays.