It's Time For a New, Highly Secure OS from Apple That Hosts Both OS X and iOS

I've had some thoughts lately about Apple's OSes. It's all just whimsy, but I like to go where no one else goes. Take a short trip down adventure lane with me.

Apple's OS X, derived from the legacy BSD UNIX (from late 1970s), was born in the mind of Steve Jobs and engineers at NeXT more than 20 years ago. It came to fruition at Apple in March 2001. It was a product of its time. iOS was launched for the iPhone in 2007 and designed for hardware that was one percent the speed of Apple's modern A9 SoC. Perhaps it's finally time to move on to a hybrid OS that can run both. But there's more. And for a reason.


IBM has the lead on Apple with the AI called Watson. It's being used for many projects.

The Birth of an OS

Operating Systems are born on the hardware of their day. For example, the classic 32-bit Mac OS running on a PowerPC chip could never run on an Apple II with an 8-bit 6502. The current 64-bit OS X could never run on the old Motorola 68040.

Put another, inverse, way, as the hardware gets faster and faster, the original OS has more and more performance headroom. That's usually filled by adding features and complexity in the name of competition, marketing and planned obsolesce.

However, what if that ever increasing headroom, derived from really fast hardware, could be put to use for a better purpose, namely security. Better security is what we need right now.

Just as we ran the Classic Mac OS in an environment ("The Blue Box") on modern Macs inside OS X, I think we'll soon have enough hardware headroom to run both OS X and iOS as residents inside an outer wrapper of, say, a Swift-based host OS, an AI agent, that does a lot of things that a naked OS can't (or shouldn't) do for itself.

The Death of an OS

What I'm talking about is a host OS that than can run either OS X or iOS (or both simultaneously) in a highly secure environment. The host OS can attend to the health, integrity, safety and robustness of the guest OS that it protects. It could check for corruption, block apps that upload stolen information, look for malicious HTTP streams, create trapdoor security enclaves against intrusions, offload the client OS from all kinds of messy housekeeping and band-aid elements that are tacked on to each OS every time a new kind of threat crops up.

The host OS could also allow the customer to run the desired OS depending on the occasion as needed. Tim Cook has emphasized, and I agree, that merging the two OSes, isn't the answer. Each OS, pointer-based OS X and touch-based iOS, serves two different needs. Each is superb at what it does.

But a host OS that could run each of iOS and OS X in a more secure environment could lead the way to a MacBook that runs OS X when the display is attached to the keyboard and also run iOS when the keyboard part is detached. Or not. (I'll leave the challenge of direct connect to the encryption and security hardware to Apple engineers.)

The Next Generation OS

On page two here, I reference several elements that could play a part in this: Intel's Optane technology, Apple's need to breathe new life into the iPad line, and OS X checking on malicious apps. Sure, you can fiddle with the name of the next 9.7-inch iPad, add a pencil and P.I.P. but new growth and advances in the user experience will ultimately come from new thinking about continuous advances in hardware technology.

OS X is almost 16 years old, and there's no sign it will ever be quite as secure as iOS for technical reasons. But customers have a huge investment in apps, and they love their Macs. Perhaps it's time for that supervisor OS that has the means to monitor the activities of OS X and better look out for it. It would exploit all the coming advances in hardware speed for an AI agent, one that's far beyond the capabilities of any patchwork fix-ups to OS X.

Apple never invested much in supercomputers and AI agents like IBM's Watson. Now, it's time to catch up.

The unsavory alternative is to use the faster and better hardware of the future to push an aging OS X to extremes it was never meant to endure in a graceful, simple way that "just works."

Just some thoughts. Tell me yours.

Next page: The Tech News Debris for the Week of March 7th. Whoa!  Connecting the cord! And an iPad branding conundrum.

Page 2 - The Tech News Debris for the Week of March 7th


I noted the disclosure in this interesting ZDNet article. ZDNet is owned by CBS.) Even so, this is a particularly detailed article, with great points, on how—if one can afford it—sticking with a hybrid TV system is still a good idea for some. By hybrid, I mean a cable or satellite subscription with a DVR combined with favored Internet services like Netflix or Amazon Prime. One can have the best of both worlds.

I've written before about how the trend is certainly towards Internet TV without commercials, but observing a trend is for tech journalists, not customers. Right now, one can still have a very sensible combination of the two, devoid of attitude, as one rides the wave of technology. It's what I'm still doing. See: "Why I finally broke down and re-attached the cable TV cord."

Microsoft, ever since CEO Satya Nadella took the helm, has been acting weird. By weird, I mean acting in unaccustomed astute, intelligent, market conscious, customer-centric ways. The emphasis has gone from preserving Windows anywhere (at great cost and loss of respect) to acting in ways that serve customers and thereby generate both revenue and admiration. As further evidence of this trend, I present, with a smile, "Microsoft Opens Its Corporate Data Software to Linux." To quote:

Microsoft, the world’s biggest software company, is known for creating business software that runs only on the Windows operating system. That has made it hard — or impossible — to buy something like a database from Microsoft without first buying Windows to run on a server.

But on Monday Microsoft announced that SQL Server, its software for managing corporate data, would also run on Linux, a competing operating system. Other Microsoft products could follow suit, analysts said.

On Sunday, March 13, at SXSW, there will be a presentation on "Your Future Life with Robots: Explained." If you think that's premature, I present this article on what's actually happening today. Presenting Connie by IBM. "Call him Connie, but Hilton’s new robot receptionist is powered by IBM’s Watson." What will be the impact of these kinds of robots? It's easy to forecast. "How robots will kill the 'gig economy'."

My next question is this. An autonomous car is a robot on wheels that navigates, transports and protects the humans inside. Is this Apple's warm-up act for traditional family robots that do similar things? Or is Apple going to leave this future technology to Google, IBM and others?

Have you heard of Intel's Optane technology? It's an ultra-fast memory technology that could be showing up in Apple's MacBooks by 2017. Check it out. "Intel's new Optane memory technology could lead to 1000 times faster MacBook storage."

Will changing the name of the 9.7-inch iPad from "iPad Air 3" to something like "The 9.7-inch iPad Pro" help boost Apple's sagging iPad sales? (At least until we hear breakout numbers for the 12.9-inch iPad Pro.) We don't know if this renaming rumor holds water yet, but there's plenty of discussion. Adrian Kingsley-Hughes at ZDNet poses the question: "Can rebranding save the iPad? Probably not."

iPad Pro. Do all iPads need to be "Pro" now? (image credit: Apple)

Of course if rebranding is backed by significant new technical capabilities in an "iPad Pro" line, then corresponding rebranding makes sense. For example, if you haven't see this remarkable review of the Apple Pencil, drawn with an Apple Pencil, by Serenity Caldwell, take a look. "An Apple Pencil-drawn review of the Apple Pencil."

We shall know more, I think, about Apple's iPad intentions on March 21st.

One of my favorite Mac tech journalists, Glenn Fleishman, fills us in on the mechanism for verifying and trusting the apps we download to our Mac. See the very educational, must read: "You can trust and verify most OS X software downloads."

Apple Pay at a gas pump is a bit problematic. With a credit/debit card, you present your identity as a magnetic swipe before you pay, and the final amount is charged after you're done pumping. But there's no way to do that, without a drive-away, with Apple Pay because the amount is not yet known until the end. The customer is free to present the iPhone (or Apple Watch). Or not. (An unsavory alternative is to go inside and pre-pay, but that has other issues in addition to being inconvenient.)

ExxonMobile has solved that problem with a free app combined with Apple Pay. Here's how it'll work.

... these Apple Pay payments won't be tap-to-pay, unlike the experience at almost every other point-of-sale system that works with Apple Pay. In this case, Apple Pay will be integrated into Exxon's existing Speedpass+ app, which is free to download and uses your geolocation to pull up local pumps. A customer can drive up to the pump, enter the pump number within the Speedpass+ app, and use his or her thumbprint to authorize payment through Apple Pay.

The opportunity for tracking and prying here is present, but I can see how the process also solves a payment security problem for ExxonMobile. For more details, see: "Apple Pay now works at ExxonMobil gas stations."

It'll be interesting to see how this works in practice and the potential, yet undiscovered, effects.

We live in the future.


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.