I’m going to go on record and predict that the release of Mac OS 10.7 Lion will be a watershed moment for the desktop OS. The brief preview that Steve Jobs offered during the “Back to the Mac” was only the TIP of the tip of the iceberg.
You’ll notice that Steve didn’t boast about “100 new features” as he’s done in the past. Nor did he show too much. Go back and re-watch the video. His demonstrations were brief and succinct.
The event’s title was a fun play on words. At first, I assumed Apple was re-directing the consumer’s attention away from iOS and back to the Mac. But no, the message was that Apple’s iOS developers are applying what they’ve learned to the desktop OS. Expect Mac OS 10.7 to be even more iOS-like than you imagine.
I’ve said this before, but Apple excels at the process of observation, reflection and application. Its developers and engineers are eager to learn what they can, evaluate the outcome of that learning and apply the best lessons to future products. Almost no one does that as effectively as Apple.
For example, consider the gradual proliferation of touch input across the product line. The iPhone was announced in January of 2007, and became available in the U.S. in June of that year, releasing Multi-touch to the world. In 2008, the MacBook Pro got a button-free, glass trackpad with gestures support. The first small step had been taken.
In October of 2009, Apple released the Magic Mouse, which is basically a Multi-touch surface on top of a mouse. In June of 2010, Apple released the Magic Trackpad to bring touch to desktop machines. Now, every Apple computer is ready for touch input.
Meanwhile, the iPod touch was introduced in September of 2007 and the iPod nano gained touch support in September of 2010.
Additionally, consider the synergy that’s occurring among Apple software. The MobileMe web apps resemble their iOS counterparts. The iLife ’11 apps offer full-screen mode and support for swipe, pinch, zoom, etc. via the input hardware previously discussed. Plus, a Mac App Store is about a month-and-a-half away.
Finally, the biggest hint of all stands before us like Arthur C. Clarke’s monolith. The iPad is the most significant glimpse of the future of the Mac OS that we have. Let me be clear about this: I’m not talking about a synthesis of operating systems. Both the Mac OS and iOS will continue to exist. Just expect the best of the iOS to find a home on the Mac.
At this point Apple is three years into the refinement of iOS since the public release. Be assured that Mac OS 10.7 still has many secrets to share, and when it’s finally released, will blow us away.