WWDC Prediction: Ascension of iPhone OS?

So where does Apple take OS X? I think most analysts/Apple watchers are expecting WWDC 2010 to be a dual track keynote. One track focuses on the new iPhone 4 OS/iPad 1.0 OS with predictions that Apple renames the OS to something more logical like Mobile OS or iOS. The vast new set of API’s available for the OS are featured including Printer services, wireless file sharing, cross app access to documents. The second track focuses on 10.7 or perhaps OS XI, the traditional PC Intel Mac OS.

Snow Leopard was really an interim release cleaning up the OS, and Snow Leopard’s biggest benefits are not feature visible to the customer. Apple presented a primary reason for this approach, a chance to give developers an almost 2 year break without worrying about new GUI features in the OS. It’s hard to ignore though that Apple during Snow Leopard’s announcement-development- to release-to today that Apple has issued two (maybe 3?) iPhone OS updates (substantial updates building a software development platform with tools and APIs) and developed a new OS for a new device the iPad. Could it simply be that Apple is over extended on the OS development side of things?

A more radical idea might be that OS X as we know it has run it’s natural course. There is no OS XI. Multi-touch input is clearly what Apple views as the future. An OS designed around a Keyboard and Mouse cannot just have multi-touched bolted on. Apple has dipped into the shallow end of the pool with multi-touch in OS X with multi gesture support on their MacBooks and the Magic Mouse is a multi touch device. Directionally Apple is pointing towards a multi-touch OS future.

There’s an interesting article at Computerworld (pointed out by MoD essential MacRumors) that refers to a new Apple Job Posting. Among the tasks being asked of this “Engineering Manager (Platform Bring-Up)” include;

“The Core Platform team within Apple’s Core OS organization is looking for a talented and inspired manager to lead a team focused on bring-up of iPhone OS on new platforms.”

The Computerworld focuses on a variety of potential new platforms such as Apple TV,one of the main things holding back Apple TV has been no SDK or APIs for add on software. MacBook Air imagine some mutant child of the iPad/MacBook Air with integrated keyboard, additional ARM processing power/Storage Space/enhanced Battery Life. Mac Mini using some variation of the iPad OS with hardware cost reduced significantly but ships with a multitouch interface device (something that looks like a touchpad but is mousepad size?) and supports keyboards. All of these hardware types receive a reduced cost, improved energy factors, and immediately gain a potential huge application base.

Take the speculation one step further, could Apple offer an iPad OS to Intel MacBooks? Could Apple offer a browser/email/iTunes only OS, and that OS offers extended battery life for laptops? If the user needs the full Mac OS X experience, it’s available as a choice at bootup, but  what if the user simply want to do basic web browsing or watch iTunes content? The iPad OS is written for ARM processors but could Apple easily move it to Intel? It probably takes up no hard drive space at all. All iPhone/iPad apps are already stored on the hard drive if the user syncs frequently, so making those apps available to the iPad OS is trivial. Sure it’s a compromise and loss of power user abilities is a big tradeoff, but for travelers the ability to transform 4 hours of battery life into 12 hours would be amazing. iPad OS for laptops being an interim step until Apple could build actual ARM laptops, ARM desktops.

Could the big announcement at WWDC be no future OS X/iPhone OS? Instead, one future iOS designed to scale up and down per the device/function used. One OS core allowing designers to create apps for a massive install base with one code base.

  1. February 26th, 2010
  2. March 3rd, 2010

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