Sunday, February 27, 2011

It's Over, Mac OS X is dead

It disappoints me to say this, but I've come to the conclusion that Mac OS X as an operating system is dead. Now before anyone panics, rejoices or denies it, I'm sure it will continue to sell very well, and yes it will probably always be better than Windows, but I'm talking from an evolutionary perspective. This post is designed to serve as a history to Mac OS X as I see it, and a rally cry for change before its too late.

Note: I would like to emphasize that this isn't a rally cry to save Apple or anything of the sort. This is more of a shout to get people to realize that the Apple that once cared about its users is long gone and how we as users need something else to depend on.

Since Mac OS X first came out in 2001, it has been on a steady growth path in terms of features, stability, speed, ease of use, and install base. I remember when I tried out OS X  back when it was 10.0 and it was a pretty horrible experience. It broke software compatibility with OS 9 to no end, and if you tried running it on a G3 it would take forever to load anything. Because of these problems, the loading ball became notoriously known as the spinning beach ball of death. Things were so bad that Apple decided to distribute the version that followed as an upgrade free of charge.

Mac OS X 10.1 “Puma” fixed some the speed issues on G4's, but by this point it was clear that it would never be fast enough on a G3. As an OS it was still very buggy, the UI still needed some tweaking, and more features needed to be added. It was also around this time where I gave up using Mac OS 9 as a daily driver, and I jumped ship and went on to use Windows for awhile.

Mac OS X 10.2 "Jaguar" became the first tolerable Mac OS X release. Speed was improved once again and a lot of the bugs were beginning to disappear. This was also the release that got rid of the happy Mac logo which used to greet users. From this point forward, Mac OS X became its own beast and you could start to forget about Mac OS 9 and older.

If Jaguar was the first tolerable version of OS X, then Mac OS X 10.3 "Panther" was the first good one. This OS added the Exposé feature which other than the dock, defines OS X. It was stable, the hardware had caught up to the OS, and the UI had been fixed with an elegant brushed metal look. Safari was introduced which ended the need for Internet Explorer and as an entire package, it was nice. This was the release that got me excited about using and advocating Macs once again.

Mac OS X 10.4 "Tiger" was the release that really put Apple into the mainstream. By this time, the iPod had become such a success that people were switching to OS X in really large numbers. This release added two more features that define OS X and those were Dashboard and Spotlight. I loved playing with the widgets in dashboard and being able to search for anything at a fairly quick speed was priceless. Mac OS 10.4 was the first release that was ported to Intel based Macs and the transition was fairly seamless. The switch from PPC to Intel was nothing like OS 9 to OS X. While some PPC based applications did slow down a bit, in general speed actually increased by a large margin particularly when it came to boot time.

Mac OS X 10.5 “Leopard” which was released in 2007, was the peak. This was the greatest release Apple had. They got the features spot on, stability was perfected, and the UI was gorgeous. The defining features were Time Machine and Boot Camp. Time Machine became a very nice way of backing up your system and Boot Camp allowed you to run non Mac OS's on Apple hardware for the first time. The competition from Microsoft was a joke since the switch from XP to Vista left behind a lot of pissed off users. This period was truly a good time to be a Mac advocate. The switch from XP to Vista reminded me a lot of OS 9 to OS X. Based on that knowledge, I knew that it would take three years for Windows to recover. Apple was now free to coast on their successes and they had earned it. 2007 was also an important year for Apple because of the huge iPhone release. It was at this time when I said goodbye to being a Mac advocate because going forward I knew that Apple would start to neglect Mac OS X in favor of its iOS. Not wanting to go back to Windows, I began to use Ubuntu 7.10 and have continued to use every version since.

Mac OS X 10.6 “Snow Leopard” was a non release. Apple basically took the code from 10.5 and just stripped all PPC related bits of it and dumped it in the bin. For new Intel Mac users, this would be a good thing since speed was dramatically improved. For those users that have been around for awhile and have watched the OS get to this stage, it introduced some incompatibilities and forced PPC users to upgrade or die. Apple acknowledged that this was a non release and charged very little for the upgrade. A cheap enough investment for most people to say, “Oh may as well upgrade.” Apple did some tweaks here and there but for the most part, you would notice very little between this release and the previous 10.5 Leopard.

At this stage it is clear that Apple is just coasting and with good reasons. Mac OS X is considered a viable alternative to Windows, iOS based devices are selling like crazy, and Apple as a company is dough rolling in cash. However going forward, I see very little hope for Mac OS X.

Mac OS X 10.7 “Lion” while not released yet, appears to be a joke. I'm using Apple's page as my reference point since the features listed on that page is obviously what Apple wants us to care about. Feel free to visit there and follow along with my commentary.

Feature #1 is the all new Mac App store which Apple claims is just like shopping the App Store on iPad. This feature has been available since 10.6 so I hardly see how its a new feature. On a side note, Ubuntu has had it's own software center for free software since version 9.10 (released in October 2009), and a section for paid programs which was added in the 10.04 release just six months later. Because of these things, Apple isn’t even ahead of the competition here.

Feature #2 is Launchpad which at a click of a button, shows you all your applications that are on your computer. While technically a new feature, I don’t see how this is any different than opening a maximized version of your Applications folder and viewing it as icons.

Feature #3 is Full-screen apps which lets you use your application in full screen. I don’t even know what to say about this. Most games have had this since the beginning of time by just being a full screen experience. All this feature does is hide the menu bar and hide the dock, hardly groundbreaking.

Feature #4 is Mission Control which Apple claims “is a powerful and handy new feature that provides you with a comprehensive look at what’s running on your Mac.” I don't see how this is a new feature as this is more of a consolidation of Dashboard, “Full-screen apps”, and Exposé.

Feature #5 is Gestures and animations which is just new ways of using your track pad. Hardly a feature since Mac OS 10.6 had this already in the track pad preferences.

Feature #6 is Auto Save which saves changes in the working document instead of creating additional copies. I don’t even know what to say about this since Auto Save has been a feature that word processor applications have had for about a decade now.

Feature #7 is Versions which Apple claims “records the evolution of a document as you create it. Mac OS X Lion automatically creates a version of the document each time you open it and every hour while you’re working on it.” I don't see how this is a feature since I thought that is what Time Machine did and that was introduced in 2007.

Feature #8 is Resume which Apple claims “lets you restart your Mac — after a software update, for example — and return to what you were doing. With all your apps back in the exact places you left them.” Now this might be a genuine feature, but I think it is pants on head retarded. One of the largest complaints I've heard about Windows is that when you start the OS, a bunch of stuff starts launching in the background and that really bogs down the system. I remember when I was using my grandma's computer that ran Windows XP it would take 6 minutes for all the applications to stop launching. Why Apple would want to take something that bad and port it over to the Mac is beyond me. My guess is they they think when SSD's become standard, computers will be able to handle this kind of behavior. That may be a fair point but until then, they should shelve this feature.

Feature #9 is Mail 5 and is barely a feature. All they have managed to do is to rework the UI, but that doesn’t equate to new features. They claim Mail 5 “also introduces Conversations, a natural new way to read and manage email that automatically groups messages from the same conversation” Perhaps this is a new feature to the Mac OS but if you run Gmail on Safari (which has conversation grouping), shouldn't that count?

Feature #10 is Airdrop and is basically file sharing via a temporary public folder. Hardly a feature...

Feature #11 is FileVault which encrypts your data on the go. This is a feature but not an innovation. Ubuntu has the ability to encrypt your home folder, and file encryption software like TrueCrypt has been around for years.

Feature #12 is Lion Server and it helps you configure your Mac as a server. A genuine feature, but the mainstream user has no use for this. A lip service to administrators.

It is now 2011 and Apple has problems. It looks like Steve Jobs isn’t coming back anytime soon and I’m sure people worry about this a lot. They can be in denial about it for the time being, but sooner or later somethings gonna give. There are also rumors that Jonathan Ive will quit after being at Apple and designing pretty much every product launched since the second coming of Steve Jobs. Windows 7 now has the media on its side and is now considered in the mainstream a viable upgrade for those users that stuck with XP for so long. (I disagree with the premise that Windows 7 is viable at any task except launching games, but that's a fight for a different day.) Even in the iOS field, it looks like Android will eclipse iOS usage as its adoption continues to roll forward. We can't expect Apple to improve their Mac OS in a way that suits its users. Apple will continue to tweak Mac OS X for as long as it makes business sense to the company. This isn't bad or anything, its just how corporations operate. Apple used to be the exception to this rule to some extent, but it looks like greed has finally gotten to them. If Windows sucks and Mac OS X is dead, where do we go from here? We as users need an OS that will suite our needs and I have a few ideas.

With the release of Ubuntu 10.04 in 2010, Ubuntu became a truly rocking OS and I consider it a serious alternative to the Mac OS and Windows OS. Media coverage may be next to non existent, but remember Mac OS X in 2002?  That is where Ubuntu is today. Give it three years and everyone is going to want a piece of it. Windows will never be secure, and Mac OS X is dead. My advice is learn how to use Ubuntu today, and beat the rush before the snow falls. The good news is Ubuntu is free of charge and free to distribute which should be a cheap enough investment for most people to say, “Oh may as well upgrade.” The bad news is, you will have to learn new things, and learning is scary. If you expect Ubuntu to be a drop in replacement for Windows or Mac OS X, you will fail. Go in with an open mind and you will one day have that aha moment that makes you realize that Ubuntu really is the way forward.


  1. mate........u'r wrong since os x 10.8 shall bring ultimate features in this yr...........more of iPad to mac.........gr8...
    its also rumoured that with os x mt. lion the speed and responsiveness really excited to have os x mt. lion on my macbook pro

  2. hi...Im student from Informatics engineering nice article,
    thanks for sharing :)

  3. U R were right Mac OS is now the MOST EMBARRASSING POS, and dead + DOOMED as a DODO, as evolutionary backward as RNA, that tech/science ignorant Apple TARDS contnue to take it up the arse, "Touch Screen" duuuh Whats that? The only use Mac OS has now is hosting Windows on but since thats so slow + inefficient cf native just bin that orrible Mac get windows fast + native on a PC (even HACKENTOSH is infinitely more up with current tech/kernel advancement/security LMFAO! than Mac OS + infinitely more popular now of course being on PCs )