The Mac Is Back!

Unveiled alongside that Superbowl Commercial all the way back in 1984, the Macintosh was to become Apple’s main focus and through the years saw host to such iconic designs as the MacBook, iMac and, more recently, the MacBook Air. However, while the Mac is undoubtedly close to all our hearts here at Mac.AppStorm, there’s been a perception as of late that Apple are letting things slide with regard to their computers, in large part due to the phenomenal success of iOS. As the argument goes, in a huge profit driven company like Apple it’s the bottom line that counts and last year saw more iOS devices sold in one year than the entire lifetime of the Mac.

Don’t be too quick to write off the future prospects of the Mac just yet though, while portable devices such as the iPad, iPhone and iPod are all very important to Infinite Loop, Mac sales are strong and increasing market share significantly. Indeed, Apple are finding that there’s more demand than ever for their computers and I’d like to make the argument that the Mac’s strongest years are quite possibly ahead of it, with Apple set to increase their efforts and ensure that the Mac becomes yet more popular still.

Watershed Moment

Love or loathe Mountain Lion's features, they represent a company commited to evolving beyond the usual way of doing things

Love or loathe Mountain Lion's features, they represent a company commited to evolving beyond the usual way of doing things

Admittedly, in the years following the success of the iPhone, it has often been iOS which garnered much of the hype and excitement. But, if Apple did take their foot off the gas at all then Mac OS X Lion and Mountain Lion see a return to prominence for the Macintosh and with this in mind perhaps we’re on the cusp of yet another watershed moment, much like the one which heralded the move from OS 9 to OS X.

To argue that Cook and the gang don’t care about their Mac users would be to completely miss the point of OS X Lion and its soon to be released successor, Mountain Lion. Even if you’re indifferent to iCloud, ignore Launchpad and don’t much care for the new system of saving, one would be hard-pressed to argue that Apple aren’t putting a lot of thought into making Mac and OS X the best they can possibly be. After all, completely changing several long-lasting computing conventions in one fell swoop isn’t the work of a company who doesn’t care about their product and in the release of OS X Lion we’ve seen many key elements of computing turned on their head.

To have produced a successor to Snow Leopard that made things a little prettier, a little faster and a little more integrated with iOS would have been the easiest possible move for Apple, but as usual they’ve decided to take the other road, to ‘Think Different‘ as the saying goes. Love it or loathe it, Lion represents a commitment from Apple to their computing line and Mountain Lion seems set to increase that commitment yet further.

An OS X A Year, Every Year

Computer technology has always moved fast but is now hurtling forward at such a speed as to render once innovative ideas quickly obsolete. Thus it makes good sense to speed up the release schedule of OS X and, according to John Gruber, Mountain Lion will see Apple’s computer OS fall into the same release pattern as iOS, with major releases scheduled yearly. Says Gruber:

Mac OS X — sorry, OS X — is going on an iOS-esque one-major-update-per-year development schedule.

Gruber then goes on to opine that Apple is keenly aware of concerns from Mac users that Apple’s interest of the platform is on the wane and one can assume that this increased release schedule is geared toward dispelling those concerns. A release of OS X a year makes great sense as, besides ensuring that a feeling of constant momentum and change is kept to the format, Mac users will know what to expect, when to bother upgrading and when to look forward to new features.

How Many Macs Left Behind?

Is the iconic white MacBook about to be made obsolete?

Is the iconic white MacBook about to be made obsolete?

There is of course, a flip side to all this innovation:

Many Mac users are concerned that their machine will be left behind in a whirlwind of obsolescence, but while it’s entirely possible that older Macs will not be able to run Mountain Lion, the oft-cited and widely reported specifications for the Developer Preview are not Apple’s final word on which Macs can run Mountain Lion – a point which is given further weight by the reports that some enterprising Mac users have managed to get Mountain Lion running very well indeed on older, unsupported Macs already.

A yearly release schedule does pose another interesting question though; will Apple continue to charge for their OS or will OS X soon become free to Mac users, just as iOS is free to iPhone and iPad owners? There’s no real evidence to allow us to form any firm conclusions but I’m going to stick my neck out and predict that Mountain Lion, or at the very least its successor, may well herald an era of completely free Mac OS X. I believe that this makes sense and will bring OS X even more into line with iOS, simplifying the release schedule and encouraging customers to delve right into each new release.

What Do You Think?

I’ve made a few rather bold claims in this article, but except for the wild speculation on Mountain Lion compatibility and price, I believe that Apple’s actions provide enough evidence to point toward Mac regaining a more significant focus in the Cupertino company. Further to this, if the rumours of ‘Retina-like’ displays and 15″ MacBook Airs hold any truth to them, then 2012 could really be the year that Apple goes ‘back to the Mac’ in a very big way.

That said, I would love to hear the opinions of the Mac.AppStorm faithful on whether you agree that the Mac is due for an increased level of attention from Apple, or whether the company’s computers will eventually become maligned as a result of iOS profits.