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.


Add Yours
  • I have never seen someone write “Apple are…” and “Apple aren’t…”

    Shouldn’t it be is and isn’t? Apple is interchangeable with Company. It is one company, not multiple…

    • A company, a collective noun, is both a unit and a number of individuals, making both singular and plural reference correct. American English favors the singular form while British English favors plural form.

    • I dislike critics of critics who are critics, when they make fun of a small grammar issue that they would probably do themselves if they were writing a long article.

      P.S. AppStorm: please addddddd the ability to edit comments. You never know if I put to many “d”s in the word “add” that GrammarMan might strike.

      • Grammar Man here. You added to many d’s to the word ‘add.’ I’m giving you a warning this time but don’t let it happen again.

  • They need to put the white Macback back into production. I would buy one for my mom. And for my daughter. Air is too hi-res, Macbook Pro is too expensive and too alluminish…

    • Sorry, “… put white Macbook back into production …”

    • Too hi-res?

      • He hates Macs that don’t crack at the armrests.

        Personally, I REALLY like my MacBook Air, but I wish I would have waited for the iCore update, and then I would have gone for the 11″ model.

  • Definitely the next updates will become free. However, both this and support for very old Macs I don’t think it’s going to happen. They will probably give you shiny new toys in the new versions of the software, but make you buy new hardware so that you can play with them.

  • … waiting for a “Retina”-display iMac.

    • Doubt you’ll see that anytime soon. That’d cost a ton now.

  • My concern is that Apple no longer innovate originally for the Mac. Only one of the touted major features in Mac OS X Mountain Lion (the Gatekeeper) has not started its life on iOS – otherwise it’s all being brought almost directly from there.

    While the Mac is a mature platform at this point and there’s no such pressing need to add new features as there was earlier, I refuse to believe there isn’t room for more Mac-original innovation. The evolution of Mac OS X shouldn’t be all about porting more of the iOS over to the Mac.

    • I don’t understand how innovation for iOS is any different from innovation for OS X. As the hardware behind iOS becomes more powerful, there will be more and more convergence between the platforms. Who cares if notifications fist appeared on iOS, it’s a killer, built-in feature for OS X. Plus, it’s receiving innovations of its own with web-based notifications.

      The all too common fear of iOS usurping OS X is just silly. The iOS we see today isn’t the iOS that will Be running on all Apple devices in the future. That OS will be a blend of both OS X and iOS.

      • Running on more powerful hardware is not what differentiates OS X from iOS. It’s the form factor. iOS is all about being as efficient, functional and easy to use on devices that you can hold with one hand, while OS X is for devices that have a dedicated keyboard – simply a must for doing serious work. The keyboard, ultimately, makes all the differences, and it wont matter even if iOS devices could one day compete with Macs in terms of hardware power. The level of control that ≈100 keys (plus all the possible combinations) under your fingertips give compared to even the latest and greatest touch screen interfaces is simply unmatched.

        Personally I would rather see innovations around the keyboard and better integration into OS X, than better touch interfaces for iOS coupled with clumsy ports *cough*Launchpad*cough*Mac App Store*cough* to OS X. Yes.. the Mac App Store is a horrible desktop application. If you really, really think about it, you’ll realize that the GUI is almost exactly like the iOS app store, and Apple didn’t waste any time putting in any desktop-OS-level features, not even subtle, hidden ones that power users like me would appreciate.

        On the other hand, if the Mac App Store had come first, I think it would have been a lot more functional. Maybe not exactly as friendly to casual users as it is now, but still fairly easy to use – and people like me, Tuomas here, and many others wouldn’t be expressing concerns over a “spreading iOS infection”.

        Power users are feeling neglected because we don’t care much for the cutesy gestures, finger-lickin’ animations and super-casual features that are infesting the place. This is innovation.. but in the wrong direction.


      • Just to be clear: I really like iOS. But there is a good reason why Apple didn’t just slap OS X onto the first iPhone. The usage patterns, etc are incompatible, and that incompatibility goes both ways. And I don’t mind Apple using iOS innovations as inspiration for changes to OS X, but so far it has for the most part been nearly identical ports of features with minor adjustments. It honestly doesn’t feel like anything so far has really been “re-imagined” at all, as Apple touts. It’s terribly hover-hyped at the moment.

      • Hawk, that sums up pretty well what I was going after with my comment.

  • What is this post about?!?

  • Does anyone spell check anymore? Couldn’t finish reading the article.

    • This site and its sisters are notorious for having bad spelling and grammar. Ironic, since OS X has built-in spell checking, isn’t it?

  • Smaller, free annual OS updates like Mountain Lion and iOS are a great way to get people talking and to sell new products. White color has to make a comeback to the Mac in some way because it’s iconic, black is universal but too common.
    I think people would be less angry at the whole iOS-ification idea if there was at least one new feature created for Macs exclusively to show everyone that they are still working on new software. But besides OSX 10.8 I hope we’ll get iWork ’12, improved Safari 6.0, updated iTunes App Store this year and iOS 6 around September so that’s a good year. As for the future ? It’s simple 10.8+iOS6=10.9+iOS7=iOSX in 2014 (when you think about hardware evolution then it’s clear tablets will replace notebooks for 80% of consumers).

  • The main problem with Apple is that they don’t take customer suggestions to heart. Much like most big businesses (ehem, Adobe). For example, I have submitted the same 2 feature requests that were included in OS 9 after Apple released every version of OS X. I want better Finder labels like they were in OS 9, and desktop printers. But Apple doesn’t care about making just one person happy.

    • “I want better Finder labels like they were in OS 9…”

      It wasn’t just the labels. The Finder in general was better then. For example, I use icon view a lot (I’m a graphic artist) and it used to be that if you put a thumbnail somewhere, it stayed there. Now (Snow Leopard) they jump around all over the place like they’re drunk. Save a file while icon view is visible, and the thumbnail jumps to some hidden part of the window and you have to go hunting for it.

      It’s been years since Apple even bothered fixing Finder bugs. They’re too busy using their billions of dollars to… to do what?

  • Something is back, but I’m feeling it’s not the Mac. Rather the touchy, feely, entertain me Trendroid Mac that shields one from dangerous decisions like “Save as” – and expands an idiom that’s scaled OK from 3.5 to 9.7″ but not well from there to 27″. All the people I got to shift to Mac in the past were happy. Everyone who’s started with Lion has lingering buyer’s remorse – and Mountain Lion’s just going to leave them further up the hill.

    It’s one thing to add options, quite another to increasing remove even the choice of turning on those removed that have served well for 30 years.

    I’m going to refer you to a David Pogue article, not for the article, but for he comments. I’m not alone by a long shot – and in fact, even on the Mac Blogs I hear people saying nearly every day they’re backgrading to Snow Leopard.

    All that power and elegance increasingly turned toward consumption and diddling and away from being a “power tool for the mind.” And coming down with a serious case of “terminal cuteness.”

    And the increasingly closed “eco-system’s” becoming so Apple-centric it reminds me of Sony’s Memory’s sticks, Mini-discs, BetaMax, Atrac, etc. How’s Ping working out for you all, btw? And I haven’t used a dashboard widget in years, nor Spaces, etc. Great parlor tricks, but they don’t enhance my needs and experience.

    Free “Messaging” is great – as long as all your friends have the LATEST Apple gear – and you KNOW that they have it. Otherwise useless. The same with sharing docs if your friends don’t have Pages, forcing you through a multi-step Export process that leaves you with duplicate (well, semi-duplicate and mistranslated) files. Just what the world needed, another proprietary document format.

    And I guess system-wide Twitter is great for those afflicted with ADD. I mean, I use it a bit, but meh – trillions of retweets and scarcely a thought among ’em. But facebook and YouTube, well, those are from companies we don’t like, so later for them.

    I don’t need Mail – Gmail’s just fine for me. Or calendar. Or notification central or center or whatever. Chrome and facebook let me know when new stuff’s in. And take no local storage. And Photoshop is still my favorite computer game.

    I get all the cloud AND backup I need from DropBox and SugarSync (completely multi-platform). Nor (on my desktop) have I needed to attend to any Windows malware in over five years.

    In fact – of all the slick features demo’d at Keynotes over the years, Expose is the last one that really changed my computing life for the better, and the one I miss most when on a PC (that and a decent trackpad).

    And, wonder of wonders, Windows 8 (while new and transitional) looks like someone serious about COMPUTING has really thought a lot of things through – on all device levels, and that details have actually been sweated hard.

    Now I do predict Apple will continue on its Phoenix like ascent for another few years and remain highly successful after that, but that millions of the old-timers will reconsider their options. And while Apple may take over the living room and casual photography and who knows what all among consumers, and while iPads and Phones WILL get into the enterprise, these new Macs never will to a much greater degree than they already have.

    And Apple won’t care if it loses a few million of us if it gets three times as many content munching noobs to replace us. Sad, really. But they’ll get one more buy from me anyway, as they make great devices. Luckily equipped with Bootcamp if I feel I have to switch back.

    Here’s the link:

    And here’s the rest of my rant:

    Without Jobs, Apple’s feeling more and more like just another really, really big corporation (well not exactly another – they are the biggest now) – but increasingly I’m finding that THAT’s about as inherently interesting as Con Edison without Thomas Edison. Or Westinghouse without a great feud between George Westinghouse and Nikola Tesla. I.e., my feeling is increasingly it was never Apple that was that interesting, it was that crazy sonuvabitch himself.

    And now Cupertino’s just another bunch of grey suits and engineers who may well be overplaying their hand….. …so I’m askin’ myself, what’s a poor 30-year Apple nerd to do? Could it be just time to tell AAPL to “go tweet”?

    Stay tuned…..

    • That’s true, but please don’t say Windows 8 is better (even if it’s true). Just don’t, because when I bought a Mac after years of microsoft shit it was like ascending to a higher plane of existence. I hated these fuc$$$$ forever (from the time of my first pc) and now I’m a free man. I don’t want to hear that Apple is turning into them i.e. huge corporation that instead of offering choice is becoming like dictatorship.

  • Apple needs to die.

  • I am still running Snow Leopard and will be for the foreseeable future because it works very well for me as a business user and I haven’t the time to fix all the bugs which an upgrade to Lion would mean (are you listening Canon?).

    But I must admit that part of my reluctance to upgrade is the uneasy feeling that I am being railroaded by Apple in the way that Microsoft used to do. The two reasons I abandoned the Windows platform for my business was that :

    a) I spent way too much time correcting Windows Vista problems, and
    b) I felt that Microsoft had a clear idea of how I should work and run my business, regardless of what I actually wanted to do.

    Now I think that Apple is in danger of recreating both of these problems. I have already mentioned the bug fixes which I would need to work around with my peripherals and specialist tax software but I also feel that Apple is pushing me towards use of the cloud (it’s all fine but I just don’t need it) and an iOS style platform which, as I am not an iPhone user, is of little interest to me. I do have an iPad 2 but as I have no interest in social media such as Facebook I have been distinctly underwhelmed by the whole experience.

    I suppose in short I think that OS X wasn’t broke but they fixed it anyway.