Because Ars Technica doesn’t seem to understand what “back to the Mac” means (seriously, the number of iOS and iDevice mentions is mind-boggling), I decided to put together my own list of what I’d like to see, and what I expect to see (because the two don’t necessarily overlap) from their press event Wednesday. First though, I am super pleased that Apple’s finally actually getting around to making a big Mac-related announcement for once.
So, what do I think we’ll see Wednesday? Well, based on the event’s invitation graphic, I think it’s a pretty good bet we’re going to see some demos of OS X 10.7, which will presumably be termed OS X Lion. Updates to the iLife and iWork suites are likely candidates, and probably some new portable hardware updates since the laptop lineup is coming due for a revision. But that’s sort of an easy guess, so what, specifically, will we be getting?
OS X 10.7 Lion
I think Quicktime updates are a pretty certain bet for 10.7. Quicktime X is still pretty nacent, and doesn’t seem to have gotten any attention in 10.6.x updates. Considering Apple’s ongoing quest to sever all ties with old frameworks in their OSes, some expansions to the new Quicktime X framework are almost certainly a lock. I don’t think these will get much presentation time because this is a press event, not WWDC, but I do at least expect them to show up on one of Steve’s giant “word cloud” slides.
FaceTime support in iChat is practically a lock too, and something that could chew up a good bit of time with an unnecessary demonstration. Apple’s been pushing this hard on the iPhone, and perhaps even harder with their new iPod Touches, so it makes no sense for it to get left out of their next desktop OS. Reports that FaceTime supports a multiple caller flag seem to support this theory as well, since iChat has supported 4-way video chat for a while now, and I don’t think Apple would cut that out just to support their new video chat protocol. Additional IM protocol support in iChat would be nice to see as well, but I’m not exactly counting on it, nor am I really pinning my hopes to a serious overhaul of the application. I know a ton of people would love it if iChat supported Facebook Chat, but given Apple’s current rocky relationship with the One Social Network To Rule Them All, that may not happen for “political” reasons (also, I don’t use Facebook, so I don’t really care). I’m also an Adium junkie personally, so unless iChat suddenly does everything Adium does (including letting me turn off the speech bubble chat theme), I’m not exactly going to be clambering to put it back in my Dock.
There will probably be some iPadification of a few core apps, if Apple’s web services are anything to go by. MobileMe’s Mail and Calendar apps have both gotten UI overhauls to more closely relate them to the iPad apps, rather than the traditional OS X application look-and-feel. Given the explosion of growth and mindshare that iOS has provided the company, I think it’s perhaps only natural that the UI bleed back into the Mac a bit to provide a more consistent experience for users, particularly those getting into the Mac because of the iPhone or iPad. I must admit, a better iCal would be awesome, and Address Book could use some love, because I don’t think it’s seen a material update since 10.2. A UI revision on Mail is also probable, though if that doesn’t happen, I may switch over to Sparrow at home once it supports more than just Gmail, because I’m something of a fan of Loren Brichter’s Tweetie for Mac/Twitter for iPad UI, and the full-blown Mail.app UI exceeds what I need from my mail client at home (work is another story, obviously).
I’ve heard a coule people bring up the fabled UI overhaul for the OS in general that was supposed to happen in 10.6, but I don’t really buy it. Discounting the larger radio silence on OS X in general since Snow Leopard’s release, I haven’t heard anything UI-related for OS X since the rumors of an overhauled UI for Snow Leopard were making the rounds pre-release. Rumor mill aside, I don’t think even Apple is ballsy enough to totally revamp the OS interface just two cycles after totally revamping and unifying the UI for Leopard.
A file system change to ZFS is a remote possibility, but probably not going to happen since, last I heard, Apple had stopped development work on building it into the OS. Given that 10.7 has been totally off the radar so far though, it’s possible they’ve been doing a lot in extreme secrecy (alternatively, it’s possible that not a lot has been going on at all, given the comparatively small size of Apple’s OS engineering teams).
Hopefully someone at Valve has been able to put their boot sufficiently far up Apple’s ass to get them to take graphics performance seriously, and support more of OpenGL in the process. Game performance demos would make a pretty decent Stevenote demo, though Steve may be a bit gun shy after showcasing Bungie back in the day and having them get bought up by Microsoft.
On a similar note, given the increasing importance of resolution independence on iOS devices, it would be interesting to see some of that work get back-ported to the Mothership OS. Resolution independence is probably a ways off in OS X though, given the long backlog of legacy apps that would probably break rather terribly if it were used. iOS doesn’t have this problem as much (though it does a little) because the developer community is smaller, more agile, more involved, and the platform is new enough that not as many apps have had a chance to fall off the update wagon.
Beyond these, OS X is a markedly mature product, so I’m not sure how much newness can be crammed into a typically flashy Stevenote. There’s certainly plenty of polish needed around the OS, but that’s mostly technical niggling stuff, and not something I expect Steve to spend a whole lot of time on in his presentation. I’ll tell you what I’d like to see in the final OS, though…
- Better SMB networking. The Vista/Win7 machines on my home network never show up in Finder’s sidebar. Granted I can manually connect to them, but frankly that’s annoying. While HomeGroup support would be awesome strictly from an interop standpoint going forward, it’s not on my personal “must have” list since there’s only one Win7 box in the house, and it’s the one hooked to the TV that we use for Boxee and Firefox.
- Thread out accessing externally-mounted hard drives. I swear to god if I have to see my computer beachball one more time just because my external drive has fallen asleep…
- Improve the fault tolerance for mounted network shares. If the network drops, please re-mount my stuff when it comes back. Please. You can even disappear the mounts while the network is down, just bring them back when it comes up again. I feel like I’m talking to a hostage-taker…
- Stacks, the way they were demoed in Leopard during WWDC. Namely, being able to create a pile of files on the Dock that I can use to keep track of stuff in a project I’m working on without having to manually create folders for everything. If that doesn’t work, then how about treating docked smart folders just like any other docked folder, instead of just a shortcut?
- On that note, how about maybe cacheing Spotlight search results for smart folders so I don’t have to wait for the search to re-query when I open a saved search folder?
Huh. Maybe I’m more of a FTFF guy than I thought… though I think I may actually have a crush on Column View. Seriously, Microsoft, get on that. Explorer drives me nuts because it doesn’t have Column View.
iLife and iWork
I will be pleased, but not exactly shocked, if iLife and iWork make appearances tomorrow, if only because I think the Stevenote isn’t going to have much to say about OS X. Barring something earth-shattering nobody could have predicted, I’m not expecting a lot of detail there because this isn’t a developer conference. So, because I think Steve is going to need more to talk about, and because they’re due for an update anyway, I think iLife and iWork are likely to come up. This is more of a wishlist of stuff I’d like to see from Apple’s suites than a “this is what we’ll get”-list, because I haven’t really heard a thing about the new suites other than that they might be coming soon.
Everyone’s talking about iDVD getting pulled from the line-up, and I think that’s likely… Apple’s been moving to media-less distribution for a while now, and iDVD in iLife ’09 didn’t even get an update. I forget if it even got any new themes. It’s definitely the least-used of the apps in my personal usage (aside from iWeb, which I never use), and I don’t think there will be too many crying if it goes, however great it is for tossing together something to show to grandma (though blessedly, I didn’t have to teach her how to use the DVD remote ). It might get put up in its current state as a downloadable app on Apple’s website for the DVD aficionados though.
iMovie will, hopefully, get some more pro-ish updates and more flexibility to its bevy of filters and effects. I think Apple lucked out in the personal movie editor arena versus Windows Movie Maker, as both companies seemed to go for a full reboot of their software at about the same time. I think Microsoft may actually be a little ahead at this point, but I haven’t used Windows Live Movie Maker in its latest incarnation to know either way. In any case, a more expansive –and better-performing – iMovie would not go unwelcomed.
I’d like to see iPhoto pick up photo-stitching support. Windows Live Photo Gallery’s photo fuse feature is also nice, if a bit creepy for how easy it makes it to fabricate photos of moments that never actually happened (seriously, digital image editing is starting to creep me right the frak out). Still, nothing wrong with adopting useful features. I don’t think it will get any broader social networking support, since it already has Flickr and Facebook uploads, and doing something like TwitPic integration seems to be a bit counter to the spontaneous “on-the-go” nature of Twitter.
iWork needs better Office document compatibility. It just does. What’s there now kind of works, for the most part, but not for anything beyond the extreme basics. Pages and Numbers are great programs (I never need to use Keynote for anything), but Pages chokes on the Word document “screenshots” that get sent to me with text mark-up all over them on a nearly daily basis at work, and I had to rebuild our Excel timesheet spreadsheet almost from scratch because Numbers exploded all over the calculation formulas. Again, I think this may be one of those bullet points that gets tossed up but not really talked about during the presentation tomorrow, but it would still be good to see.
It’s possible that there may be some announcement regarding iWork.com, which was launched as a beta with iWork ’09, and has been floating around as an undiscussed feature ever since. There’s never been any announcement of a “final release” launch, or any discussion of pricing (because it’s not supposed to be free once it leaves the beta, whenever that is). The iWork apps on the iPad have picked up the ability to access it, but that’s about it. If nothing else it would be nice to know that Apple realizes the server is still plugged in.
A new Macbook Air is almost certainly a lock, but possibly also spec bumps for the rest of the MacBook lineup. Rumor has the new Air coming in at 11″, with a minimalist RAM-shaped SSD and tons of battery. I have no idea how plausible that all is, but we’ll find out tomorrow I guess. Not a whole lot interesting to say about the hardware, really… I don’t have much of an opinion on any of it; what comes is what comes. Faster processors, bigger graphics cards in the Pro lineup, and perhaps an SD card slot in the 17″ Pro is all I’m really looking for in the updates. Nothing major to be sure, because otherwise the rumor mill would have spun out more Mr. Blurrycam photos from China by now.
No touchscreen Macs. Just, no. Not happening. It makes no sense. Microsoft has been proving every day of the year that Windows is not suited for touch interfaces regardless of how much it supports it, and the Win7 Touch Pack is a pile of bolt-on hacks to try and make the experience not absolutely atrocious. Apple is not going to follow them down that rabbit hole.
Also, because it has to be said every freaking time, no headless consumer Mac tower either. Not happening. Get over it.
This is sort of the black sheep of the announcements that are likely to be made tomorrow. A new version of OS X seems like as good a place as any to slot in new MobileMe functionality, because OS X’s sluggish release schedule (versus the breakneck pace of iOS releases) is ultimately the lag point for those sorts of changes. As ever, it would be nice to see some sort of free MobileMe service get announced (maybe just email, contact, calendar, and bookmark sync, without iDisk, desktop sync, or Backup), or lower prices on the plans, but Apple is notoriously bad at lowering the price on stuff, and I don’t think they’re willing to ditch something that’s bound to be making them a fair amount of bank.
What’s possible is that Apple will use this event to discuss their new data center in North Carolina, and what exactly they plan on doing with it. iTunes streaming is a very remote possibility, but still more likely than a subscription music service, because there should be rumors to go along with that (as there have always been every time this hasn’t happened in the past), and there haven’t been any. More likely, I think, is expanded iDisk storage. What would be cool, but also probably unlikely, is a remote Time Machine backup service for 10.7 (ala Mozy, Carbonite, etc.), even if I did just spend a fair chunk on replacing my dead backup drive with a Drobo.
New Final Cut Studio? Aperture? Maybe? I dunno. Possibly. It’d certainly give Steve something to show off, but I don’t know how interested the press at large is going to be in being shown super high-end software for the creative crowd. Of course, since Apple doesn’t do trade shows and FCS is a pretty big deal that doesn’t (or shouldn’t…) just get tossed into an Apple Store update, it’s a possibility. Not a big one, but I won’t rule it out.