It’s time for major change in the iWorld

Apple’s been fantastically successful, there is no denying that. Starting with the iMac, then with the hit iPod, moving to the iPhone and now the iPad, Apple has been hitting product home runs for 12 years now.

The Macintosh software that controls the iOS world, however, has been evolutionary at best. It is obvious that the software teams are scrambling to keep up with new devices and new features coming at a blistering pace.

iTunes has suffered the most. If ever there was a case study for the bastardization of a piece of software, it is iTunes. iTunes was originally derived from Cassady & Green’s wonderful Sound Jam. Apple bought the software and has been hacking on it ever since.

Let’s take a quick overview of a Macintosh user’s experience with using an iPhone, for example.

  • I can buy software for my iPhone in iTunes on the Mac, or the App Store application on the iPhone
  • I sync music to and from my iPhone with iTunes
  • I sync applications to and from my iPhone with iTunes
  • I sync podcasts to and from my iPhone with iTunes
  • I sync movies I bought from Apple to and from my iPhone with iTunes
  • I sync movies I made with iMovie on the Mac to my iPhone with iTunes
  • I sync movies I made with iMovie on my iPhone to my Mac with iPhoto
  • I sync photos I have on my Mac to my iPhone with iTunes
  • I sync photos I took on my iPhone to my Mac with iPhoto
  • I access movies I took on my iPhone with iMovie on the Mac via iPhoto
  • I sync my contacts/bookmarks/notes via mobile me, or via itunes, or via google.

I could go on. Confused? Yeah, so is every other Apple customer.

The iWorld has to change.

As a Macintosh user since February of 1984, I’ve seen plenty of changes in the OS I use from Apple. Some good, some not so good. Other areas, such as application install and removal are horrendous on the Mac.

The iPhone, however, is fairly straightforward. Updating your software on the iPhone is a one button task. That is very nice.

Wouldn’t it be nice if updating software on your Mac was a one button process? Wouldn’t it be nice if moving your data to and from an iOS device was a one button process?

I think this is where Apple should go, is going but we just don’t know how nor when.

First off, Apple will drop “OS X” as the Macintosh operating name. It’ll simply become iOS for Mac. The “X” part was short lived anyway. We all know it. Steve has shown that he has the cajones to make these big changes, and frankly, people who are not fans of Macs, yet know about Macs, don’t know about “OS X” as a brand. They know “Mac” as the brand name.

So ok, we have a name change. Then what?

I think we need an App Store for the Mac. Now this would not be the same kind of App store that other iOS devices have, in that it would not be the only way to get software on your Mac, but if you were a Mac developer, you’d sure want it to be a way for people to get your software.

iOS 7 for Mac (the renamed OS X 10.7) would support a number of cool changes. Applications would be bundled as signed entities, so customers knew they were getting legit software. These bundled applications could include screensavers, kernel extensions, launch demons, fonts, spotlight plugins, quicklook plugins, basically every piece of software a Mac application needs.

When a user installs an application via the App Store, all of the included software is enabled. No need to reboot. It just works. When the user deletes the application, all of the software is removed from the system (including kernel extensions) No muss, no fuss.

Ok so what about data? Applications would be given a default storage location in the user’s documents. This is different from how iOS works on your iPhone for example (where each application is given a complete Documents file system) but the software doesn’t care as it uses APIs to find the folders in the first place, right developers?

Ok so now we have a quick way to get apps on and off of a Macintosh, very similar to an iPhone or iPad. Novice users can feel good about getting their software this way, as it has been run through at least some Apple tools to look for malware and the like. Advanced users can install software any way they like, but it won’t be as easily removed.

Novice users also know that they can look in a known place for their documents. Again, all defaults, but if they stick with that, fine, it works for them.

Removing an application gets rid of every bit of software the application polluted your computer with. Removing the application does not remove your documents, which is different than the iPhone, but hey, this is a computer.

Next up is sharing data. Soon we’ll have iOS Apple TVs, cloud syncing to North Carolina, two iPhones per average family, two iPads, two or three Macs and we’ll need a better way to share content.

Apple will introduce in iOS 7 for Mac a new centralized content sharing system. I like the term system because it connotes a strong bond between user and software to understand how things should work.

This new system will have a central syncing component. It will handing syncing all of your iWorld data, including contacts, bookmarks, notes, movies, music, photos. Think of it as iSync done right.

You won’t care how this all happens. The data coming from your iDevices will be stored in well-known places. Software, such as iTunes, iPhoto and iMovie will change to use the database index over this data for faster access.

You’ll never have to launch an app again to sync. You’ll just plug in. Or it’ll happen wirelessly, over your lan, or via the cloud in North Carolina. You just won’t care.

Apple will release the App Store app for iOS for Macintosh. You’ll use it to buy new software. You’ll be able to do this via a web browser, too. Just buy it and it automatically starts syncing to the computers you decide, right there and then. It’s like using an app to schedule your DVR. Same concept. Buy, direct, use.

You’ll shoot video on your phone, walk in the house and it will start syncing to your iWorld. This could include one, or many Macs. It may have syncing to the cloud already while you were in the car. The options are clear in the software. You choose.

You walk in the door, turn on your TV and your movie that you edited in iMovie for iPad is there for you to share with your wife. Simple as that. And there is a good chance the movie is already backed up to your Time Capsule by now.

The Mac needs to remain a computer, but it also needs to become an appliance. Purchase, set it up and use it. We should no longer be required to have IT degrees to manage our home networks.

Once Apple has all of the iWorld pieces in place, we’ll mock ourselves for how we did things back in 2010.