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The next ten years of Mac OS X

He with the gold makes the rules

Over the next decade, Apple will continue to lead the development of web standards and incrementally share and incorporate core OS technologies with the greater Unix community, very likely on a faster pace than it has previously, simply because it now has a very different position in the technology world that it had ten or even five years ago. Apple will continue to gain stature in pushing the direction of operating system and software development technology, in large part because it is now building the most hardware and earning the most profits.

The company is on course to pass HP in personal computer shipments next year, but it also now has a smartphone and personal music player business that leads Nokia, Samsung or Sony, forcing market research groups to divide Apple's sales into segments so they can be compared in unflattering ways against dissimilar sales of products (the entire mobile market), groups of manufacturers sharing a common element (such as the Android "platform") or mass shipments of products that are not profitable nor sustainable (HP's abandoned TouchPad or Amazon's loss leader Kindle Fire).

Beyond unit sales, Apple also earns far more in revenues and profits than any of the various hardware makers it competes with in device sales. Additionally, Apple is one of the few companies that develops its own software platforms, giving it a unique ability to chart its own future and differentiate its products. The failure of HP's Palm webOS, Nokia's Symbian and RIM's Blackberry are only making Apple more unique in that regard. Conversely, the overall failure of Windows Phone 7 and the fractionalization issues (and pure lack of profit) affecting Android licensees are highlighting the advantages of owning one's own platform (the very reason Nokia, HP and RIM distanced themselves from adopting Android last year).

The future of Mac OS X and its mobile iOS sibling will harness new directions in technology: principally, computers that no longer rely on just faster GHz clocks but can take full advantage of multiple cores and multiple types of cores. Apple's advantage in mobile devices is already evident in the fact that, for example, Android devices like the latest Galaxy Nexus require 1.2 GHz, dual core processors with multiple CPU cores and twice the RAM to match the smooth graphics interface performance of the nearly three year old iPhone 3GS. Windows devices similarly require hotter chips and more RAM just to approximate the functionality of the far less expensive hardware of the iPad, a reality that has forced Microsoft to begin porting portions of its platform to run on more efficient ARM chips.

Simplicity shift

Apple will also continue its efforts to simplify away complexities in the computing world such as the conventional file system, replacing it with cloud-coordinated, secured documents that update intelligently across devices without requiring manual intervention by users. The App Store, iCloud, Internet Recovery, and iTunes Match have already revolutionized how software and content is distributed and stored, increasing erasing the necessity of physical media, which will in turn allow computing devices to become increasingly mobile.

Mac OS X Lion

And while Apple revolutionized the computing user interface over the last decade with multitouch gestures, winning an ideological battle against devices driven by primarily by physical keyboards and buttons, Apple's Siri promises to lead a new charge in pushing voice as a natural user interface, something that's even more intuitive than mousing or tapping, and for many people, more accessible.

Although Apple began the last decade by branching out into general purpose devices with the then new iPod (something that subsequently quickly overtook the Mac in sales volumes), it closed the decade with the vast majority of its unit sales (including half of its iPods) being driven by iOS, the mobile edition of Mac OS X.

Going forward, Apple is expected to venture into new markets with its operating system and development tools, increasing its presence in the living room on HTDVs and likely pushing further into the casual gaming market the iPod touch reinvented.

This year also marks the first year of the second decade of iTunes and the iPod, the future of which will be outlined in part two.

The next ten years of Mac OS X
The next ten years of iPod and iTunes
The next ten years of Apple Retail