Exploring the Demise of Mac OS X

By James Mowery

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Released to the wild in 2001, Mac OS X is the foundation of Apple’s desktop growth and prosperity throughout the twenty-first century. A true beauty of an OS, it is used and adored by millions. But as Apple shifts its focus elsewhere, that foundation has slowly begun to crumble. Now, in an awkward twist of fate, the biggest enemy of OS X might be its creator. Drama? You bet!

We regularly hear about iPod, iPad, iPhone, iTV, and the various other iSomethings within the Apple community. Unfortunately, we hear about them so much that talk about Mac OS X has been drowned out. Why, though? Is there something wrong with Mac OS X?

Nope.

However, the reason that talk about OS X has subsided is because other products have been created to fulfill the needs of changing consumers. It’s an ultra-mobile world. While Mac OS X still fulfills some needs of the ultra-mobile consumer, other products are doing the job more efficiently. So, being Apple, the company had to push the envelope to keep its faithfuls happy.

This meant that adaptation was key. However, adapting to the average consumer’s ultra-mobile lifestyle with a desktop/laptop and a 9-year-old operating system is, in a word, difficult. You could make enormous changes, like making a laptop as thin as a pencil (as Apple accomplished with the Macbook Air), but it still wasn’t going to be enough. These days, if it won’t fit in a pocket, it is practically useless to the ultra-mobile consumer.

So Apple had to make a drastic change: and they did.

Mobile Takes Over

iPhone

That drastic change was the creation of the iPhone. Originally announced in early 2007 by Steve Jobs, the iPhone has become Apple’s most important product and might be one of the primary reasons for Apple’s continued success. It signified a change in computing, revolutionized an industry, and will forever be remembered as one of the products in history that changed the mobile industry. Impressive, right?

Not only has the iPhone changed the way we think about mobile phones, it changed the way we think about applications. No longer are applications constrained to a desktop/laptop operating system. They can live on mobile devices and, in fact, thrive on them. Nearly everything that can be accomplished on a traditional laptop or desktop can now be done with a device no larger than the palm of your hand.

We know the rest of the story: developers flocked to this new platform, consumers spent their money investing in content, and Apple reaped the rewards. It all sounds fabulous.

So then it came time for Apple to return to Mac OS X — with motivation to topple Microsoft’s Windows Vista and Windows 7 operating systems — right? To improve upon this beast and push for more market share. To show world that Mac OS X is the greatest of all the operating systems in the world!

Well, Apple had a different plan — that plan involved shaking up the tech industry again.

iPad

Apple introduced us to the iPad — which is, arguably, little more than a blown-up version of the iPod Touch. This wasn’t Apple’s first foray into tablet computing, but it certainly performed better than the last attempt.

Yet there was nothing surprising about the creation of the iPad; it was the next logical step. And, as expected, it’s on the long road to success.

But how well the iPad performs is irrelevant. The true story behind the iPad is that it proves, without question, that Apple is dedicated to iOS. Is that bad news for OS X? Maybe.

But iOS is only one piece of the puzzle. The iTunes marketplace — which is in dire need of a new name — is the other.

iTunes Marketplace

iTunes

The iTunes marketplace is the bread and butter of Apple’s profits. Without it, the iPhone, iPod, iTV, iPhone, and iPad are useless. Together, however, they are perfect. So Apple insist on creating new products, like Ping, to take advantage of iTunes. Who could blame them?

More importantly, the iTunes marketplace signified a switch in consumer behavior. Previously, consumers desired openness and freedom, but now consumers are willing to sacrifice that for a better experience. Sure, the iTunes marketplace is more like giving up a democracy for a dictatorship (granted, one that works very well), but this is what consumers want. Thus, it’s either Apple’s way or the highway.

Mac OS X doesn’t offer consumers nor Apple that same level of control. That is the core issue at hand.

Uncertainty

Will Mac OS X live to see the age the age of 10? Nothing is certain. It’s possible that Apple could be working on a new operating system. It’s also possible that Apple intends on creating a new desktop and laptop that runs iOS exclusively. And again, it’s possible that Apple intends on doing nothing major and will continue to update Mac OS X through the foreseeable future (boring, I know).

What is certain, however, is that Mac OS X is no longer Apple’s primary focus. In fact, I believe Apple could care less about the success of its desktop and laptop lineup (e.g. Apple’s “Switch” advertisements are no more and new announcements are rarely made about OS X at conferences).

For Apple, the future is iOS. Mac OS X’s future remains a mystery.

About James Mowery
James Mowery is a passionate technology journalist, entrepreneur, and Apple enthusiast who has written for various top-tier publications like Mashable, Techi, and CMSWire. Follow him on Twitter: @JMowery.

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