I believe Mac OS is heading for the history books
08 Nov, 2018

I believe Mac OS is heading for the history books

For years there have been speculation on when Apple would remove Intel processors from their Macs and replace them with their own A-series ARM processors.

The new November 2018 iPad Pro with the A12x Processor now matches and even outperforms Intels 15/28W TDP mobile processors in major productivity tasks like Video editing and Photo editing. Apparently the hardware is about ready to take on the job if that is what Apple wanted.

But I don’t believe that is Apples game plan - it’s to risky and it doesn’t solve any of the major challenges Apple is facing:

  • It’s complicated and expensive to have 2 separate ecosystems (MacOS and iOS)
  • MacOS has been stagnant for years and never really won Windows users over
  • Gaming never became big on MacOS
  • MacOS and Touch are not really compatible - look at MS’s woes to include Touch in Windows
  • The young generation expects touch on any computer they interact with
  • In the longer term your “PC” will be your phone which you bring with you all the time. So the Phone OS needs to have all the tier one Apps like MS Office, Adobe Photoshop and Final Cut Pro in the future

"Apparently the hardware is about ready to take on the job if that is what Apple wanted"

It just doesn’t make sense to replace Intel with ARM in Mac Computers - The costs would be huge, the risks of failure due to lack of ported APPS would be huge, and if they were successful, that would still only leave them with the very small slice of the PC marked they have today.

What does make sense, and what I expect Apple to do, is to replace MacOS with iOS in the coming years. The are so many advantages and gains to be had, that this has to be their game plan. Just look at the plain obvious advantages:

  • One OS/Hardware ecosystem and APP platform
  • Touch is native in the Ecosystem
  • The work needed to achieve this is almost software only at this point - make iOS more “workstation” and productivity friendly.
  • Your Phone OS is now also your PC OS
  • Unseating Windows users would be simple with this approach. Millions of windows users already have iOS devices, and they already know and are comfortable with the platform. When it’s time to replace their PC, they will buy a suitable iOS device instead if iOS has grown to a suitable feature level.
  • They get a HUGE gaming platform in one swift strike. MacOS never became a good gaming platform - iOS already is. With more powerful hardware they could easily replace game consoles and gaming PCs. The New iPad is already about as powerful as the XBOX One S and PS4.
  • They get even more control of your computing environment. iOS is a 100% Walled garden, MacOS is not.

"They get a HUGE gaming platform in one swift strike"

Also, there are several very clear signs that this has been the game plan for years:

  • Macs have received very little love from Apple in years - It seems it takes user outcry to make them release new models
  • They bought and now develop their own ARM CPU’s and Apple GPU’s to make sure they can deliver the performance needed
  • There is a HUGE movement to get tier one productivity apps moved to iOS (MS Office, Adobe Lightroom/Photoshop, All Apple’s own apps)
  • They experimented with the AppleTV for years - it needs to be perfect once the move is made, because this will be the Game Console/streaming box/Home PC killer. It will do all of your media consumption and TV interaction - way more versatile than the Game Console, and by using Airplay from your iPad your TV can now be your low-end PC screen for budget home users (Those that do not buy a dedicated iOS based Mac).
  • There is an un-proportionally large focus on iPad from apple even though it’s not a particular large part of their product portfolio - especially since it has been unable to gain substantial new marked shares. This is because this device is set out to be the bridge to gap the PC marked. The iPad will ensure that iOS is well tried and tested and tier one APPS are ready when Macs become iOS based.

"Macs have received very little love from Apple in years"

With this in mind, what is needed to complete this game plan? Well Apple is WAY further along than you might think:

  • They need an ARM processor with workstation level performance. They already "have" that, as the new A12 has similar single thread performance to Intel CPU’s. Since they can put 4 of those high speed cores in an iPad without active cooling, creating a 8 or 16 core CPU with active cooling would be a “simple” re-engineering task
  • They need to add more filesystem capabilities to iOS. iOS does have a filesystem, so that is a development matter of extending the API’s and the current FILES app to a more traditional filesystem view. All the files are synced to iCloud in the background- just like dropbox.
  • They need mouse support - and this is a BIGGIE. There is no way iOS can replace PCs without a mouse. But, I would argue that polluting iOS with a mouse could be a mistake - and I believe Apple has been clear on this stance previously. One possible solution is to support Bluetooth Mouse hardware, but not include a OS level mouse pointer. Just make it available within apps that request pointer support. That way Apple does not need to supply a mouse with a iOS device - and devs cannot assume a mouse is available. But specific apps that needs a mouse can simply require one to be paired in order to work. This could in one simple strike make iOS devices the preferred device for corporate employee’s. Think of companies with Monitors and iPhone/iPad docks to use with the MS Terminal Services RDP app.
  • They need a little more workstation customization options overall in iOS - such as proper multi monitor support, a broader USB device support and so on.
  • The last major issue could be multi user support in iOS. However, i’m not quite sure Apple wants to go there. And you could argue it’s not needed, because shared workstation class desktops are quite rare. If you need more users in your home, use your phone/iPad via the AppleTV or a dock. If you really need more than one user on a proper workstation, get that user his own workstation. For company desktops this will be a problem - but I expect Apple to play the long game here and simply wait until phones are powerful enough in a docking station running cloud and terminal services, and then all regular desktop employee’s will have phones issued - just as they do now

"They need mouse support - and this is a BIGGIE"

So what should we expect?

Well looking into the crystal ball on Apple is a notoriously difficult feat, but I would guess the plan looks something like this:

  • In late 2019 we get iOS 13 with substantial focus on adding workstation features as described above
  • In 2019 we will see a lot of Tier one apps and games ported to iOS
  • In 2019 we will get a new AppleTV that is substantially more powerful than the current 4K unit - think A12x CPU level performance. I would guess we also get a proper Apple game controller for the unit to attract the tier one games. Without knowing it, this will be the enabler for showing the average home user why iOS makes so much sense for the desktop in the following years
  • In late 2020 we will get iOS 14 with even more workstation features, and Apple will announce their intentions of moving iOS into the desktop. Personal level iOS/ARM based Macs (Laptops and Desktops) will make their debut in the Apple store
  • In 2021 Apple will release iOS 15 along with iOS/ARM based Mac Pro level hardware. They will also announce that the 2021 MacOS will be the last major release of MacOS

There you have it... My belief on how Apple will continue to sustain their hardware business. And it play’s perfectly into my piece from last year about how Apple could win over company desktops on a security agenda: End user Computing - Could Apple take over the World?