Scott's Weblog The weblog of an IT pro specializing in virtualization, networking, open source, and cloud computing

Why I Might Leave OS X

I’ve been a Mac OS X user for a long time; I switched from Windows to OS X in 2003 when the OS X flavor of the day was 10.2 “Jaguar.” Since that time, I’ve upgraded hardware (moving from a Titanium PowerBook G4 to a Core 2 Duo MacBook Pro circa 2006, then to a 2009-era 15” Core 2 Duo-based MacBookPro, and finally to a 13” MacBook Pro with a Core i7) and I’ve upgraded OS X releases (from Jaguar to Panther to Tiger to Leopard and finally to Snow Leopard). Both the hardware as well as the software have served me well.

I adopted OS X as my operating system of choice in 2003 because I wanted a stable, powerful, UNIX-based operating system. For the most part, OS X has delivered that over the years. Yes, there have been issues from time to time (no software is perfect), but—for the most part—I’ve been pretty happy with OS X. There was a time, a few years ago, that I couldn’t imagine I would ever switch away.

As millions of other users did, I also adopted the iPhone (and later the iPad), further strengthening Apple’s hold on my personal computing landscape. Much like OS X just seemed to “make sense” to me on my laptop, iOS just seemed to “make sense” to me on these new touch-enabled devices. One of the reasons I think iOS was (and is) successful is because Apple didn’t try to shoehorn “traditional” interface assumptions onto these new form factors. They recognized that trying to apply desktop computing paradigms to mobile devices wouldn’t work well. Instead, Apple’s engineers set out to design an operating environment that was tailored to the form factor.

Ironically, the very thing that I think led to the success of iOS is now pushing me away from OS X. However, as happy as I’ve been with OS X, it now appears that Apple is “thinking differently” about where OS X is headed, and that direction looks to be closely aligned with iOS. In the hopes of bringing the incredible popularity of iOS devices to the Mac market, Apple seems to be bringing OS X closer and closer to iOS. Yet, in the push to do so, they have forgotten what made iOS successful: it was tailored to the use case. iOS wasn’t designed for laptops and workstations; it was designed for mobile devices. OS X wasn’t designed for mobile devices; it was designed for laptops and workstations. Clearly, when you try to merge products that were designed for separate use cases, something has to give. Given the popularity of iOS, which one do you think will win?

So, the powerful UNIX-based operating system that I adopted so many years ago is now beginning to give way to a candy-coated plaything, where applications are sandboxed (thus crippling so many applications and their functionality in the process) and the concept of a filesystem where files can be freely shared among applications gives way to application-specific document storage (where files created in one application can’t be seen by other applications—see Documents in the Cloud). It’s a shamebut such is life. The only constant is change.

Don’t be surprised, then, to see me start talking more about switching away from OS X, and exploring applications and tools that work on other platforms. It won’t happen overnight; nine years is a long time to accumulate files and data. I have to look at how I can “free” my data from proprietary file formats so that I’m more platform-independent, and I need to examine the various alternatives that exist for my primary computing environment. Further, I need to ensure that the applications I need to get my job done will be present on my next platform. An OS is nice, but it’s just window dressing without the applications.

I welcome your comments and thoughts, both now and throughout this process.

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