06 August 2006

Leopard Wish List

Just a little fun ahead of Apple's Worldwide Developers Conference starting Monday. There'll be a few new product releases of course, with particular focus on the Mac Pro (PowerMac replacement). I'm not sure about other releases this time - my guess is that the new Intel Core Duo 2 upgrades to MacBook Pro and iMac will wait until the chips are in better supply and not to dull the impact of the Xeon/CoreDuo 2 Mac Pros (European MacWorld for instance?). I'm also not sure there'll be any massive iPod news either for obvious reasons of the theme of the event.

But, what has been known for a long time is that this event will preview features to come in "Leopard" - Mac OS X 10.5.

I'm sure Apple is playing a clever game attempting to ensure that it has EVERY key feature offered by Vista, and of course a few more goodies too. It is not enough for us to know that a 10.6 will be along way before Vista's replacement. At this time, I'm not actually sure that Vista offers anything that even the current Mac OS X 10.4 lacks, but I'm sure this will be studied in detail by the various factions over the next few months. But 10.5's featureset is very important indeed if it is to allow Apple to grow it's marketshare as I expect it to. It's release timeframe also is important - any slippage beyond 2007Q1 will be considered a negative.

I'm going to give my wish list of features (note - I'm not trying to predict features) I'd like to see in no particular order (I'm going to skip stuff about a new kernel, and even discussions about the Finder, because I'm not smart enough to add anything that hasn't been said by others):

1. Resolution independence. Wozzat? It would mean for example that you could cram ever more pixels onto a screen without making everything (esp text) smaller. This would allow HD-capable screens in the larger notebooks without destroying the eyesight. Although technical in nature, this feature is vital if our machines are to be usable as screen resolutions go even further.

2. Improved synchronisation and back-up - especially between multiple machines. Some sort of cross between the features of iSync, iDisk/WebDav and a backup application is needed here so that we can ensure our music, photo and document libraries are maintained/preserved correctly. For instance, when my notebook is at home, it could in the background exchange information with the main home "server" - that could receive new photos off the notebook, and ensure the notebook had a subset of the primary music library (or the server could be configured to import the music in a lossless format, and the notebook could have it as an AAC/MP3, for instance). Our productivity and data integrity could be helped a lot with software that is much more intelligent and lets us do things just once (import a CD, add a photo to a library, etc) and ensure that data is available and backed up.

3. Mapping. Now this is a long-shot, and partly influenced by my recent forays into GPS, GoogleEarth etc. (though a couple of rumour sites have mentioned this area as a possibility). Perhaps for instance, it would make it easy in iPhoto to tag location information onto shots? I think location features are going to become increasingly important - especially in our mobile devices. I'm already thinking that Apple will take the iPod + Nike stuff much further with a GPS add-on to the iPod. This would then match up with downloadable maps and local information (eg tourist guides - which are already emerging in iPod format). Some software for the home machines and notebooks would be needed to go along with such features. The problem with embedding such functionality with Leopard is that most iPod users are not Mac users of course, so if I'm heading in the right direction on the iPod front, Apple will need something more cross-platform for this sort of functionality. I'm intending to cover this big topic in a future blog post.

4. iChat 4. There's little doubt that there will be an iChat 4, but where could it go? I am now running Skype AND iChat at the same time, and the latest Skype can do a lot more (though not always very well). I need real cross-platform capabilities, and I want to switch easily between IM'ing people, talking with them and even videoing. When they're not there, I want messages taken and forwarded on. I really hope iChat opens up more, and offers some VoIP features such as calling out. It needs to do this quickly or it will be marginalised into a quaint application that we occasionally use for communicating with our fellow Mac zealots. If there is an Apple iPhone, then it should also have an iChat application. Or better yet, Apple should come out with iChat clients that work on other devices such as Symbian phones. The key to such solutions working is either to be highly interoperable and/or highly ubiquitous. iChat 4.0 must go in at least one of these directions.

I do think both the mapping and the home backup are a bit speculative, and the other two less so. But I'd love to see some development in all four areas.

There'll be other features too of course - iCal, AddressBook and Mail improvements. BootCamp will also be formalised. Spotlight will surely be enhanced to keep it ahead of the search capabilities in Vista. There will be features added to the OS to ensure it is capable of bettering the Media Centre experience offered by some versions of Vista. Whether this will be outward in terms of better FrontRow functionality or under the hood I have no idea, but the onset of Blu-ray, HD DVD and other HD technologies will surely mandate some changes?

What would you like to see in Leopard? Or, if you're reading this after the Keynote what are you excited about or disappointed with?

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