Thursday, October 21, 2010

the parts of Lion which remain secret

I must confess some disappointment over yesterday's announcement, not because the stuff they showed wasn't cool - it was! - but because the stuff that interests me the most remains secret. What we saw of Lion were mainly user interface enhancements, a category that was famously, intentionally missing from Snow Leopard, which concentrated on bug fixes and lower level enhancements. It might even be that the pause in the introduction of new user interface features, represented by Snow Leopard, made possible the integration of such features seen in Lion's new Mission Control view.

But what's Lion got to compare with OpenCL and Grand Central Dispatch? Something, most likely, but that something remains secret. Does it have a new file system or file system abstraction layer? Does it bring true resolution independence? Are any technologies developed for Apple application software, like iPhoto's face recognition, moving into system code and becoming available to third party applications? Are there any important new APIs?

Patience, I try to tell myself, which of the major releases of Mac OS X has not brought such advancements? Maybe 10.1, which was primarily a bug fix and code efficiency update to 10.0. Are they out of ideas? Surely not! Are they underfunding lower level R&D? Not likely. What then?

A Mac OS X engineering position announcement awhile back stated quite plainly that a successful applicant could wind up working on something unprecedented and revolutionary. Sure, Apple spreads such verbiage a little thick at times, but the clear implication was there's something big happening in the wings, and the timing was such that it's likely to be included in Lion, which won't be released until next summer.

Moreover, in yesterday's collection of announcements, everyone on stage was careful to point out that only some of Lion's features were being shown. Clearly there's something else, something they aren't yet ready to talk about.

Something else Steve was careful about, in discussing touch input on Macs and how they've concluded that it just doesn't work on a vertical screen, was that he was talking about laptops, not necessarily all Macs. So, perhaps this recently revealed Apple patent is more than a design exercise. Time will tell.

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