People keep talking about how the iPhone’s going to ruin it for OS X and the desktop lineup. I’m tired of these alarmist headlines hinting at the demise of OS X. The share of earnings from mobile devices surpassing desktops and how Apple seems to be more concerned about iPhone developers (like giving Apple Design Awards exclusively to iOS apps this year).
It certainly looks like desktops are getting the short end of the stick.
The fact is, as long as Apple engineers are using macs themselves, there’s really nothing to worry about. Their tools are our tools. It can only get better. The only market I see taking a hit is the indie software development scene. Lots of developers stepped right over OS X desktop development and headed into iOS development. Some might transition into desktop development or do some on the side but a lot of people with a background doing OS X desktop development are busy with iPhone/iPad work. Just as a matter of priority, all the new APIs from Apple and innovative software are going to come from touch devices because there’s a hot new market with a new paradigm that excites developers.
However, desktop users are already enjoying the fruits of Apple’s success with the iPhone. With more GBs of RAM and processor power coming our way via Moore’s Law, programmers start doing crazy things with that extra capacity like a fat kid in an all-you-can-eat buffet. Of course, for the end user we get cool features but that eery feeling that we’re still running in place after shelling out a couple thousand bucks on a new system never goes away (Yeah, it feels kinda faster like when I open folders…).
Snow Leopard represents incremental progress from Leopard but it also cut down on a lot of bloat, resulting in faster code and a couple GBs shaved off the installation. New multi-touch trackpads on Macbooks, the Magic Mouse, and now the Magic Trackpad all come from hard-earned innovations from touch devices.
Eventually, all the lessons learned from providing iPhone developers more convenient building blocks will surely filter through to desktop development and if not developers will start adding more open source additions to bridge the gap.
Even if all the earnings shift toward touch devices and music/movie/TV sales, you simply can’t skip the fact that the source of all that creative momentum comes from the great tools that Apple engineers are using and the OS X operating system is an integral part of it. Sure, some resources may be tied up in mobile but eventually, these worlds will converge more than diverge as mobile firepower keeps going up (just look at the difference between iPhone 3G and iPhone 4).
The bigger concern is not so much Apple’s focus on OS X but how do you entice talented indie developers to develop innovative third-party applications for the desktop (like Cover Flow started as a third-party giveaway project or Quicksilver that defined an era). Another aspect is the ranks are flooded with people more after the money than before so that definitely changes community dynamics as well. However, this doesn’t translate to an existential crisis for OS X any claims otherwise without further evidence are absurd.