Waiting for an Interesting Desktop OS

by Colin Berkshire

The recent MacOS updates have been mostly cosmetic. The user interface was back to the 1980s look, having shucked every hint of buttons that look like buttons and any 3D effects. (I liked the 3D buttons!) Apple’s Yosemite seems to pretty much continue the trend of really not being very enhanced over, say, OSX of three years ago.

I attributed the lack of innovation in OSX to Tim Cook being pretty much an “administrator” rather than being a dynamic leader.

When Windows 10 came out I realized that it wasn’t much different from Windows 7. Aside from some cosmetic changes to the very top-most parts of Windows, nothing much has changed in the past seven years. Heck, some parts of the operating system look the same as they did 15 years ago (like the System Management administrative snap-in console.)

So it is hard to point the finger at either Apple or Microsoft.

The realization that I am having is that desktop operating systems seem to have fully matured. They aren’t changing much. They aren’t evolving. They aren’t radically new like they were 15~25 years ago. There isn’t compelling new functionality that you really want to upgrade to get.

It’s very much like the American auto industry in the 1950s. Tail fins get taller and then shorter, and the menu of colors changes (Candy Apple Red!) but there wasn’t much innovation until the 1970s when cars got sportier, smaller, faster, tighter and suddenly lasted longer than 60,000 miles.

I used to think the problem was Steve Ballmer (who I still feel ran Microsoft into the ground.) Tim Cook is no bundle of energy or pioneer of new visions either. But I can’t say the problem is actually boring leadership. It could just be that we are in a lull.

I am certain that we will go through a resurgence of innovation at some point. I can’t envision what it might be. But history says there are these “spurts” of advancement. I look forward to it.

But for now, I don’t see anything jaw dropping and compelling. I miss the exciting days of COMDEX and rapid, profound change.