The Next Big (and Bad?) Change to Your Desktop Operating System

If you're a fan of the stripped down mobile operating systems that power the pocket computers we call smartphones, the next generation Windows and Apple operating systems may make you very happy.

If you're not, well, you're probably out of luck.

Over the next year or so, and probably beginning this week with Apple's release of OS X Lion, the computer operating system is about to get a major overhaul as both big OS companies try to incorporate the best from the mobile world into the desktop experience.

Chris Mims, over at MIT's Technology Review, isn't so sure it's going to work out. He quotes a designer and programmer, Cathy Shive, who observed that the best software designs are tailored for the hardware on which they run.

"Apple has been seduced by their own success, and they're jumping to translate that over to the desktop...," Shive told Mims. "They think there's some kind of shortcut, where everyone is loving this interface on the mobile device, so they will love it on their desktop as well."

While it may be hard to believe that Apple could be that tone deaf, take a look at their handling of the upgrade from Final Cut Pro 7, beloved by video creators around the world, to Final Cut Pro X, which has infuriated the core pro user base of the product. The basic problem is that Apple took many of iMovie's features and tried to incorporate them into Final Cut. The result is a mongrel that's got many in the video community frustrated and angry. Could Apple make the same mistake with Lion?

If the feelings of Gizmodo's Jesus Diaz are any indication, they may. "It breaks my heart to say this, but Mac OS X Lion's interface feels like a failure," Diaz wrote in a scathing review. "Its stated mission was to simplify the operating system, to unify it with the clean experience of iOS. That didn't happen."

Stay tuned. As Mims puts it, the next year or two will be a "beta test of what the PC should be like in an era when consumers are increasingly accustomed to post-PC modes of interaction." And like any beta, there are going to be a lot of failures and kinks to work out.

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