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What Happens to OS X?
The future of Apple's computer OS grows more uncertain.
Programming is not just a job anymore than Unix is just an operating system. For those who really love their work, programming entails a fascination - an ambition to learn.
Brian Kernighan's 'Software Tools' school builds on this premise. Software tools are what (real) programmers create to learn better how to use a target system. As they develop these tools, they gain further insights into the target system, which in turn encourages them to write further tools, and so forth.
Apple's new mobile devices aren't bootstrap for developers. Developers need other boxes to develop software for them. Watching programmers trying to develop on the iPhone would be hilarious even if it were possible. The iPad might be a bit better to work with but still and all. The iPhone and the iPad are in a real sense hermetically sealed.
The tinkerers may be gone, fears Mark Pilgrim, replaced by the drab humourless professional for whom it's only a job.
And world banking can't be done - at least not yet - on iPads running in tandem. The big iron is still out there and very much needed. Server parks abound. These computers dwarf handsets in sophistication if not in beauty.
But personal computing has been less about operating systems and more about hardware interfaces. The original IBM and Apple 'systems' were disk operating systems only - they managed disks. They retained an experimental air. The very name of the institution where Steve Jobs peddled his wares says all. As does the tinkering spirit of his partner Steve Wozniak.
Personal computing has long needed to take the big step from 'homebrew' to 'appliance' - to being something ordinary people can rely on without overly worrying about (or even knowing about) what's inside. Ordinary people who will never want to tinker.
Today's personal computer market is a mess. 'I'm a PC and Windows 7 was my idea' says all. Steve Jobs keeps insisting the war for the PC desktop is already over. And everybody lost.
Perhaps the mobile era will offer more reliability and security. Perhaps that war is already over as well. Perhaps Steve Jobs is already the winner.