macOS... what?

There's been a lot of speculation about Apple changing the branding on the company's traditional computer operating system from OS X to macOS. That would better match the current iOS, watchOS, and tvOS brands unveiled at last year's Worldwide Developer Conference. I kind of love it. It's not just consistent, it's all shades of retro chic. But... macOS what?

Lucky numbers

At this year's WWDC, if Apple holds to pattern, we'll see the first public preview of iOS 10, tvOS 10 (it's based on the iOS version number), and watchOS 3 (it's not based on the iOS version number). So, if Apple does decide to switch to macOS, which version number would the company attach?

The X in OS X is the roman numeral for 10. macOS 10 would lineup with iOS 10 and tvOS 10, but it wouldn't seem like a step forward. After X comes XI, or 11. macOS 11 would be a logical step forward. The next version number for OS X, though, will be 10.12. macOS 12 would be a leap in one sense, but a solid landing in another.


Apple could also ditch the numbers entirely and go all-in on the landmark scheme the company started three years ago. Following macOS Mavericks, macOS Yosemite, and macOS El Captain could be macOS... whatever California landmark comes next.

To make that consistent across platforms, though, Apple would also have to borrow the codenames, or come up with new brand names for iOS, watchOS, and tvOS. But would ski resorts and beaches be any easier for consumers to understand than numbers?

Forgoing version numbers or names entirely is another tempting option. No more 10, no more El Capitan. Just macOS, iOS, watchOS, and tvOS. Apple does just that with Mac hardware. There's no MacBook 1 or iMac Artemis. The downside there, of course, is that some designator has to be used for support, so (early 2014) and (late 2015) end up getting attached.

And year-branded operating systems went out of style in 95... or 98... or 2000.

Then there's, heaven forbid, "the new macOS". Shudder.

Anything goes

The thing to remember about branding, though, is that it can be anything Apple — or any other company — wants it to be. The folks at Infinite Loop 3 could choose, at any time, to go with macOS Titanium, iOS Black, watchOS Tatooine, or the new tvOS (mid-2016).

It doesn't have to follow any logic or pattern, or anything other than Apple's executive committee thinks it is best for the products.

A few years ago, if asked, I would have said if Apple ever moved on from OS X to OS 11, that it be for something *next. (Not to be confused with something NeXT.) For whatever would come after Mach and Darwin and BSD and Foundation and AppKit and maybe even iOS as we currently know it. Because something always comes next.

Now, though, I dig the idea of macOS and sooner rather than later. And I dig the idea of a macOS 11 or macOS 12. How about you?

Rene Ritchie

Rene Ritchie is one of the most respected Apple analysts in the business, reaching a combined audience of over 40 million readers a month. His YouTube channel, Vector, has over 90 thousand subscribers and 14 million views and his podcasts, including Debug, have been downloaded over 20 million times. He also regularly co-hosts MacBreak Weekly for the TWiT network and co-hosted CES Live! and Talk Mobile. Based in Montreal, Rene is a former director of product marketing, web developer, and graphic designer. He's authored several books and appeared on numerous television and radio segments to discuss Apple and the technology industry. When not working, he likes to cook, grapple, and spend time with his friends and family.