Should OS X 10.11 be Apple's last Mac operating system?

Microsoft's Jerry Nixon raised eyebrows at the company's Ignite conference recently. He said that Windows 10 "is the last version of Windows.". Microsoft may be on to something, and I'm wondering how well it would work for the Mac when it comes to OS X 10.11.

An iterative approach might give Apple an opportunity to introduce new technology more gradually.

Nixon doesn't mean that Microsoft has any plans to cancel Windows or do something else radical with it. Instead, he's talking about Microsoft's plans to evolve Windows as a service, rather than as a monolithic operating system update.

Microsoft plans to update Windows incrementally with new features and services rather than force a major disruption every few years when it comes out with a major new release.

Many of Windows 10's major components are designed modularly, to be replaced with new technology. This iterative design approach should make it possible for Microsoft to innovate and test new features more rapidly than it's been able to in the past. What's more, Microsoft's new operating system will work similarly across desktops, laptops, tablets and phones.

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Given the resistance and outright antipathy many consumers and businesses have shown Microsoft's recent releases, this new approach may make a lot of sense. Once they've transitioned to Windows 10, they'll be ready to take advantage of new features and functionality as Microsoft is ready to roll them out. Microsoft is trying to make it as painless a transition as they can by giving it away to legitimate users of previous releases, a page they've borrowed from Apple's playbook.

Beginning with the release of Lion, Mac OS X 10.7, Apple adopted an annual upgrade cycle, and they made the new OS free. Mac users have upgraded to new releases in large numbers ever since. In fact, Yosemite has been Apple's fastest adoption yet. So you can argue that Apple has nothing to gain by taking a more iterative approach — that its current system works just fine. And you might be right.

Apple's not afraid to cause short-term discomfort for long-term benefit.

Given that, should Apple consider Microsoft's "last OS ever" approach?While Mac users have adopted new OS X releases in large numbers, there certainly have been some growing pains. I've talked before about some of the issues that Yosemite users have had, like unreliable Continuity features, trouble with new networking technology, and more.

An incremental, iterative approach might give Apple an opportunity to introduce new technology more gradually. Would that cause fewer problems for users, administrators, and developers, or would it be an even bigger headache?

Apple's not afraid to cause short-term discomfort for long-term benefit. Just look at Apple's app development efforts: Final Cut Pro users were furious with Apple when it went to Final Cut Pro X because it removed or changed functionality. It's done the same with iMovie. It's done the same with iWork apps like Pages, Keynote, and Numbers.

At least when it comes to Apple, it's dangerous to assume that past behavior is a good indicator of future action. So I wouldn't make any assumptions based on Apple's track record thus far.

I'm willing to bet that Apple is taking a very long look at what Microsoft is doing with Windows 10. And Apple is surely ready to adapt and change if it looks like it's the right move.

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