Ahead of its release on Saturday, Apple have updated their Mac OS X pages with movies and graphics of the new operating systems. It's those little touches I love: Print previews (even from the web) being save-able as pdf; an Undo option on the desktop; Services (ooooh, Services) -- that last being the ability of applications to easily hook together. I remember from using NeXT having a text editor to edit source, and the Pascal compiler putting an option in the Services menu to compile and run, completely removing the save launch and load intermediate step. Mmm, geek lust. And I've heard that all the Developer Tools are included with the final release. Wow. It's like the 1980s.
All of which makes me think... I've been coming round to the idea that the GUI, as is, has reached the end of its lifetime. The operating system world is in a similar state to DOS before Windows. There was no compelling reason to upgrade the operating system, and that's the state we're in. There are no big differences in new version, between rival products (Mac OS and Windows), and no innovation. But perhaps I've been too hasty with that idea. A universal login, shared contacts/calendar/file-storage between Windows XP, Hotmail, and any other application that wants to (Windows XP and Hailstorm) is indeed compelling and probably something that does indeed need to be done at the OS level. As a www developer, running Apache, a solid database, php, Perl, but also Photoshop, BBEdit, Microsoft Office, on my laptop, on the train, without an internet connection (that'll be Mac OS X then), that is also compelling. Extremely. There are clear differences emerging between products, which is a good thing, and although I'd class none of this as "innovation" there are a large number of growth points that independent and small developers can take in directions that the OS behemoths haven't even considered.
I'd still like to see alternative ways of dealing with my information. I don't believe that the GUI is the be-all of how to store my documents. We can see it's crumbling already: I use my email client to store messages, MP3 software lets me browse my music, I use the www (and not my Finder or file explorer) to hunt for documents. Why shouldn't all these pieces of information be treated in a universal way? Perhaps it's a good thing that the focus of all these new services is the www because it takes the constraints off the desktop so it can move, change and experiment in new ways. I want timestreams. I want dynamic views instead of folders. I want built in versioning. I want to browse a database as a file system, and do sql on my mailbox. I want to see new ways of working, even bad ones as long as they're new. The GUI is too hard.