iPods on OS X: Expecting too much too soon
When news of Apple working on new iPods that run on its legendary operating system first broke, analysts were expecting an iPhone like user interface on the new Nano and imagining all sorts of useful applications running on the iPod platform. However, when the new firmware visually turned out to be pretty much the old firmware with split-screen and CoverFLow tacked on, there was obvious disappointment. I believe these false expectations were at least partly responsible for the lukewarm reception that the new firmware received very early on.
Truth be told, I did not share some of those unrealistic expectations. You see, to run a core OS X build with decent graphics reminiscent of the iPhone requires a substantial upgrade in Nano/Classic processor and graphics capabilities. Both of those upgrades currently do not make economic sense and contradict Apple’s tradition of offering sequential product upgrades. So while the firmware has an OS X foundation, it doesn’t look at all like the iPhone’s rich interface due to hardware limitations on current generation players. CoverFlow IS something new, but it clearly looks and performs like a lesser hardware demanding version found on the iPhone.
But is interface eye candy such as CoverFlow the only reason behind porting OS X to iPods or is there a grander vision of where the iPod is headed with OS X? Apple, it seems, has made the decision to move to OS X on the new iPods to in order to progressively offer more features with ease on each passing generation while still stressing simplicity of use. So, look for more enhancements added to the next round of iPods and keep in mind that the overall product roadmap is probably headed more towards a portable personal computing platform rather than just a media player. But that, of course, is several years down the road.