The next major build for Mac OS X, possibly named Lynx or another big cat, will most likely feature two of the most-used -- and most notorious -- iOS applications: Siri and Apple Maps.
Apple news site 9To5Mac, which has been following visits to its own websites from computers identifying themselves as running Mac OS X 10.9, had originally reported in November that the next-generation Mac OS would feature Siri and Maps integration. But recently, Apple has been updating its Jobs page with several new positions, including ones specifically built to help improve and expand the use of Siri.
In a recent job posting for a Siri UI engineer, added on Jan. 24 (but since removed), Apple asks for an engineer that can implement “the content that appears within Siri’s conversational view” but did not mention any experience in iOS. It did, however, require collaboration with other Siri teams, as well as knowledge of Apple’s development APIs and “familiarity with Unix, especially Mac OS X.”
“This is a broad-ranging task -- we take every application that Siri interacts with, distill it down to fundamentals and implement that application's UI in a theme fitting with Siri,” the job posting said. “Consider it an entire miniature OS within the OS, and you get a good idea of the scope! Of course, each of these little ‘snippets’ corresponds to an individual application, so you will have extensive cross-functional work with many other teams. You'll need to work with them to enable access to their data and behaviors and wire them up to your implementations. As a result, strong API design is needed to keep communications ideal.”
Over the past two weeks, Apple has added several new job postings related to both Siri and Maps; at the same time, MacRumors has noticed increased activity from visitors running Mac OS X 10.9. Coincidence? Likely not.
Apple is likely shifting gears now to put most of its energies behind Mac OS X 10.9, considering its release date is likely July. For the past several years, Apple has decided to upgrade OS X on a yearly basis, releasing the last two operating systems -- Lion and Mountain Lion -- in July, after releasing developer previews for both platforms in February. Apple is likely following a similar pattern, hence the increased traffic from Mac OS X 10.9 machines.
Apple’s self-made Maps application, which released with iOS 6 on Sept. 19, was an unfortunate move at best. The software wasn’t ready, and it resulted in an embarrassing apology letter from Apple CEO Tim Cook and the removal of a few important figureheads at the company, including iOS chief Scott Forstall.
Now, with software guru Eddy Cue leading both the Maps and Siri team, Apple is doing everything it can to improve both of those extremely important services.
On the Mac, Maps integration may simply be a framework for developers to contribute their own work on mapping, but it's possible Apple may be building a standalone Maps app on the Mac, similar to how Google Earth is its own app outside of the Web. If Apple opened up its Maps application in the same way Google does, letting local residents and interested cartographers to submit their own improvements and details to help map the world, porting Maps to the Mac could be an excellent way to improve this service in a hurry.
Maps needs a lot of work before it can improve, but Mac users will likely welcome Siri, the friendly AI assistant useful for dictating your voice to send off texts and emails, set reminders and timers, play music, launch applications, or answer any number of context-sensitive questions about sports, movies and nearby restaurants and businesses.
However, Siri still leaves much to be desired. The feature only works with a stable Internet connection, which can be ridiculous at times, considering how many tasks can be handled locally, and the speech recognition software is still very imprecise. At the moment, it’s a cute trick, but it’s nothing Google can’t do quicker and more efficiently on its own application.
At the moment, Macs can already perform Dictation, one of Siri’s main features; however, adding Siri to the Mac only binds the iCloud ecosystem closer together, as many of Siri’s best uses -- Mail, Notes and Reminders -- are all accessible over Apple’s mobile and desktop platforms.
Expect more news about Mac OS X 10.9 in the coming months, as Apple prepares to release its developer preview months in advance of its public introduction. Last year, Mac OS X 10.8, Apple’s Mountain Lion operating system, introduced a handful of iOS favorites to the Mac, including Notification Center, Notes, Reminders, Dictation and iWork synching in iCloud. Speaking of iWork, Apple has also just added a few job postings for the iLife/iWork team this week: Both of those platforms are due for an update, considering their last major improvements were made in 2009.