“Mac” Dropped from “Mac OS X” – It’s Now Just Called OS X, Does That Matter?
Apple seems to be pruning the word “Mac” from “Mac OS X” in favor of just “OS X” when it comes to Mac OS X Lion (or rather, OS X Lion). This was originally noticed at the WWDC 2011 keynote and all the subsequent Lion marketing materials on Apple’s OS X website and elsewhere, but we didn’t think much of it other than being a branding exercise for Apple. So why the post about this now? Well, there have been several conspiracy theories propping up in our comments and elsewhere on the web based on the slight name change.
Conspiracy 1: “OS X” Sounds Kind of Like “iOS” Therefore it Must Mean “iOS X”
The prominent theory is that by dropping the Mac from Mac OS X and just calling it OS X, it’s one step closer in name to iOS. Furthermore, the theory goes that we’ll get some merger of OS X and iOS, it’ll be named iOS X, and soon after the world ends just as as the Mayan calendar predicted would happen in 2012 (OK I made that last part up). Additional fuel to the iOS/OS X fire comes from features like LaunchPad in Lion, since it’s admittedly iOS influence coming to the Mac platform.
Conspiracy 2: The Mac is Dead
The other paranoid theory is that by dropping “Mac” from the name “Mac OS X”, the Mac platform must be dead. This then goes into a tailspin of speculation based on the cat naming convention, with Lion being the biggest cat so therefore it must be the last cat and the last Mac OS X, and that the Macs we are using now are the last we’ll ever see before the iPad takes over the desktop.
Reality: The Mac is Alive and Well, DaringFireball to the Rescue
Does dropping Mac from the OS name really matter? The well-connected John Gruber of DaringFireball has decided to chime-in with his thoughts on the matter, and it should dispel some of the paranoia. The most important message from Gruber: “I wouldn’t read too much into this.”
Here’s his full response, in a post titled “Apple Dropping the ‘Mac’ From ‘Mac OS X’?”:
It’s often been referred to colloquially as just plain “OS X” ever since it was announced, but this is the first time Apple has dropped the “Mac” from the name in marketing materials. I have no idea why, but I wouldn’t read too much into this. I think they — where by “they”, feel free to substitute you-know-who — just think it sounds better. And it clarifies that Mac is the hardware, OS X is the software — just like how iPhone, iPod Touch, and iPad are hardware, and iOS is the software.
Soon after posting that, he updated with some more thoughts that should further clarify the naming convention:
Come to think of it, I’m pretty sure the only reason “Mac” was ever put into the name of the OS was for the ill-considered cloning era. Prior to the clones, it was just called “System 7”, “System 6”, etc. They renamed it “Mac OS” so there’d be some sort of Mac involved on machines that themselves could not be called Macs.
Gruber doesn’t specifically mention the conspiracy theories about the Mac operating system, but I think his post clearly aims to address them.
Further Proof… The “Mac” is Still in “Mac OS X” After All
Despite Apple’s recent branding changes regarding Lion, “Mac OS X” as a name is alive and well, and it’s actually all over Mac OS X Lion itself. Here’s a few examples:
- “About this Mac” in Lion continues to display “Mac OS X” (shown above, thanks AJ)
- Mac OS X Lion Dev Preview 4 is still labeled “Mac OS X Lion”
- The new “Mac OS X” login screen in Lion clearly shows “Mac OS X” (pictured below)
Keep in mind that Apple is clearly in the midst of rebranding and renaming several other things. Another recent example, AirPort is now called Wi-Fi in Lion, but that doesn’t mean AirPort wireless networking is gone or dying, it’s just called Wi-Fi in the menubar.
So does it matter that “Mac” isn’t in Apple’s new branding for Lion? Not really. You still have a Mac, it’s even still running Mac OS X, Apple is just calling it OS X now. As Gruber says, don’t read too much into it.