What comes after Tiger?

Almost a year ago, I created a “ Tiger Wish List,” full of features I wanted to see in the next version of Mac OS X. When Tiger was finally announced, many of those features weren’t on the list — but several other cool features I had never even considered were a part of Tiger.

So with Tiger now slated to arrive on April 29, let me be the first to begin the speculation about what will be in Mac OS X 10.5… oh, let’s call it Leopard… when it arrives in… oh, let’s say January 2007. (And yes, I have taken this opportunity to grind my usual axes and request my pet features. That’s part of the fun!)

Smart Locations. Yes, I’m still dreaming about a system-wide feature that lets portable Macs know where they are and change their settings accordingly. Perhaps by 2007 Macs will have built-in GPS locators, so they won’t even need to scan for nearby wireless networks in order to determine where they are. More practical uses for this technology? E-mail, printer, iChat, and other settings that change depending on if you’re at home, at work, or on the road.

Smart Syncing. With Tiger, .Mac syncing is much more integrated with Mac OS X and individual applications than it’s been in the past. Which is great. But now it’s time to get smart with syncing individual files and folders. Mac OS X can sync a local copy of your iDisk with the version that’s on the .Mac servers, but that’s so limited. I’d like the ability to arbitrarily choose ANY file or folder on my Mac and have it synced with an iDisk or other systems. Which leads to my next request for Leopard…

“Profile.” Apple’s much better than I am at taking collections of technologies and giving them a cool nickname — I probably would’ve called Spotlight something like “Beachhead” or “Supersearch” or “Mega Findy Man!” So the name Profile is debatable. But the feature I’ve got in mind takes advantage of fast network connections and/or large-capacity portable storage devices to let you use what you think of as your Mac — your preferences, documents, and perhaps even some of your applications — at any Mac that’s been set up to welcome you. In other words, I log in to my Power Mac at home, and it connects to .Mac to automatically synchronize all my key documents and preferences, and re-synchronizes with .Mac when I log out again. Or if I’m someone who works with gigantic files, I should be able to synchronize with my iPod, a thumbdrive, or some other as-yet-invented portable storage technology. (This would be an excellent feature for school computer labs, by the way.)

iChat as Productivity Tool. I use iChat every day for work — it’s an excellent medium that’s more direct than e-mail and less direct than a phone call. However, if you’re using iChat for important work purposes, it needs better organizational tools. Apple should build in a chat-archive-browser like Spiny Software’s Logorrhea into iChat. I also want to be able to archive of audio and video chat files. Even cooler would be a technology that can recognize the words spoken in those audio and video chats and automatically generate a chat transcript with a time-based index so I can jump to the appropriate place in the chat and listen for myself. Finally, how about a tabbed option for multiple chats, for those of us who need to keep many chat windows open during the day?

Okay, so that’s four. Each time Apple comes up with a new operating system, they announce that it’s got hundreds of new features. So I need your help once again. What features would you like to see in the Mac OS X of 2007?

[ Updated: Stephan Somogyi reminds me that 10.0 was Cheetah. Then it went Puma, Jaguar, Panther, Tiger. And Lion doesn't seem to be in the cards. So Leopard it is! Also, Curt Poff made an excellent iChat suggestion that I've added above. -J.S.]

Shop Tech Products at Amazon