Category Archives: Technology

Core Intuition’s 8 years and overselling WWDC

It’s 2 weeks before WWDC, which means it was also 8 years ago that we published the first episode of Core Intuition. At WWDC that year, Apple showed off iPhone OS 2.0, MobileMe, and the iPhone 3G. The yearly cycle of improvements to the OS and hardware don’t look much different today, but Apple keeps rolling, and so the total changes since 2008 are massive.

For as many years as I’ve been out to San Francisco for WWDC (and to San Jose before then), each year I have fewer expectations for the conference itself. Some years I don’t even bother guessing or dreaming about new features — I have no pressing needs, no critical missing APIs, no questions to ask Apple engineers in the labs — and I’m happily surprised by whatever Apple gives us.

This year is a little different. It’s the first year that I can remember since the Mac OS X 10.0 and 10.1 releases where an Apple platform needed significant performance improvements to be usable for anyone except early adopters. The first couple versions of Apple Watch were ambitious on features, but now it’s time to do the less glamorous work of making the platform fast. I hope watchOS 3.0 will be the same kind of milestone that Mac OS X 10.2 was in that regard. (And like Mac OS X, I hope it can be done mostly in new software.)

Back to WWDC the conference. I’m still thinking about the interesting venue change for Monday to the Bill Graham Civic Auditorium.

In the discussion on Core Intuition 229 last month, I kept coming back to the idea that this change has to be about growing the conference to allow more developers. Since more people show up on Monday (press and business folks, for example, who have less interest in the technical sessions or labs), you could have a bigger space on Monday and then oversell the conference as a whole, knowing that some ticket holders wouldn’t be around later in the week back at Moscone West.

Maybe that creates more problems than it solves because of packed rooms and long lines to get into sessions, though. Now that I’ve had a while to think about it, it seems unlikely that Apple would risk making the conference worse just to squeeze in another 500 developers.

Could there be some creative layouts in Moscone West that Apple hasn’t tried yet? There are so many downsides to changing the venue that I want to believe it’s part of addressing the biggest issue with the conference: most people don’t win the ticket lottery.

There’s still the problem of hotels. Linking to my post about not giving up on WWDC, John Gruber singled out Airbnb as a bad solution, since there just aren’t that many rooms available. That’s true. And even worse, potential last-minute cancellations make Airbnb less reliable. Where I said Airbnb, I should have just said “cheaper hotel”.

(Alex Cash also has tips for saving money at WWDC. Casey Liss has a good post about rising hotel prices.)

Nevertheless, I know some developers are using Airbnb this year, and I’d like to try it next year for a change of pace and scenery away from the conference. With the convenience of Uber, the risk of settling for a place farther away seems low.

And finally, I’ve enjoyed many recent podcasts about WWDC. Two highlights: Under the Radar episode 24, where Marco Arment and David Smith share their thoughts on whether to attend the conference; and Thoroughly Considered 12, about not just WWDC but the value of attending or exhibiting at conferences as a company.

Wanting an open voice assistant platform

I’ve owned an Amazon Echo since it first shipped and it’s great. I also use Siri and like it, though I use it less often for the kind of random questions I might ask Alexa. But after watching yesterday’s Google I/O keynote, I can’t help but feel that eventually Google is going to be far ahead of Amazon and Apple in this space.

Here’s John Gruber writing at Daring Fireball about the keynote:

Google is clearly the best at this voice-driven assistant stuff. Pichai claimed that in their own competitive analysis, Google Assistant is “an order of magnitude” ahead of competing assistants (read: Siri and Alexa). That sounds about right.

The problem with a voice assistant is that the better it gets, the more you want it to do. You continue to ask it more complicated questions, pushing at the limits of the assistant’s capabilities.

Only Google has the expertise in web services and the massive amount of data to keep going beyond basic questions. I expect both Siri and Alexa will hit brick walls that Google will get past, especially in conversational queries that let the user drill down below the most popular, superficial facts.

That is, unless Apple can open up Siri. Not just plugging in new trigger keywords like Alexa’s “skills” API (which would be a good start), but maybe a complete way to extend Siri with third-party code that feels seamless to the user. Surfacing voice-enabled apps automatically through natural queries might be on the same scale of app discoverability as we saw when the App Store launched.

As Ben Thompson lays out well in today’s essay, Google faces a different internet than the open web on which they built their search engine. The default for all these new platforms — from Facebook to Siri to the App Store — is to be closed. There’s a narrow window, right now, for someone to take the lead on creating an open voice assistant standard built on the open web.

SE/30 and the Mac Classic

I finally read Stephen Hackett’s article over at iMore about using “SE” in Apple product names. He lists the Macintosh SE, iMac DV SE, iBook SE, and others. Most are forgettable, but the SE/30 feels the most like today’s iPhone SE: better internals in an old package.

Stephen also pointed to a Macworld article with quotes about the SE/30 and other Macs. John Siracusa had this to say:

Though future models with the original upright shape were released, they were all tagged with the derisive moniker Classic. The SE/30 bore no such shame. It was and is the undisputed king of the original, iconic Macs and, therefore, of all Macs for all time.

The very first computer I ever owned was the Mac Classic. It was the cheapest Mac at the time, but still very expensive for us. I insisted that we get it despite the cheaper PCs that were more powerful and in color.

What struck me when I later saw my friend’s SE/30 was that the Classic was actually slower and worse in a couple of ways than the SE/30, even though the Classic came out almost two years later. Still, I loved that little machine. Everything good that has happened in my life since can be traced back 25 years ago to when I brought it home.

There’s a lot of hyperbole in the tech industry about creating products that make the world a better place. But most products just don’t have that big of an impact. To me, the Macintosh was an incredible, wildly divergent fork in the road — a choice leading to new friends and a new career, meeting my wife and starting a family. It’s hard to even imagine where the original path was leading.

Apple I history on Connected

There was a nice bonus at the end of Connected episode 86: an interview with Henry Ford Museum curator Kristen Gallerneaux by Stephen Hackett. On the small number of Apple Is in existence, Kristen said:

There are apparently 200 or so sold, and the locations today of about 46 of those 200 are known. What’s really special about ours is that is that’s one of the of the first 50 Apple Is that were ever sold, and out of that batch of the first 50, about nine of that batch are known to work. And ours works; it’s completely unmodified.

The transcript is also available. If you’re an Overcast user, you can jump to the interview segment at about 70 minutes in.

Paid search and App Store profit

Reacting to a Bloomberg article about Apple adding paid search results in the App Store, John Gruber writes:

This sounds like a terrible idea. The one and only thing Apple should do with App Store search is make it more accurate. They don’t need to squeeze any more money from it. More accurate, reliable App Store search would help users and help good developers.

The Bloomberg article almost makes it sound like there’s a 100-person team working on paid search. I doubt that’s true. More likely, there’s a team working on several improvements to the App Store, including better search.

Daniel Jalkut is also very skeptical:

It’s hard to see how paid placement would consistently benefit either Apple or its direct customers. It’s unlikely that paid listings would be used to highlight apps that are in line with Apple’s other goals for the store.

He rightly points out that making money from the App Store is Apple’s secondary goal. It’s more important to have an ecosystem of apps that make the iPhone itself indispensable. As I argued in a blog post in 2011 about free apps and distribution, I don’t think the App Store should be a source of significant profit for Apple at all.

And if we’re keeping score with old posts where I write not what Apple should do but what I wish they’d do, see “I hope iAd fails” from 2010. iAd is shutting down in June.

I just can’t believe Apple would prioritize paid search over all the other App Store feature requests that developers have. So I prefer to ignore the paid search rumor and instead take away from this article just the good news: Apple has a new team focused on improving the App Store.

Patience and impatience in the tech industry

There’s a great line from an iPad Pro article by Ben Brooks, where he’s discussing how Steve Jobs was always conscious of shipping only Apple’s best work:

The key difference between Gates and Jobs isn’t the vision, it’s the patience, or if you prefer the unwillingness to ship something which isn’t great.

I’ve been thinking about the time just before the iPad was announced. We didn’t know what form it would take, how much it would cost, or even what OS it would run. At the time, I even wanted it to run Mac OS X. From one of my blog posts in 2008:

The primary market for a Mac tablet is the millions of people who look at the Wacom Cintiq and drool. An Apple tablet has to run full Mac OS X because it has to run Photoshop, Acorn, and Painter.

It’s easy in hindsight to say how wrong I was, that of course it should run iOS. And today I’d agree; iOS 9 on the iPad is great. But I thought a tablet would be particularly good for artists, and basing it on the Mac would be the only way to hit the ground running with a stylus and mature graphics software.

That brings us back to patience, and how Apple rolls and iterates. It has taken 6 years from the original iPad introduction to the iPad Pros we have today that fulfill what I had hoped a tablet could be. Was it worth the wait? Yes. But that’s a long time, and a more impatient company might’ve taken a different path to get here, and they wouldn’t have been wrong.

I’m not actually thinking about Microsoft here, but Amazon. Amazon is so impatient not just with hardware development but everything else that even overnight delivery for their customers isn’t fast enough.

When I pre-ordered the Amazon Echo on a whim a year ago, I’m not sure that Amazon really had any idea what they were doing, whether it would flop or succeed, or if anyone would understand it. A year later, they own the market for this kind of device and it’s spread by word of mouth because the product is good. If Apple ever makes an Echo competitor it will be years from now and only because someone else proved the idea first.

Patience is good, and I’m glad that Apple has a great balance between innovating on brand new products and perfecting existing concepts. But I’m also glad that not every company is as patient as Apple. I think the industry makes better progress when some companies aren’t afraid to ship something half-baked too early.

Tesla Model 3

John Gruber, writing about the Tesla Model 3 unveiling:

The crowd enthusiasm was palpable. Tesla took over 115,000 pre-orders before anyone had even seen the car. That is trust — and rather incredible for a car that they don’t intend to ship until the end of next year.

At the beginning of the presentation, Elon Musk references his “master plan” blog post, where he outlined Tesla’s plan to start with the luxury market and then use that money to build a less expensive car, and then use that to build an even more affordable car. That blog post was 10 years ago.

Vision takes time to execute. It’s incredible to reflect on the scope of what Elon Musk’s companies have accomplished. As I wrote about last year, Elon will be admired by my kids’ generation in the same way that mine was inspired by Steve Jobs.

512 Pixels on YouTube

Stephen Hackett loves old Macs. (And iPhones and iPods and Newtons.) His fascination with old Apple hardware and the passion to share it with a larger audience — many of whom weren’t around for the dark days when Apple was doomed — is one of the things I love most about reading 512 Pixels.

He’s slowly been expanding into video production with a channel on YouTube. The latest video covers the iPod Shuffle, the tiny iPod without a screen that Apple still sells. At just $49, it’s not much more expensive than a long USB-C cable and may be the best bargain in Apple’s lineup after the $399 iPhone SE. Stephen writes about the original Shuffle:

The first Shuffle was built like a glorified USB thumb drive. This new player was smaller than a pack of chewing gum, and built around the concept of shuffling your music. There was no need for a screen or a true clickwheel. If you wanted to listen to music in order, the switch on the back could be set to continuous playback.

Ah, nostalgia. One of the reasons I blog at all, and have been for 14 years now, isn’t so much for today’s audience but tomorrow’s. Even the most mundane blog posts take on new significance with a few years’ distance. Old technical topics have surprisingly poor representation on today’s web, as linkrot sets in.

I’m looking forward to what else Stephen has planned. I know from the Connected podcast that lately he has been trying to collect all the different original iMac colors. (Two other podcasts that are worth a listen for an additional trip down memory lane: The Record and Simple Beep.)

Sticking with the big iPad Pro

I’ve been conflicted about which iPad Pro to use ever since the 10-inch rumors started. If both sizes had been available right away, I think I would have bought the smaller version. Small is convenient; I still really like and use even the iPad Mini. But there was only one iPad Pro when the Apple Pencil was introduced, so I bought that one.

Luckily the 13-inch iPad Pro still has some nice benefits. More room for split-view apps, of course, but also 4 GB of RAM compared to the new iPad Pro’s 2 GB. Federico Viticci is sticking with the big one:

2 GB of RAM was one of the first things I heard about the new device yesterday, and part of the reason why I’m going to stick with the 12.9-inch Pro. In addition to a more comfortable iOS experience, I like knowing that I’m using the most powerful iPad hardware currently available (I don’t count the camera as essential to what I need to do on an iPad).

I realized this week that I was wasting time wondering which iPad is the best for me. It’s the ol’ paradox of choice. So to cement the decision, I went by the Apple Store yesterday and picked up a Smart Keyboard for the 13-inch. I’ve been meaning to get one for months, and now that I have it, it makes even less sense to trade in my iPad for a different one. (The keyboard really does transform the iPad. It’s great.)

iPhone SE sales potential

John Gruber runs down the list of yesterday’s Apple announcements. On the iPhone SE, he recognizes that it’s a great device especially in the short term, before the iPhone 7 is released:

If you listen to my podcast, you know how ambivalent I remain about the physical size of the 4.7-inch iPhone 6 and 6S. I was really hoping that the iPhone SE would effectively have iPhone 6S specs — CPU and GPU performance, and similar camera quality. That seems to be exactly what Apple delivered. I honestly think this is the phone I’m going to use for the next six months.

Jason Snell follows up on the Dan Moren post I linked to by also covering the new products. Highlighting the sales potential for the iPhone SE, Jason writes:

In the past year, Apple has sold 30 million 4” iPhones, out of around 230 million total. That’s only 13 percent of the total, but it’s still a very large number of phones—and this, during a year when the most modern four-inch iPhone Apple sells was introduced in the fall of 2013. Is there room for the iPhone SE to be 20 percent of Apple’s total iPhone sales? I think so.

I keep thinking about the iPhone SE price: $399 for essentially the power of a 6S, which is $649. That’s just a great value. I’ve said on Core Intuition recently that while the 6S and upcoming 7 will always remain the most popular phone, I think the SE could hold its own with the 6S Plus in units sold. Now I wonder if it could even surpass it.

According to David Smith’s stats, the Plus versions represent about 15% of active devices 4-inch or bigger. That share goes up to about 20% if you exclude older devices no longer for sale, like the 5 and 5C. That seems about right to me. If you sat around an Apple Store and watched 10 people buy iPhones, I’d be surprised if more than a couple were the Plus. Starting next week, a couple of those iPhones could be the SE, too.

Apple event non-product focus

Dan Moren writes for Six Colors about the structure for the 1-hour Apple event today, of which only about half the time was spent on new products:

“If the Apple-FBI fight isn’t yet about public opinion, it probably will be if the matter ends up going to Congress. So it’s no surprise that Tim Cook is going to use his bully pulpit to push Apple’s track record on the welfare of its customers and the world at large, rather than how many products it’s sold and how much money it’s made.”

I’d like to see this continue at future events. Leave the record sales numbers for the finance call, and instead focus on what good Apple is doing because they are big, not just how they are big. Even though I own some Apple stock, I do not personally care that much about the precise magnitude of iPhone shipments this quarter.

As for the new products, nothing to complain about. Since the $10,000 Apple Watch Edition didn’t get a $50-dollar price drop like the Apple Watch Sport did, guess I’ll skip that purchase and get an iPhone SE instead.

Ulysses iOS missing Dropbox support

After I blogged about Ulysses for Mac, a couple people told me that an iPad version was coming soon and that it was great. That new version shipped this week. I put down $20 immediately even before reading the positive MacStories review by David Chartier.

Unfortunately I can’t use it much because it has no native Dropbox support. For a market that has literally many dozens of Dropbox text editors, I didn’t consider that Ulysses would ship without something so integral to my writing workflow.

(The Mac version doesn’t have this problem because of the concept of “External Folders”. I simply add my Dropbox notes folder to Ulysses on my Mac and everything syncs.)

Last month I wrote a post called iCloud is too opaque, in which I made an argument against having important text files and photos synced to a backend that allows no visibility when things go wrong, and no compatibility with other apps. Ulysses for iOS falls into this trap. Its use of iCloud is private to the app, unlike iCloud Drive or Dropbox which are accessible from other apps.

I know I’m not the only one who feels this way. The FAQ for Ulysses spends considerable space trying to explain away their lack of Dropbox support, even attempting to pin the issue on Dropbox instead of Ulysses itself.

The Soulmen, makers of Ulysses, are talented designers and developers, and I’m typing this in Ulysses for Mac because their app has a great mix of features and attention to detail. I respect that they’ve grown the company to 11 people already. But closed syncing solutions aren’t a good choice for exclusivity. Having cross-platform syncing across competing Twitter apps is why I created Tweet Marker, so you can be sure I want the same for my text documents.

Concerned about user-generated content

On the latest Under the Radar podcast, Marco Arment and David Smith talk about ways to make your app more robust. That includes tips for scaling your app with a lot of data, and also dealing with potentially hostile user data. It’s that last point that I’ve been thinking the most about lately.

With the experience of building Tumblr and Instapaper, Marco is clearly now hesitant to ship app features that accept arbitrary user-generated content, because a small indie company just doesn’t have the resources to deal with spam and abuse. Instead, he suggests outsourcing whenever possible. For example, letting Apple accept and reject podcasts, and basing the Overcast podcast directory search on that already-vetted list.

Let’s say you’re building a Twitter-like service. As we all know, hate is widespread on Twitter. At times, it seems impossible to even have a G-rated Twitter experience. But the problem is less that users can publish terrible tweets, and more that it is so easy to be exposed to those tweets with search, trending topics, retweets, and replies.

As I work on my microblogging project, I’m trying to be aware of these points in the platform where bad content can leak out. So I don’t have global search or trending topics. I also don’t make it easy to stumble upon random users. But I do have replies, which by default will currently go out as push notifications if you have the iPhone app installed. It’s that area that I should focus my attention.

Two options that come to mind for minimizing abuse in replies:

  • Don’t allow replies from people you aren’t following. This solves the problem, but it comes at the expense of discussion. It removes the accessibility that many people love about Twitter’s asynchronous following model.
  • Quarantine or attempt to classify replies so they don’t bubble up in your timeline or as notifications by default. This would be like an over-aggressive email spam filter. Difficult to get right and possibly routed around by clever microbloggers.

After listening to Marco and David, and reviewing the full scope of what I’ve been trying to build, I’m pretty concerned about this. I’m looking at Akismet, and other metrics internal to my app for judging content and suspicious user accounts, but I may be a little in over my head on this issue.

Apple Watch is slow… for now

Dan Moren wrote an essay for Six Colors last week about why slowness is such a problem for the Apple Watch:

“The stale data and the lack of speed means that either you have to stare at your Watch for several seconds and hope the data updates; or tap on the complication to load the Watch app, which as we all know takes a good long while as well; or simply give up and pull out your phone. […] It’s not just that the Apple Watch is slow; it’s that it’s slow while promising to be faster.”

Both Dan and Jason Snell followed up on this topic in the latest Six Colors subscriber podcast. The problem, they recognized, is that the first Apple Watch tried to do too much. Apple should instead focus on a few core features and make them fast.

Which features? I still use the Apple Watch every single day, and I use it for just three things: telling the time, tracking fitness (including reminding me to stand up), and glancing at notifications.

Some people have stopped wearing their watch every day. Again, that’s fine. Curtis Herbert was falling into that category, until he went snowboarding with friends and realized how useful the Apple Watch is when you can’t get to your phone or tap buttons. In an article about the snowboarding trip, Curtis says the Apple Watch’s problems are solvable in future versions:

“Siri on the Watch will get faster. The battery situation will improve. The Watch as a whole will get faster. We’re spoiled by iPhone speeds and sometimes forget just how long it took us to get there, and the crap we dealt with until then.”

I’m not worried about the future of the watch either. Our early expectations were much too high — in contrast with the first iPhone, which exceeded all hopes because it was seemingly from the future already — and it will take a couple more years to catch up to where we’d all like the watch to be. In the meantime, the watch is useful today, even slow-ish.

iPhone SE (no 5)

Mark Gurman of 9to5Mac reports that the new 4-inch iPhone will be called simply “iPhone SE”, not “5SE”. As I said before, I don’t really care what it’s called, but this is good news nevertheless.

John Gruber adds:

“Isn’t it more accurate to think of this as an iPhone 6S in a 4-inch body than as an iPhone 5S with ‘upgraded internals’? Other than the display, aren’t the ‘internals’ the defining characteristics of any iPhone?”

I agree with John. Other than the screen size, this phone will feel a lot like an iPhone 6S. And because I love the smaller size, I personally think it will have the best of both the 5S and 6S.

Prediction: this phone is going to be much more popular than people expect. I won’t be surprised if it takes the 6S Plus’s spot as the 2nd most popular iPhone.

Dave Winer on Instant Articles

Maybe I misjudged Facebook’s Instant articles. Dave Winer is a supporter, because it builds on RSS:

“Facebook is using open web technology to power Instant Articles. I’m not sharing anything that isn’t already publicly documented on the Facebook developer site. People have trouble understanding this, I assume, because it seems so out of character for a big web destination like Facebook to care about the open web. It’s kind of a miracle. But there it is. The open web is about to get a real shot in the arm from a most unexpected place.”

I guess one question is whether there will be any other RSS readers that support Instant Articles. If we can get some of the benefits of Instant Articles, but outside of Facebook, that is something.

App review for the fast web

Facebook continues to roll out their Instant Articles format to more publishers. It’s now available to anyone, with this catch:

“You won’t be able to publish Instant Articles until your RSS feed has been approved.”

That’s just what we need: the worst part of the App Store approval process applied to the web. No thanks.

Google’s competing Accelerated Mobile Pages has problems too, as I mentioned in the last half of this post about the cost of links. Although unlike Facebook, which wants to trap content behind their own platform, AMP is at least more open and useful to the larger web.

I hate to say it but neither Instant Articles nor AMP are really good enough. I think we need a third standard for super-fast web pages. (Or do we? Maybe the web is okay as-is if we fight page bloat.)

iCloud is too opaque

Last night, Federico Viticci tweeted that he lost a draft blog post he was working on because of an iCloud problem:

“Just lost 1.5k words I had prepared for tomorrow because I wanted to try iCloud sync instead of Dropbox this week.”

The story has a happy ending because he was able to manually recover the document from the app’s database, but that is well beyond the complexity that most users could handle. iCloud is usually so opaque that we just can’t see what is going on behind the scenes with our data.

Everything I write on this blog (and notes for all my projects) goes into simple text files on Dropbox. I can edit from multiple apps on different platforms, the files are synced everywhere, and Dropbox tracks the revisions of each file so that I can restore a previous version at any time. I could take the text file I’m currently typing in, drag it to the Finder’s trash and empty it, and restore from the web in 30 seconds even without any kind of traditional backup solution.

That’s why all my photos are on Dropbox too. Instead of being opaque like iCloud, with no easy way to troubleshoot or recover files when things go wrong, with Dropbox it’s all there in the local file system or over the web.

Dropbox has had a few side projects and distractions, but their foundation is obvious and accessible, so they can keep coming back to that. Here’s Stephen Hackett writing in December about documents and photos after Dropbox shut down Mailbox and Carousel:

“As much as these apps were loved by their users, it’s clear that the company is moving in another direction. While things like Paper don’t make much of a difference to me, knowing that Dropbox will reliably sync my files, be easy to use on iOS and continue to be around is important to me. If Mailbox and Carousel had to go to make that possible, then so be it.”

I really like the clean UI in Dropbox’s Paper, but because it doesn’t yet sync with regular files like the rest of Dropbox, Paper isn’t building on Dropbox’s core strengths. Daniel and I use it for planning Core Intuition, but I wouldn’t use it for critical writing any more than I would use the new Apple Notes.

I hear that people love iCloud Photo Library and Notes, and that the quality of these apps and companion services has significantly improved. That’s great. (I also think that CloudKit is clearly the best thing Apple has built for syncing yet.)

But to me, it doesn’t matter if it’s reliable or fast, or even if it “always” works. It only matters if I trust it when something goes wrong. Conceptually I’m not sure iCloud will ever get there for me.

Algorithmic timeline now rolling out

Dan Moren reports that Twitter is rolling out their algorithmic timeline, where tweets aren’t strictly reverse-chronological. It is opt-in for now, and likely won’t apply to third-party clients:

“I’d also guess that third-party clients won’t be able to implement this for a while, if ever. So users of Tweetbot, Twitterrific, and others won’t really have a substantively different experience.”

I don’t see the setting in my Twitter account yet. As a user, I hardly care, because I don’t read the Twitter timeline directly anyway. But I’ll be watching how people react to this and how it might affect my own microblogging plans.

Apple says macOS

Nice observation by Jason Snell from the Apple quarterly report conference call:

“It probably means nothing, but when Maestri listed off Apple’s four major product platforms, he said this: ‘We’ve built a huge installed base around four platforms: iOS, Mac OS, watchOS, and tvOS.’”

Like Jason, I’ve long wanted a return to “Mac” as the most important part of the OS name, and have suggested it a couple times on Core Intuition. It was a missed opportunity to do this transition after 10.9, when it could have cleanly gone to Mac OS 11 without the .10 and .11 silliness.

The new tvOS and watchOS branding — combined with Apple’s quote above — makes an official rebranding to “macOS” at WWDC this year seem almost likely. The next major version should be macOS 11, without the “X” and “10.x”. That would still look a little wrong compared to simply “Mac OS”, but it would be much better than “OS X”, and the lowercase would be consistent with the rest of the platforms.