Mac OS X is running out of numbers -- 10.7 Lion is due next summer -- and I'm betting we'll never get to Mac OS X 11. (Apple's also running out of big-cat names, having used Cheetah, Puma, Jaguar, Panther, Tiger, Leopard, Snow Leopard, and now Lion.) We'll likely see Mac OS X 10.8 Cougar in 2013 and maybe Mac OS X 10.9 Sabertooth in 2015, but that's it.
The reason we'll never readh Mac OS X 11: iOS, already in use in the iPhone and iPad. Apple CEO Steve Jobs reminded us of their tight connection this week in describing Mac OS X Lion's forthcoming adoption of several iOS innovations, such as its home screen metaphor, self-installing and self-updating apps, and the use of gestures as a fundamental interface method.
And he once more brought home the fact that iOS (originally named iPhone OS) is a subset of the Mac OS. iOS and Mac OS have become increasingly forked since the iPhone debuted in 2007, even though a few iOS features did make their way into Mac OS X Snow Leopard (basic gestures and ActiveSync support, for example). Jobs served notice this week that the two operating systems are going to be further integrated.
What you can expect over the next iteration or two of the Mac OS and iOS lines is a steady move to convergence. The new MacBook Airs announced this week are the first visible step of this master plan on the hardware side. The new MacBook Airs look a bit like iPads, and Jobs kept saying they adopted iPad features. From a user's point of view, they really don't adopt any iPad features other than being thinner and closer in size to the iPad, but his repeated reference was very telling as to where he sees the devices going, as is the new MacBook Airs' use of highly miniaturized componentry like that found in the iPad.
I've said before that mobile computing and desktop computing are on a collision course. Mobile devices will become the primary device for most people, and what we think of now as desktop and laptop PCs will become the modern workstation, primarily for use by graphics artists, video editors, and spreadsheet jockeys.
In that world -- for which much of the technology already exists -- your smartphone or slate will wirelessly dock into other hardware such as monitors and keyboards and into back-end resources such as networks and storage, so you get the PC-like resources when you need them, controlled from the processor on the mobile device. That way each of us will have just one computer to manage, ending the syncing nightmares experienced by those of us with multiple devices, while retaining the benefits of an always-with-you device.