Smart OSes

2015-09-05 3 min read

    It feels as if Google has been getting better and better at what I call search inference. I’ll oftentimes do a search for a particular place on either Google Maps or the general site and see it automatically show up in Google Now. Or I will start with a simple search query that needs to be refined with Google able to offer perfect suggestions. Given how much data they’re collecting it’s not a surprise but it’s an easy way to realize I’m not that unique.

    The fact that I can even sense improvement highlights how significant the improvements have been - gradual ones wouldn’t be as noticeable. What I want is for these innovations to become part of the OS. I currently use OS X and while it’s easy to use with a lot of neat utilities and applications it’s not smart. I constantly go back and forth between apps - referencing some notes in Sublime, writing some SQL queries, messing around with Excel - and would love the OS to be smart enough to understand my intent. The simplistic version of this is a smarter auto complete that transcends apps - rather than going back and forth between Sublime and Sequel Pro copying and pasting queries it would be nice for the OS to allow me to autocomplete fields and table names that are being actively used. The more advanced version would detect patterns in my workflows and allow me to skip numerous steps. When working on most tasks we have a mental model of how we’ll proceed - first I’ll write a query to pull this data, then I’ll dump it into Excel and run these calculations to figure out some values, then I’ll use these values to make a few updates in the database. These tasks are abstract with a lot of context locked up in our heads but I can see our computers getting smart enough to help us skip the majority of these steps. Given how often we do these trivial manipulations an intelligent OS can make us strikingly more productive.

    Google has a huge advantage given both the massive data they have as well as controlling the entire ecosystem. This gives them the ability to know how apps fit together on a technical and behavioral level. Modern OSes separate themselves from the applications and run in isolation to the rest of the world so they don’t have Google’s key advantages. Despite this, I think it’s inevitable we’ll see these smart OSes develop - especially if we want to be as productive on our smartphones as we are on our desktops.