I have been speaking to SeniorNet meetings about Macs - there seems to be a lot more interest from that sector these days. As one of them said to me, "I can't think why we're not all using Macs".

This was after I demonstrated the CoreGraphics capabilities of OS X. I capped that off with GarageBand, which really upped the 'wow' factor.

(And no, I don't get paid to talk to SeniorNet, or make any business from it. I do it because I like to.)

But the lesson I took home (see? I do get something from it) was about differences in Systems.

The Mac OS is what Apple is really famous for, at least in computer circles. But changing from one to another can be a struggle - I've found that if it was hard to learn one system in the first place (say, Windows XP), it's harder still to swap. When my mum died we (her kids) gave her iMac to one of her friends, who had a shocking old clunker of a PC that anybody would struggle with. How it got foisted on the poor fellow is a tragedy. I bet a PC salesman was glad to get rid of that lemon.

He rang me after a few days to say he was struggling with it and he couldn't find XP. Which wasn't on it - it was a pure Mac system.

Anyway, this all got me to wondering what the next Mac OS, Lion, would be like.

(And since the male lion tends to lay about in the sun all day while the female does all the work, I hope Apple has a glorious picture of the female lion for our desktops when it comes out next year, and not that gloriously be-maned layabout of a worse half.)

For when a new Apple OS comes out, you can bet it looks like the last one, and lets you uncover the new features at your leisure. (This was the case except when Apple changed us from OS 9 to OS 10, which really was a fundamental rewrite.)

The last version, OS 10.6 'Snow Leopard', really was Leopard to look at and use, but used up a lot less space, feels faster all round while adding a few well concealed but nifty new tricks that were easy to assimilate.

What causes disquiet about the next Apple OS, though, is the justifiable (conceptually, anyway) rumour that it will owe something to the iDevice OS.

This is a tried and true formula. For example, Adobe's Photoshop is the powerhouse for graphics' professionals, but Adobe's Photoshop Elements attempted to harness the power of Photoshop in a format that used less system resources, was cheaper and was comparatively easy to learn.

All present and correct, except Adobe's Elements' engineers came up with some pretty cool features, to the point that Photoshop users said 'Hey, why can't we have that in Photoshop?'

And indeed, some of the features that debuted in consumer Elements appeared in the next professional Photoshop.

But the beauty of the iOS is that it uses a finger for the interface, which puts in quite a different place to Apple's Mac OS. This is a more direct connection than using your digits placed on another device distinctly located away from the computer's screen, in turn to manipulate objects you see on that screen.

I'm not sure if I want to have to keep touching the screen on my Mac. I like the separate strengths of the separate systems, while I also appreciate the graphic similarities. Icons look similar and the some things work in similar ways - Address Book on the Mac and Contacts on iOS, for example. As a long term Mac user, that makes iOS easy for me to use and easy to grasp.

I don't want the systems to merge or even get too much closer, though. I hope this isn't even possible - but like I said, the rumour is that the iOS experience has informed OS X Lion. Different devices for different things, and I'm happy as if they share the Apple badge.

Another factor that springs to mind is that I use my OS X in old fashioned ways. For example, many new users - particularly those who have moved over from Windows - don't ever open the Hard Drive and go into the file structure. In fact, many don't have any idea what a hard drive is, where it is and it may not even be showing on the desktop.

That makes me feel squeamish. To me, not knowing what's in folders and how to open them and find the things therein is anathema. But I realise this is an 'older' way of working, and may no longer be 'necessary'.

And this is definitely a trend. For example, I'm a big fan of Apple's iPhoto but I hardly ever use it. Why? Because it does some good Photoshop-like tricks, and makes excellent calendars and books, it's Faces and Places features are really good, but where, actually, are those photos stored? If anything goes wrong, I like to open a folder of pictures and inspect them.

I don't like being that far divorced from the actual files that I can only access them through an application I have to open.

I know you can actually open the folder of pictures - but not every one knows this. They're hidden. For the record, if you open your Pictures' folder (Macintosh HD/Users/~user (being the folder that looks like a house and is most likely called after your name)/Pictures), there's an item in there, along with perhaps actual pictures, called 'iPhoto Library'.

If you double-click it, all that happens is that iPhoto opens. But if you hold down the Control key and click on it (or right-click on it), you get a pop-out menu which includes 'Show Package contents' and if you choose this, there's a folder therein called Originals.

This is where your actual photos are actually stored, in folders for each year that you have been using iPhoto.

And I think this is ridiculous. The idea that iPhoto can look after 250,000 photos in this manner is scary - to veteran users like myself, anyway - yet that's what Apple expects us to do.

And if you think about it, on an iPad or iPhone or iPod touch, you never actually go flicking through the file structure. It's not even there to find, unless you're a developer anyway. .

Personally, I hope this kind of thinking doesn't dominate the next OS.

But I guess we'll see. There are far more Mac users with very little Mac experience than there are like me, these days.

- Mark Webster mac-nz.com