What Will the Next OS X Be Called?

There has been much speculation and rumor surrounding what Apple will announce at the upcoming WWDC. Will new iOS devices be announced? Will the OS X update integrate better with iCloud? What will iOS 7 include? However, lost amongst this speculation is perhaps the biggest and more important question of all – what will the next OS X be called?

Well, maybe it’s not the most important question, but it’s still interesting to speculate about.

I recently wrote about Apple code names and how the last bastion of creative code names was the “big cat” names Apple gives to each major release of OS X. Since the first release of 10.0, they have used eight different big cat names:

  • 10.0: Cheetah
  • 10.1: Puma
  • 10.2: Jaguar
  • 10.3: Panther
  • 10.4: Tiger
  • 10.5: Leopard
  • 10.6: Snow Leopard
  • 10.7: Lion
  • 10.8: Mountain Lion

Many believed after using the name “Lion” for OS 10.7, Apple would move away from the big cat names, because where do you go from the king of the jungle? However, Apple decided to go with “Mountain Lion” for OS 10.8, even though a mountain lion is not even an actual lion, but just another name for the much smaller cougar. So, Apple has shown there is not a strict upward scale of big cat names, and they basically pick and choose what they want.1

Given this fact, I looked into what big cat names are left for them to use. “Big cat” is not an official biological designation, but usually refers to larger cat species, many of which have the ability to roar. Looking at the list of big cats, Apple has used up almost all of them. The only major ones left are the cougar and the clouded leopard.2

In terms of the clouded leopard, I highly doubt Apple would use it as a code name, as it sounds more like an eye disease – although it might complement a big update to iCloud. That leaves only the cougar, which is also known as a puma, mountain lion, panther, or catamount. Apple has already used puma, panther, and mountain lion in past versions, leaving only catamount and cougar itself as potential names. While I doubt they’d use the obscure catamount name, cougar seems a very likely candidate for the new OS X codename.3

If Apple didn’t want to strictly adhere to the big cat species, it could also go for slightly smaller exotic cat species. Cats such as the lynx, wildcat, or ocelot might be options.4 Apple could also abandon code names altogether, and simply name the new OS “10.9” with no code name. This would be disappointing, since every past version has used a code name, but is a possibility.

Apple could also surprise us all and name it OS 11 (or would they use OS XI?). If this is the case, I’m certain the big cat code names would be out, and they’d either have no announced code name, or use a new theme of names (maybe mountain peaks or planets). However, I only think Apple would move up to 11 if they had a really complete overhaul to the OS. Using 11 would symbolize something more revolutionary than the rumors seem to indicate, and would heighten already fairly high expectations. However, if this does happen, you can expect to see an onslaught of headlines based around this famous movie scene.

Looking at all the options, I’d place my bet on the new OS X being named OS 10.9 “Cougar.” It’s the last well known big cat name that Apple hasn’t used and fits nicely alongside its eight predecessors. After that I think there are smaller chances they choose a different cat code name, use no code name, or move up to OS 11. We should find out June 10th.

UPDATE: Well, Apple threw us all a curve ball and continued with OS 10.9 but got rid of the big cats and went with California surfing locations as new code name. OS X 10.9 is “Mavericks.”


1. Interesting enough, the public beta of OS X was code named Kodiak, after the bear. So OS X has been named after Lions, Tigers, and Bears… oh my.

2. If Apple wanted to go super obscure, they could name it after ligers or tigons, cross-breeds of lions and tigers.

3. I do realize there could be some snickering about the fact ‘cougar’ can also mean, “a woman who seeks sexual relations with considerably younger men.”

4. Archer would approve of the ocelot code name.

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