Apple is preparing to launch the newest version of Mac OS X, Lion, sometime next month. According to an email exchange with Steve Jobs earlier this month, it will not be possible to simply install Lion on a blank drive.
In the use case scenario that I have in mind, my hard drive in my MacBook has died, so I have to swap it out for a new one. If I do not have a cloned backup of my original hard drive, but something like a Time Machine backup, then I would have to reinstall the operating system, starting with Snow Leopard, then upgrade to Lion before I could get all of my data, files, and media back on my computer.
If I did have a cloned backup, I suppose it would be possible to do a bit-for-bit restore of the orginal hard drive to the new one. Nevertheless, Apple is taking away a popular hard drive recovery option.
I does not have to be a hard drive failure. It could just as easily be a hard drive upgrade. Even so, the issues are the same. Apple makes it impossible for a user to restore their system without a lot of hassle. I have a problem with this.
Apple has always made system restoration so easy in Mac OS X. They may be taking the Mac App Store thing a bit too far by insisting that people upgrade there and there only and making it the only way to restore your system after a new, blank hard drive is put in. Hopefully, Apple will change its mind and allow for users to create their own boot disks, whether on USB flash drive or DVD.