Question: should Apple merge the iOS and OS X?
First let’s say this: Tim Cook has gone on record that he put his foot down on the possibility during an interview with Aaron Levie, CEO of Box.
Though the idea seems outlandish and reeks of software suicide for Apple, the number of people clamoring for it is steadily growing, especially with the arrival of the iPad Pro – which Apple proudly says is a laptop replacement – next month.
So, should Apple hear out its fans and merge iOS and OS X into one operating system?
Microsoft is doing it on the Surface Tablets
Though the Microsoft Windows phones, particularly the Nokia Lumia phones, were a huge flop in the consumer market, they actually were undoubtedly great phones. However, the operating system – Windows 8 mobile – did not provide the same degree of functionality like the ones provided by its rivals. It had fewer applications and was outshone by Android and the iOS.
However, the Microsoft never thought of putting the embattled mobile operating system on their tablets – they threw in the desktop version of the Microsoft 8 instead. Not everybody likes Windows 8, but note that like desktop users, Surface 3 owners have the option of upgrading their operating systems to Windows 10. Note that the Surface Pro – which was released today – comes with Windows 10.
Windows 10 has been downloaded and installed by over 110 million people, a huge milestone for the Microsoft, considering that it has only been around for a few months. The company resorted to a strategy wherein they implemented changes that users want to see, and it’s been doing wonders for them. Even Apple, a company that puts a premium on customer service, does not have this kind of service.
There are some notable drawbacks when using a mobile desktop operating system on a mobile device. For starters, it feels weird: how would you feel using Windows 10 with a stylus or finger instead of a mouse? Even if the Surface 4 is a great device – and is shaping up to be a better overall one compared to iPad Pro, I daresay – it will still feel awkward using a mobile device (by definition) with a desktop operating system.
Contrary to the iPad Pro though, users will feel at home using a mobile device with a mobile operating system. Despite the 12.9-inch screen, it’s still a mobile and portable device… and yeah, Apple expects you to use it during long commutes on the train and bus, despite its sheer size.
Mobile vs desktop experience
Quite frankly, Tim Cook is RIGHT in believing that the iOS and OS X should not be merged. This is quite simple: user experience in mobile and desktop platforms are worlds apart.
Well first, look at the hardware. Merging a mobile and desktop OS will only make things a lot more complicated: developers, programmers, and designers will have to figure out how to optimize the operating system for both touch screens and the mouse. Personally, I can’t imagine pointing and clicking on mobile-like icons on a desktop.
Second, note how why there are mobile devices in the first place. Mobile phones and tablets are designed to be used for portable and on-the-go computing, although both Apple and Microsoft are trying to break this. But then again, both companies are advocating that their devices are “laptop-replacements” (more on this later).
Third, desktop will always be more powerful than mobile platforms. In terms of everything, desktop will always be more powerful compared to mobile platforms. Sure, tablets have amazing specifications and the Surface Pro is way more advanced compared to some laptops and even other desktop computers, but its capabilities are fewer even if you put a full-fledged desktop operating system on it. This can also be accredited to the desktops having more powerful chipsets and processors: not every tablet or smartphone is equipped with powerful graphics processors.
Lastly, merging them would bring a ton of dilemmas. Unless if these problems are fixed within a week or two, we’re sure that users who downloaded the merged iOS and OS X software will ultimately ditch it. Apple surely won’t take that risk. There is little reward in merging both operating systems and the backlash that may come after, due to bugs and errors, which means doing so won’t do a lot of good. Apple is known to invest and introduce new tech once in a while and take risks, but rarely do they fix products that aren’t broken. As far as we know, the iOS and OS X are doing fine and don’t need to be repaired.
Today, there are zero means to fully integrate and create a desktop experience in mobile computers. Sure, it may change in a few years, but for now, the status quo does not need to change.
Laptop vs Laptop replacement
iPad sales in recent months have been less than ideal: sales have shrunk in recent years with the introduction of the Surface tablets, phablets (phones + tablets) and of course, cheaper tablets from competitors like Samsung and Google, who are scheduled to release their new line of Pixel tablets.
Apple is trying to address this with the introduction of the iPad Pro, which Apple dubs as a laptop replacement. However, it comes at a hefty price: if you opt for the 128-gigabyte model complete with cellular, accessories (keyboard case and Apple Pencil), you will have to pay a whopping $1,347. Compare it to the about-to-be released Surface Pro 4 which starts at $899 and will reach $1,028 if it comes with the keyboard and the Surface Pen. However, if you want it to be equipped with the strongest processors and a whopping one terabyte of storage, you’ll need to cough up $2,828. Yep, you read that right.
The deal breaker here is Microsoft Surface Pro 4’s inability to support cellular.
The thing is, the Microsoft Surface Pro 4 is essentially a laptop disguised as a tablet. Seriously, look at it: it runs using the desktop version of the Windows 10, has a keyboard, and is powered by a powerful chipset. It is in no way a “laptop replacement”. We could even say that it broke barriers and is a desktop device hidden within a tablet. Note that it has a 14-inch screen – larger than my MacBook’s – so it’s hardly a portable device.
The way I understand “laptop replacement” is simple: a device that does not present the full functionality of the laptop, but is capable of doing some and other stuff. The iPad Pro can’t exactly emulate the MacBook, given that they’re different devices with different operating systems, which is why it qualifies as such while the Surface 4 doesn’t.
How does the iOS and OS X merger relate to this?
There are some device capabilities custom-built for the iOS and the same can be said for the OS X. Sure, there have been overlaps in the past, but generally, Apple’s desktop and mobile devices cannot and should not have the same set of capabilities. It’s redundant.
There are hardly any Windows Mobile phones in the market and if compared to iPhone sales, they are relatively minuscule. Why in the world should Apple implode by merging the already amazing iOS with the OS X? It’ll be a bad move.
Apps, apps, apps
iOS and OS X platforms have different App Stores. Merging both would be disastrous. Most of the apps you see on the iOS are watered-down versions of the OS X versions – mobile devices don’t have the capability of running the full desktop ones.
Plus, this will pose a problem for developers. Let’s look at a fictional, first-person shooter game which we’ll call GunBlazer, as an example. GunBlazer is a MacBook game, optimized for the Magic Keyboard and mouse. If both operating systems are merged, imagine the developers’ dilemma in trying to make the app work for mobile devices. Sure, they could put a disclaimer and all, but this will lead to borderline silly compatibility issues.
In short, there will be a number of apps optimized for the keyboard and mouse, leading users to scratch their heads and figure out how to use a touch screen to work around them.
Overall, we might see this happening in the future, but right now, it’s a big no-no. Mobile operating systems should stay with mobile devices. Microsoft is deviating from this and it’ll be fun to see how the Surface Pro fares in the next few months.