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When will iOS and OS X finally meet, or have they already?

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Apple has definitely received some harsh criticism in the past concerning the creation of its walled garden. With no less than nine different parts of Apple’s ecosystem that make it hard to leave Apple, many of their competitors are now looking to create the same sort of experience for their customers. This all-inclusive environment includes many of the iCloud services, iMessage, GameCenter and FaceTime friends, and even accessories that support AirPlay and AirPrint.

Until recently, the decision one made when purchasing an iPhone, iPad and Mac was based in part on the different tasks one could perform on each different device. But for many, those differences may no longer exist. Let me explain.

Recent updates to both iOS 7 and OS X Mavericks have made it much easier to transition between each of the devices Apple sells, no matter if that device is an iPhone, an iPad or even a Mac. The stock features included with the apps that now come free with each of these devices are able to fulfill the majority of the world’s computing needs. For the most part, iPhones can do what iPads could do, iPads can do what Macs could do, and even Macs can now do what iPhones could do. The following will illustrate which app’s features have become more transparent with the latest device and OS updates from Apple.

Taking dictation, voice commands and Siri

Both platforms saw an enhancement to their voice recognition capabilities. OS X Mavericks can now take dictation when not connected to the internet, and Siri has been enhanced on iOS to do more than ever before. While OS X still has the accessibility feature that allows you to use voice commands on your Mac, this is not the same as having access to Siri. If you are looking to at least bring the voice of Siri to your Mac, you can download and use the system voice named Samantha. Many including myself were hoping to see Siri on OS X this time around, and having a voice that sounds similar to that of Siri was not what I had in mind exactly.


Creating Photos, Videos and Music

For a long time now Apple has included the iLife suite of apps, namely iPhoto, iMovie and Garageband, with each new Mac purchase. This practice has been extended to include iOS devices as well. This now removes the divide between the two platforms when it comes to using the device as a creative tool. The price barrier was not too terribly high before Apple started bundling the iLife suite with each iOS device, but the statement it is making here is clear. No matter which device you choose, you can be just as creative.

The other thing Apple has done was made it easier to share the content that you create online with others. iCloud Photo Streams allow you to share your photos and your movies over the internet to friends and family outside of iCloud. And with the enhancements made to iMovie, your home movie library can be shared to your AppleTV much more directly from either iOS or OS X. So it doesn’t really matter where you review and edit your next masterpiece, so long as it is on one of Apple’s devices.

Enjoying movies, television, music, podcasts and now books

When Apple’s ecosystem first came into existence it was in the form of an iTunes music library. Since then, iTunes has expanded to include feature-length movies, television shows, and even entire lecture series classes from world-renowned universities via iTunesU. With iOS 7, OS X Mavericks, and a recent update to the Apple TV firmware, Apple has finally managed to sync all of your podcast lists across all of your devices. OS X Mavericks has also added books to the content that can now be accessed along side iOS. If you are thinking that reading a book may not be very practical on a Mac, think about accessing the notes you have taken, or sharing a favorite passage from a book you recently read. Having your entire book library accessible where ever you are makes writing about your literary experiences that much easier.


Editing documents, spreadsheets and presentations

To balance things out a bit, Apple has also decided to include the iWork Suite of apps, Pages, Number and Keynote, with all iOS and OS X device purchases. And with the collaboration features that it introduces at this falls event for the iCloud version of these apps, Apple has made it clear that they intend to keep making these products useful and relevant to their customers. Now no matter which device you happen to have with you, you can access and edit any one of your documents.

Sharing your stuff with friends and among your devices

iOS 7 has added Flickr and Vimeo to Twitter and Facebook as integral parts of the sharing experience. Phrases, links, photos and even videos are now being shared from iPhones, iPads and Macs alike. OS X has taken this sharing one step further by including LinkedIn as well. Both platforms share equally as well to your iMessage friends and Mail contacts. For each of the devices you personally own, iCloud will share all of your bookmarks, history reading list and tabs with all of your devices. With iOS 7 and Mavericks, this is also true when it comes to your usernames and passwords stored in your iCloud Keychain. The one limitation to a seamless sharing experience across both platforms seems to be AirDrop. AirDrop is a way to quickly share content directly with any other device that is near by. Each platform seems to include its own separate implementation of AirDrop. iOS devices can only AirDrop with other iOS devices, and OS X devices can only AirDrop to other OS X devices.


In the beginning, Apple’s ecosystem was a means of providing access to some of the content you purchased from iTunes. Over time this started to evolve into providing access to more types of purchased content including some of the content you created. Now Apple seems to be set on a path to enable equal access to all of your content, whether you created it or purchased it, from any Apple device you may own.

These evolutionary steps forward has enabled one to choose exactly which of Apple’s products they prefer to use. Each device does not have to be running the exact same operating system in order to provide a similar value to the consumer. The question that remains is whether or not this strategy will lead one to purchase more Apple products to suit different needs they may have, or less Apple products as one determines which single device is all they truly need in what is now the post PC era.

11 Responses to “When will iOS and OS X finally meet, or have they already?”

  1. The greatest mistake Microsoft made with Windows 8 and Windows Mobile was acting on the belief that the two platforms should be as similar as possible. Apple, up until iOS 5, was the poster child for building two separate experiences on a common core. To the degree that they’ve jumped that shark, I’m losing interest in OS X both as a user and developer. And that makes ma madder than a hornet’s nest in a paint shaker.

  2. These devices don’t have the same purposes. Notebooks and desktops have taken years to finally be highly effective. Don’t slow them down with gesture based software design. iWork is one example where the step backward reduces efficiency and ability to use in design, engineering, science and more. Dumbing them down as iWork has done isn’t the answer. Sharing of content is important though. Just because I own a hammer doesn’t mean that all jobs need one.

  3. Dr. Dobbins

    Hey Goetz, when’s the last time you or any of your fellow authors at GigaOM actually authored software and compiled it, then ran your creation on an iOS or OS X machine? Perhaps going so far as sharing it on GitHub? Seriously, when are the GigaOM authors going to get their hand dirty in all of this stuff (like Internet of Things and all of this other stuff they cackle about at a high altitude level)?

    Following on BluesDealer’s comments, uhm … you know there is this app called Xcode that uses compilers and Xcode is used to give birth to both OS X and iOS apps so please write this article again when an iPad runs Xcode (or has an incredible touch and voice interface to Xcode service running on OS X Server with Xcode Bots etc.) and then we’ll see about this so-called merger between iOS and OS X.

  4. BluesDealer

    STOP! Stop it now! I’m so tired of the media pining for iOS to overtake OSX. Seriously? Is this what we really want?

    I use an iPhone and like it, but the Mac is the heart and soul of Apple’s product line and there is so much more required of a full desktop operating system than iOS can bring to the table. This is where the hardcores kept the company afloat and where people get real work done and accomplish power user tasks.

    Apple has always prided itself in delivering the “whole widget” with both software and hardware integrated and fully tailored to whatever best suits a device’s purpose and usefulness. iOS is great for smaller touch screens and completely revolutionized the mobile market with its interface and capabilities.

    That said, it would be as bad or worse than Metro on a desktop machine, so keep it the hell away from my Mac!

    • I would agree with you to a point. For young children who first use an iPhone or iPad before a Mac, they all seem to naturally reach out to touch the screen of an ‘old’ style computer when they first see one. They don’t know yet how to operate a mouse. Saw that happen with my own children in fact. It wasn’t until they were three years old that they learned about how to operate a mouse.

    • BluesDealer

      I agree, but to play devil’s advocate, he also said there would never be a market for mobile video, all while Apple was secretly working on the iPod Video. It was just a tactic to misdirect the competition that was trying to copy and anticipate Apple.

      Who’s to say his comment about touch screens wasn’t the same thing? ;)

  5. Dorkus Maximus

    It is interesting that Siri has not made it to OSX given that speech has been part of the Mac since the beginning. One has to wonder if the company is working on a larger, more inclusive sort of integration, one that might even make the keyboard redundant.

    The iPhone and iPad gave us the touch interface and then, in a more limited way, voice. Each takes us more direct interaction with our device. Touch, as Jobs said and Apple has continued to profess, does not work for a desktop system because of the size, distance, and orientation of the monitor. But voice certainly should.

  6. But they’ve got to realize that one can do greater things on OSX than iOS.

    For instance, the Finder is vitally important for organizing files (“All my Files” yeah, right) particularly if you are a business with thousands of files. That’s why I use Dropbox instead of iCloud’s “Documents & Data.”

    And then there’s the dumbing down of iWork to match iOS versions. Can’t imagine trying to develop a spreadsheet on an iOS device. Do any of the execs at Apple actually use an iPhone to develop corporate spreadsheets? Theory over practicality, I guess.

    • Apple has already started taking us down the path of picking the app first and then the document (not browse a drive full of folders to select a document that will then launch an app by clicking on the doc). Some apps even use dropbox in such a manner, by saving all of their content to a ‘default’ folder.

      iWork taking two steps back and one step forward was one of the thoughts I had in the back of my mind when thinking about this. Supposedly they abandoned the old OS X code base in favor of the iOS code base of the suite. So in one way this is a perfect example of where OS X and iOS are meeting in the middle, without all of Apple’s devices running on the exact same OS.