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Merging OS X with iOS and Other Silly Things

People like to tell Apple what to do. Release a larger iPhone, don’t release a larger iPhone, add this feature, that feature or the other feature. They say the customer is always right, but if the customers have 1,001 different opinions, which opinion do you accept? Whatever you do, there will be complaints, and maybe sometimes it’s better just to do nothing.

So when Apple brought over a few features from iOS to OS X, some felt that this was part of the nefarious scheme to merge the two operating systems. What they forgot is that, under the hood, there were already loads of similarities. The two operating systems were spawned from the same parent, so the very question is already a little silly, or at least highly exaggerated.

Some of the largest complaints focused on the part-time scrollbars and reversing the scrolling order to use a supposedly “natural” scheme, both of which mirrored what you did with your fingers in the iPhone and iPad. I suppose there’s an inherent logic in this maneuver, because having things work the same makes it easier to switch from one to the other. However, both “features” can be switched off with a few clicks in System Preferences, so the potential harm is negligible.

When it comes to bringing over iOS apps to OS X, Launchpad is a failure, but Contacts and Messages seem pretty successful. With Mavericks you won’t see the look of a leather-bound address book in Contacts, but that’s not an issue so long as it works properly.

Using iCloud to sync passwords, contacts, bookmarks and other stuff across all of your Apple gear is actually a good thing, when it works. The almost seamless integration among your Apple devices makes it easier to move among them and have access to the same data. But it doesn’t mean iOS has merged with OS X, or that this is Apple’s plan for the near future.

Certainly, the look of iOS 7 has diverged even more from OS X with the new flat, translucent, multilayered and parallax interface. So far it doesn’t seem as if there are many interface alterations in Mavericks, though I suppose Apple could be holding onto a few goodies until the final release. But at this point, with developers busy making their apps compatible, it’s not that Apple can make major changes without causing a huge mess. So, beyond some fleshed out features and some minor artwork refinements, the core of Mavericks has already been demonstrated.

I suppose the successor to Mavericks, which I presume will appear some time in the latter half of 2014, might indeed offer a total interface change. It’s quite possible Apple didn’t have the time to finish the job ahead of the WWDC, and just put it off until next year. There is that rumor that Apple pulled engineers from OS X to finish up iOS 7, so planned changes for Mavericks were put off.

But even if the themes converge, it doesn’t mean that iOS and OS X must necessarily become one. Although some Apple pundits continue to make that claim, the Mac platform would have to be on its way out before that would even make sense. Even then, Macs don’t have touch screens, and a Mac is not seriously resource limited, so some of the nuts and bolts of iOS simply aren’t necessary.

Yes, Microsoft expects the desktop and mobile OS to be essentially one and the same. The Windows 8 RT and Windows 8 Pro tablets seem identical at first blush. Well, at least until you attempt to run a traditional Windows app on the former, and you find it won’t work. But Microsoft’s approach is a proven failure. Trying to be all things to all people, and not optimizing an OS for the device, doesn’t make sense, even though some expect Apple to do just that.

I don’t know about Tim Cook’s remark about mixing refrigerators and toaster ovens, but it’s certainly possible to offer similar core apps and feature sets without merging iOS and OS X.

Forgetting Apple’s eventual plan, too much of the criticism of Apple’s forthcoming OS updates, particularly iOS, focus on form rather than function. The claim is that iOS 7 doesn’t properly integrate with the features; in other words form is not following or logically emerging from function. But is that really true? Most functions are the same or simply updated, so the theme may not matter so much except for apps that benefit from improved graphics. Weather comes to mind, particularly being able to see a visual presentation of backgrounds that mirror the current conditions. Nothing wrong with seeing a backdrop of rain or snow or whatever, though I wonder how Apple would best address a tornado warning.

However, as much as the critics are denigrating Apple for not changing the game enough, they criticize Microsoft for, with Windows 8, changing things too much. And just what is Google planning for the next Android? Will it be just a minor refresh from the current version, or something altogether different, maybe reminiscent of iOS 7? It’s not as if Google doesn’t know how to follow Apple’s lead.