OS X is about to have one of its most radical user interface overhauls in recent years, with a brand new look that takes some cues from iOS. The old skeuomorphic elements and old-fashioned icons are gone, replaced by a more colourful, flatter design. But those who were afraid that OS X would be dumbed down to the level of iOS, in an attempt to sync up the two operating systems, can rest assured. This new Mac operating system is still OS X at heart. Apple is making no attempts to put iOS on our Macs.
What Apple is doing instead is evolving iOS and OS X together. The new versions of Apple’s operating systems just unveiled at WWDC are designed to integrate more seamlessly than ever before.
As iOS has matured over the years we have celebrated the fact that we can compose and read emails, or create documents and presentations on our iOS devices when we don’t have access to our Macs. We have found ourselves reaching for our iPad rather than our laptop when we wish to browse webpages, or we have chosen to edit photos on our iPhone, rather than importing them to our Mac to edit there. All these things are possible, but right now we have to adjust our expectations of what we can achieve on our iOS devices, due to battery life, screen size, or because even with autocorrect we still encounter frustrations when typing on our iPhone keyboards.
Despite these weaknesses, we still choose to compose an email on our iPhone rather than pull our Mac out of our bag. The device you use depends on your location and circumstances, and we are willing to make compromises for the sake of accessibility. Apple has given us tools that we can use wherever we are, without being tied to a desk, and we are grateful enough not to complain too much when certain elements of the experience aren’t as smooth as we would like.
If it was any other company they would be satisfied with that, but Apple strives for perfection. It wants its customers to have the best experience, and it doesn’t want customers to have to compromise.
As a result of this philosophy, the next evolution of iOS and OS X will mean even less of a compromise is required. As Apple explained in its WWDC keynote, Continuity is the future.
Apple is introducing the Continuity framework to iOS 8 and OS X Yosemite. This will integrate both operating systems more closely than ever. With the advent of Yosemite and iOS 8 you will be able to answer phone calls on your computer; start an email on your iPhone and finish it on your Mac; view your entire photo library on any of your Apple products (no longer limited to 1,000 photos in your Photo Stream); Airdrop between Macs and iOS devices (at last); easily store and access all your documents via the Dropbox-like iCloud Drive on any of your devices (including a PC running Windows!); and so much more.
Thanks to Continuity you will be able use the right device for the right task at the right moment, and shift between devices seamlessly. And crucially, everything you need will be available to you. You won’t need to carry your laptop with you just in case you need access to data stored on it, because that data will be available on all your devices.
Any concerns that OS X is evolving to be more like iOS are unfounded. The two operating systems are evolving together in such a way that will eventually render the hardware invisible and put the focus on the work you're doing. In many ways iOS is evolving towards OS X, so that eventually there will be no compromise when you use your iPhone to perform an action you would once have needed your Mac for.
The interesting thing is to look at this groundwork of continuity and question what it might mean for a product like the rumoured iWatch. Soon we could find ourselves performing many of the tasks that right now we use our iPhones for, just for the sake of accessibility, on an Apple gadget tied to our wrist. What's next? accessing your photostream via your fridge? Viewing your calendar on the mirror in your bathroom? Interesting times ahead.
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