Last year, when OS X Lion was first demoed to the public, I commented on the influence of iOS and the iPad on the new version of the Mac’s operating system. Now that Lion has been released, and most people have had a chance to at least look at it, there can be no denying this influence.
Now we should consider why Apple has let so much of iOS seep into OS X. Does any one think that it was just due to a sense that these related systems should have similar behaviors? If you do, I have some nice real estate on Mars that I can sell you at a bargain price.
For many consecutive quarters Apple has sold a growing number of Macs, to a growing audience. Every quarter about half of Mac sales are to people who have never had a Mac before. Now, where do these people come from? Did they just wake up one day and consider that they might change their computers for a new one which doesn’t run the applications they’ve already purchased?
At first, new Mac users came from the large pool of iPod users. People who bought iPods for listening to music on the way to work or on the way to school and that were attracted by Apple’s design and simplicity. Then along came the iPhone and a new group of potential Mac buyers started to form.
The iPhone’s success has certainly thrown Apple into the limelight and thus helped the company to expose even more people to its other products. While this hasn’t resulted in an explosive growth in Mac sales, it has certainly helped Apple keep its sales growth.
Next came the iPad and its explosive growth. A new computer form factor was born and Apple has taken hold of a dominant position in this new market, dominating it. While, Apple admits that the iPad has eaten into potential Mac sales, it has certainly had a much deeper impact on sales of computers from other manufacturers. In fact, Mac sales continued to increase this past quarter, despite the incredible number of iPads Apple sold.
By making OS X share familiar interface elements with the iPad and the iPhone, Apple is making its computers more attractive to users of iDevices. Some have written about the possibility that Apple will introduce ARM based notebooks next year, moving desktop users to iOS. I don’t believe that is what Apple plans to do.
It is still going to be some time before ARM based processors reach the same level of performance you get from the current generation of Intel CPUs. I don’t believe Apple would try to move Mac users to underpowered devices which would not be able to run the software they currently have.
If we look at how the transition to Intel was handled, we’ll see that Apple transitioned users to the new computers without significant impact as the new hardware was able to run legacy application through their Rosetta translation technology.
I believe we can expect a similar move to bring iOS applications to OS X. This would make a lot more sense then moving Mac users to iOS. OS X’s full screen mode would also be ideal to allow iPad applications to run in much the same way they do on the tablet, without even requiring them to fit into the Macs windowing system. iPad applications would just naturally be run in full screen mode.
When you consider how LaunchPad as the app selection interface, combined with the Mac App Store, the full screen mode and the new multi-touch gestures in OS X, the path to unification seems clear. Apple isn’t going to move Macs to iOS, it’s going to bring iOS Apps to OS X.