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How much will Apple change iOS and OS X?

Ted Landau | June 5, 2013
Ted Landau argues that Apple should be announcing major overhauls to its two flagship operating systems at WWDC.


Next week, at Apple's annual Worldwide Developers Conference, the company will take the wraps off its upcoming versions of OS X and iOS. Such unveilings have become routine at WWDC, but I have a strong feeling that this year's unveilings will feel anything but routine. This is shaping up to be a critical year for both of Apple's operating systems--and the new versions of each should reflect this.

For starters, many believe that iOS (and likely OS X as well) could receive a major cosmetic makeover. Familiar skeuomorphic elements, such as wooden bookcases and leather-bound calendars, might be dumped in favor of a cleaner, flatter, black-and-white look. While this would be a significant shift in design, it shouldn't have much effect on how each operating system performs. But the demise of skeuomorphism may be only the beginning of sweeping changes coming to this year's OS updates.

OS X 10.9 and iOS-ification
When OS X 10.7 Lion arrived a few years ago, Mac users got their first taste of a collection of new features inspired by OS X's mobile sibling. These iOS-ification features included Launchpad, full-screen apps, the Mac App Store, a resume capability for applications, expanded multitouch gestures, and a limited implementation of app sandboxing.

With OS X 10.8 Mountain Lion, Apple pushed still further in this direction, introducing Notification Center, Documents in the Cloud, and new apps (such as Notes and Reminders) that precisely mimicked matching apps on iOS devices.

In my view, many of these changes have made OS X better. For example, with the Mac's Notes app, you no longer need to go through the quirky route of launching Mail to access Notes documents created on your iPhone. The Notes app provides instant, synced access to all that data. Plus, any additions or changes you make on your Mac are just as quickly and easily synced back to your iPhone.

On the other hand, some of the iOS features ported to the Mac have misfired. As I detailed previously, Documents in the Cloud is so cumbersome and restrictive on the Mac that most users will be happier sticking with Dropbox. Similarly, sandboxing requirements unnecessarily limit the capabilities of apps sold through the Mac App Store.

All of this has led some in the media (including, at times, me) to express concern about what might happen if Apple continues in this direction for OS X. Others see the existing shift as entirely benign, and believe that these concerns about the future are without merit. As an example of the latter view, Watts Martin recently criticized those who suggest that "the 'iOS-ification' of OS X (will) surely lead to OS X either becoming just as locked down as iOS or simply merging with iOS in a few years"—stating that "no real evidence supports this."


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