Apple isn’t merging iOS and OS X, it’s making them better together

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A lot of things have been said about iOS 8 and OS X Yosemite “proving” that Apple is on the path to merging the two systems into one, overarching system that will eventually run on both of the platforms (a la Microsoft Windows). Well, that couldn’t be further from the truth. Sure, the visual language of OS X was shaped by iOS 7 with its gradients and translucent blurs, but that doesn’t mean the two are coming together like Satya Nadella announced Windows and Windows Phone will be doing. Apple is simply making the two talk together better than ever before.

Think about it for a minute, how would Apple be able to leverage the power of OS X with the limitations of iOS all built into one system? OS X, while it has been given a walled garden of its own in the Mac App Store, still allows you to do many more things than you could ever imagine doing on an iOS device (sans jailbreak, that is). Open up Terminal or download iTerm and you have the power of a UNIX command line at your finger tips, allowing you to do many more things than iOS will ever be allowed to do. Power users and even just tech-knowledgable users will turn away from OS X in a heartbeat if it scaled back any of that power. There are a few more hoops you have to jump through now – such as enabling installation of non-App Store applications – but nonetheless, the power is still there.

With OS X 10.10, this “integration” and the approach Apple is going to be taking from hear on out has become much more clear. iOS 8 and OS X 10.10 are not in anyway converging into one operating system, the two are just talking to each other much more seamlessly than ever before. Continuity and Hand-off are two buzzwords thrown around by Apple at WWDC last month as a way to put a title to the awesome features introduced. Let’s talk about those and what they mean for the two systems.

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Continuity is a feature that, for the consumer, means that everything between the two operating systems will feel very familiar. The look, the feel, the gradients, the blurs, everything about the two systems now feel very similar, which isn’t always a bad thing. Some people took this to mean the two would eventually become the same thing, while others saw this as what Apple is really trying to do: make users feel like they’ve already used OS X before they’ve ever touched it.

When the iPad was introduced in 2010, many arguments against the larger device were saying “it’s just a bigger iPhone!” Well, yes, it was just a bigger iPhone, and that’s what Apple wanted it to feel like. Apple wanted users to be able to pick up an iPad after having used and iPhone and feel like they knew how to use the device perfectly, while also learning about all the things the iPad can do that the iPhone can not.

That’s what OS X Yosemite’s redesign is doing for the Mac; it is taking the design that users have learned and now love from iOS 7 and iOS 8 and bringing it to the Mac. Now if you buy an iPhone, iPad, or iPod touch or already have one on iOS 7 or 8 and buy a Mac (post-Yosemite release) you will feel right at home with all your favorite Apple applications, like Safari, Messages, Maps, Reminders, Notes, and many more. Even the Calculator app looks the same! This is what the redesign means for Apple.

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Now, Hand-off. First I have to say, Hand-off is awesome. Those of you with an iPhone and Mac/iPad already have seen a taste of Hand-off ever since iMessage came about in iOS 5 and iMessage on Mac later on. Users with OS X and iPhones have been able to send messages on any of their devices and it sync flawlessly (well, somewhat) to all their other devices. Hand-off takes this kind of integration to an entirely new level. Now, for instance, even text messages sync to your Mac and iPad.

Receive a phone call, but your phone is charging? Answer it on your Mac or iPad. Not a FaceTime or FaceTime Audio call, an actual phone call. Typing an email on your phone as you walk into your office? Sit down, and the Mail icon will be floating to the left of your Dock; click it, and what you’ve typed in the message so far is already on the screen in Mail filled out for you, like magic. Browsing a website on your Mac but have to head out, but you really want to finish that article? Not only is there iCloud tabs, but you can simply swipe up from the Safari icon that has appeared on your iPhone or iPad’s lock screen and the page will load instantly.

I could keep going on, but all I’m doing is giving examples of how OS X Yosemite and iOS 8 simply play nice together. They aren’t becoming one, they aren’t going to become some overarching system that runs on every device (that would be limiting, and stupid), they are simply talking to each other in a much quicker, cleaner way than ever before. OS X and iOS aren’t merging, Apple simply wants to make them talk to each other better.

Let me know what you think about iOS and OS X’s future in the comments below, or tweet your thoughts to me @TiP_Kyle.

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