The iOS-ification Of OSX – The Beginning Of The End? Or A Natural Harmonisation? [Opinion]

James Bruce 29-02-2012

The iOS-ification Of OSX - The Beginning Of The End? Or A Natural Harmonisation? [Opinion] featured iosifiedRecent announcements about the next major upgrade of OSX, named Mountain Lion, have garnered mixed reactions from the community. Some are proclaiming the death of the Mac; some think it’s the first step in dumbing down OSX; while some believe it’s a natural evolution given the success of iOS devices. One thing is certain – the iOS-ification of OSX has been officially confirmed. Is that a good thing though?


In Short

For those of you who haven’t read my preview on new features and apps making their way to Mountain Lion A Preview Of Features In The Next OSX, Mountain Lion [Mac] Last week, Apple announced preliminary details of the next major release of OSX, named Mountain Lion. Some are calling it non-news - an incremental upgrade with no real new features or changes. I'll let you... Read More , here’s a quick summary:

  • iCal and Address renamed to match their iOS counterparts – Contacts and Calendar.
  • Reminders and Notes coming to the desktop as separate apps.
  • GameCenter for cross-platform gaming.
  • Notification center.
  • Twitter and sharing integration all over.
  • GateKeeper anti-malware, which prevents installation of non-codesigned apps by default.

In the current iteration of OSX – Lion – we have already seen a few initial iOS-like features coming to the desktop, like:

  • Mac App Store.
  • Natural / Reversed Scrolling.
  • Launchpad – a homescreen-like way to launch apps.

Inspired By iPad

Let’s remember there was a huge fuss over the new fangled scroll method (“it’s backwards!”) when Lion came out, but it’s safe to say now that the majority of Mac users appreciate it. As an iPad owner, it does feel more natural – especially when using a multitouch gesture touchpad as I do now. Windows users who need to swap between two systems can still disable it if they want.

The iOS-ification Of OSX - The Beginning Of The End? Or A Natural Harmonisation? [Opinion] natural scrolling

Bringing a selection of new, free apps to the desktop – GameCenter, Messages, Reminders, etc – isn’t really something we should complain about. They’re certainly not being forced on anyone, but merely adding value to the system you buy. Great for consumers and a unified experience.


But on the downside, the apps replace a lot of functionality previously added by third party developers – countless to-do lists, Growl notifications, the Steam gaming platform – are all likely to have their profits cut into by the inclusion of these core apps by Apple.

GateKeeper – Consumer Protection, Or Evil Overlord Oppression?

Moving beyond cosmetic changes, perhaps the most contentious news was the introduction of a new system process designed to prevent malware installs. When the Mac App Store was first announced, doomsayers foretold of the future when only apps purchased through the App Store would be allowed, and it seems they were at least half right. The default settings in Mountain Lion allow only code-signed apps to be installed – that means those made by a registered developer (on the $99/year Mac developer program, identity checked) with authenticated security signed code. More money for Apple, but perhaps a necessary evil?

The iOS-ification Of OSX - The Beginning Of The End? Or A Natural Harmonisation? [Opinion] gatekeeper

From the view of the majority of developers, GateKeeper is definitely a good thing. Not only does it mean pirated or modified apps will be more difficult to install (because any adjustment of the code will invalidate the signing), but it still gives them the freedom to sell their apps directly to the consumer. The move is likely to anger a small contingency of open source developers, such as those who traditionally port their freeware apps from Linux, but overall I think the move will be welcomed by the developer community.


The same is true from a consumer perspective – I believe the new protections will be welcomed by the majority of users. It offers a good level of protection from rogue apps – the only kind of malware OSX has ever really seen. At the same time, power users are completely free to disable the GateKeeper protection and install whatever they like.

I’m curious about the inclusion of a third App Store only option though – I can’t see any real benefits there for the consumer over and above App Store and Registered Developers, so perhaps it’s just a way of warming us to the inevitable when that’s the only option a few years down the line. Logic dictates this would alienate a large proportion of Mac owners if were to be the only option, but we know Apple isn’t adverse to that if it makes sound business sense.

Merging iOS & OSX?

One of the more frightening rumours right now is that iOS and OSX are set to completely merge, with the intention of moving desktop CPUs over to Apple’s own ARM-based processor offerings rather than Intel. Since Apple already did a similar move once in the past, when moving from PowerPC to Intel-based CPUs, it is conceivable they could pull it off again. Would they? Doubtful.

I think – I hope – that Apple is aware that tablets and computers serve very different functions. For the most part, tablets are consumptive devices that we play games on or do a little light browsing from the sofa; watch movies in our most intimate environments (bed, sofa, and toilet?). Computers are productive devices – used for work, creativity, and producing content. While there may be cross-over here and there, and users for whom a tablet will more than satisfy their every computing need – generally speaking the two are separate entities – and will remain so for both logical and business sense.


The iOS-ification Of OSX - The Beginning Of The End? Or A Natural Harmonisation? [Opinion] merge not

Compare and contrast with Microsoft, who have long believed that the tablet should be a full set of desktop functionality. The Tablet PCs of 10 years ago were a complete failure – and the next tactic with Windows 8 Will Windows 8 Succeed Or Fail? [Opinion] Microsoft is trying to make Windows 8 be all things to all people. Or at least all operating systems to all devices. A risky strategy that has rarely, if ever, worked. This is Microsoft reaching... Read More appears to be designing from the ground up a tablet OS for desktops too. Today isn’t about Windows 8 though, I digress.

So if you were to ask me, do I think OSX and iOS are merging, I would emphatically say no. Do I think there are more elements yet to come from iOS that will be pushed to the desktop? Sure, undoubtedly – it makes sense to borrow innovations if they might work on the desktop too.

What do you think of the iOS-ification of OSX? Is it a good thing, or have Apple really just lost the plot now? Let us know in the comments!


Related topics: Opinion & Polls, OS X Mountain Lion.

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  1. Max
    March 17, 2012 at 12:23 am

    The beginning of the end was QuickTimePlayer X and the play bar appearing over the content. Great for a tablet, hopeless for a computer. The next was the edit 'handles' on iMovie, designed to be used with fingers, hopeless with a mouse.

    It's all downhill from here. The needs of the many will override the needs of the few.

    • James Bruce
      March 17, 2012 at 9:28 am

      Not sure about the handles - I quite like iMovie nowadays. You're right though - the majority will override the needs of the few ; and perhaps rightly so?

  2. Dave Parrack
    February 29, 2012 at 10:31 pm

    I think it's inevitable the two will be slowly merged into one unstoppable beast. Which means... wait for it... Microsoft is actually ahead of the curve on this one. Dun, dun, dunhhhh!

    • Anomaly
      February 29, 2012 at 11:19 pm

      How can you possibly believe that it would be an unstoppable beast? I take it you mean that in a good way? There is nothing good about iOS or it merging with OS X. Microsoft's BS metro ui and the app store they now have for it are bad news as well.

      You like being locked down? I try really hard to understand your type but  it just makes no sense to me how you can think these things are good. Let me guess, you probably think Facebook is a good thing to and spend huge amounts of time on it on your iPad.

      • Dave Parrack
        March 1, 2012 at 12:35 am

        I'm guessing you haven't read my stuff here on MakeUseOf. The "unstoppable beast" comment was meant to be a snarky dig. And I'm not convinced by Metro UI either. It leaves a lot to be desired for desktop users.

        I do however love Facebook and an iPad is the one Apple product I'd love right now. Unfortunately it's too expensive.

    • James Bruce
      March 5, 2012 at 8:45 am

      They are always ahead of the curve. They just mess the curve up, then Apple comes along and says "this is how you shouldve done it"

      • Tina
        March 5, 2012 at 6:11 pm

        That's the most surprising comment I have heard from you in a long time, James!

  3. M.S. Smith
    February 29, 2012 at 9:17 pm

    But they already are merging. You say so in your article by pointing out similar features that have been implemented between them.

    The question isn't "are they merging" it is "how much will they merge." Are we going to reach a point where there is just one OS, rather than two different operating systems with some similar features?

    I think Apple will go the route of merging them into one OS. I totally agree that computers have productive uses that tablets don't, but there's no reason why iOS can't handle most productive uses. The limitations of the iPad are mostly in the hardware. Slap iOS on an ARM powered full-size laptop, give the software a few years to mature, and you could accomplish just about anything that you could have accomplished on an x86 MacBook.

    There are, of course, disadvantages. But I think all signs point to Apple abandoning its most hardcore productivity users in favor a broader consumer market. Apple is still is a minor player in the laptop market, and they no doubt want to replicate the success they've had with smartphones and tablets. 

    • James Bruce
      March 5, 2012 at 8:43 am

      I really dont think they will completely merge. Borrowing good bits from either is fine, but there's a still a core difference. Like, you know, you need OSX to program for iOS!

  4. Anomaly
    February 29, 2012 at 8:38 pm

    You be your ass the end of Mac OS X is very near. Apple wants to control every aspect of your computing life. iOS is an absolutely evil OS and I will die before I buy a device with it on it. Unfortunately millions of fools embrace this POS OS and let Apple run their lives through it. Why wouldn't Apple try to pull this crap off with their desktops? I called this years ago when the iPhone was released and it was locked down and the app store was introduced to the masses.

    It now looks like Windows has developed douche bad disease like Apple. The Metro UI and it's moronic apps that can only be installed from the Windows app store is Microsoft's attempt to screw everybody like Apple has.

    The next BS maneuver Apple will pull will be that you will only be able to install programs on OS X through the app store just like POS I mean iOS. This is coming for sure and anybody that thinks it isn't is beyond ignorant. Apple has no reason not to do it. Most new Mac users are iPhone and iPad fools so they are used to this kind of control and won't care.

    If you don't want to be locked in a computer prison like iOS or the future Mac OS X and probably Windows, if Metro is any indication of things to come from Windows, you need to start learning Linux. The sooner the better.

    • Alpha
      May 20, 2012 at 5:45 pm

      Wow, all this rant to come to the conclusion that people have to start learning Linux? In fact Mac OS X was the reason I abandoned Linux back in 2002. It provided me everything I needed: an interface simpler than Windows on a true Unix-like system. I highly doubt that Apple will ever use the AppleStore as the only means of installing applications on OS X, and if they do that will be their doom.

      I'm a very old mac user but I'm not a fanboy and I won't hesitate to switch to Microsoft tablets or whatever company tops the ipad. In fact I strongly agree with MS's position on the tablet business, there should really be full compatibility between a tablet and a desktop computer. I'm not talking about the iphone here, I'm talking about tablets such as the iPad which are almost as powerful a "real" computer. Merging iOS with OSX is the natural evolution of things and it will happen sooner or later. I strongly disagree with the author's views on this topic and I find them strictly subjective. I don't think it's normal to pay 800+ euros for something just to do "some light browsing from the sofa". This is just one person's opinion and not a serious argument against what most people see as the evolution of technology.