404 The Merger of iOS and OS X

The Merger of iOS and OS X

A financial analyst at J.P Morgan has floated a hypothesis about Apple and an iAnywhwere trend. It seems as though the theory is somewhat based on the same kind of logic that Microsoft used to create Windows 8. And we all know how that experiment turned out. So it is with a raised eyebrow that I read any theories relating to the merging a desktop OS and a mobile OS.

What Microsoft missed in this merger, and ultimately what is costing them dearly, is that they tried to unify an environment that catered to both a mouse and a finger. They could not create a new desktop class OS that did not include support for a mouse since all their legacy software, which is the foundation of Windows, is entirely based on a mouse based model. So to believe that OS X and iOS would merge is to discount the context for which both devices exist. It is also a gross misunderstanding of both the consumer and the commercial computing sector.

The commercial sector needs a device like a desktop and more specifically a notebook. These form factors are specialized now to use cases which require the user be stationary for long periods of time and do things like text entry, pro audio, video, and graphics, basically “deep work.” This is why a dedicated OS for “deep work” environments is necessary. There will always be these environments of hundreds of millions of people who rely on these form factors and need an OS specifically designed to help them be efficient and as productive as possible. It is hard to argue against a spec driven piece of hardware, big screen, and mouse and keyboard, as the best suited solutions for these environments.

The consumer space is an entirely different market. This market is where we see tablets, and the promise of tablets as a general purpose computer, poised to take off. This market does not do “deep work” all day long. What gets forgotten about the commercial environment is that there are a great many number of folks who sit at a desk all day and use a desktop or notebook but who don’t need to take their work home with them. With this context it is not surprising that, in the US at least, we have a saying. PC by day, tablet by night. PCs get the bulk of the usage—by those who own them or use them during the day–but at night the tablet is the favored device.

So a question of a pro tablet, or a device in which something like iOS and OS X would merge, would need to answer the question of what job is it designed to do and for whom? I would contend that the largest parts of the market will be well served by either a PC or a tablet, each with a dedicated experience taken into account the context of how it is used. This is why the separation of a desktop (mouse and mouse based software) environment and the mobile OS (touch and touch based software) environment makes the most sense.

This is not to say that consumers do not want to do more with their tablets. We believe they do and this is why our estimates for larger screen tablets is a growth segment. But these increase in capabilities and the software which drives them will come with a touch computing paradigm first and will almost certainly be rid of the mouse input methodology.

  • http://how2startup.com/ Roy Rodenstein

    Good views, I see you’re referencing the recent 30th Anniversary interview comments from Phil and Craig on finger vs. pointer.

    I think some people think “tablets need a keyboard for serious work” and throw in the whole kitchen sink- if a keyboard then why not a mouse and a monitor and etc., so then they arrive at tablet = full PC.

    Finger vs. mouse pointer paradigms are totally different and the same UX cannot support both. The question that some ask then is, can a tablet become powerful enough to “dock” into being a full PC replacement. But PCs come with high requirements- big hard disk, connector ports, peripherals and much more, all of which go directly against the benefits of tablets (super portable, long battery life, etc.) So I don’t see a “fully hybrid” tablet/PC working well either.

    It’s true that it can be a pain to carry both a laptop and a tablet, but that doesn’t mean the solution is to converge them. As Apple has been doing, the desktop OS will continue to get a bit easier to use and have longer battery life, but probably the bigger gains will come with greater power and functionality from tablets so that it’s all you need to carry 95% of the time.

    The other axis in this question is the most tablet-like version of a laptop, i.e. Chromebook. Ben Thompson loves his. They probably fit consumer needs fairly well, but have to compete with tablets there. In enterprise, their price could entice some but their limited power, “no Office” and IT departments probably will be a high barrier. Education certainly is one area they could make sense though there also tablets will probably win most battles. So I’m not sure if the “super simple cloud notebook” significantly changes the equation. Thoughts? :)

  • Bruce_Mc

    I used a Wacom graphics tablet and stylus for everyday computing tasks with a desktop Mac. This was back in OS 7.5 through 9 days. The Wacom tablet I used was smaller than an iPad. my Mac ran at 75 Mhz and had 8 MB of RAM with 1280 x 1024 video, certainly less capable than an iPad.

    Somewhere down the road it’s going to cost money to train call center workers to use a mouse and keyboard because they won’t have any experience. You can get around that by buying a magic trackpad or bamboo touch and connecting it to a desktop computer. But if you go that far, why not buy tablets, set them flat on a table where a mouse pad would be on a PC, and connect them to dumb monitors instead? That’s got to be cheaper to set up, easier to manage, and would likely be easier for the post PC generation to use.

    You would need a cursor/pointer on the big screen, and control panels for setting up the tablet as a dedicated input device and setting the resolution of the dumb monitor. At the moment Android may be closer being able to accomplish this than ios, but things can change.

    What works at a call center could work in other departments of a company as well. I agree that some people will need PCs and a PC operating system for “deep work” in the enterprise, but I think tablets with a little more power and a little more flexibility and connectivity will be able to do a lot.