Early this morning, much to our surprise, Apple announced the latest update to OS X, Mountain Lion, along with an additional bag of goodies like a developer preview and the Messages beta for all to enjoy. OS X version 10.8 features, among other things, a handful of additions that we were introduced to just last year with iOS 5. Yes, iOS 5.
For some time now, we've started noticing the convergence of desktop and mobile platforms. More specifically, OS X with iOS and Windows with Windows Phone. The next Windows version, Windows 8, will feature a fully functional Metro UI tucked neatly (and somewhat schizophrenically) beneath the Start button. And the next update for Windows Phone, codenamed Apollo, is presumed to be Windows Phone 8. And with today's unveiling of Mountain Lion, we can't help but take notice of Apple's blatant step towards "iOS X", as I have seen it called many times now.
Game Center, Reminders, Twitter integration, Notification Center, Notes, Messages, iCloud and built-in sharing options are all pieces of the iOS puzzle that are slowly being brought over to Apple's full, Mac operating system.
None of this should come as a surprise, though. It is natural progression. Eventually, full-fledged operating systems will not be needed – at least not by the average end user. An iPad with a keyboard will do for most students. And for those who need a little more horse power, there will soon be Windows 8 tablets to dabble with. Of course, however, there will always be extreme cases where you may need professional grade software, or special software that is only available on a specific operating system. People who need this are the individuals who will cling on to their desktops and laptops for as long as humanly possible.
However, the important question is: do you want a similar, unified experience between your PC (or Mac) and mobile devices?
When I first saw the Mountain Lion video, there really wasn't much that jumped out at me. Notes, Reminders, iCloud and Notification Center – some of this bigger highlights of the update – are things that I rarely (if ever) use on my iPhone. Not to mention, there is just something about Apple's "skeuomorphic" design that turns me away.
That said, the direction they're headed is good. Bringing Messages to OS X was bound to happen sooner or later. And being able to continue conversations when switching from tablet, phone and PC is amazing. As is iCloud synchronization of notes. (However, it's nothing particularly groundbreaking, as I do this with Gtalk and Evernote between my Nexus, Galaxy Tab and MacBook. And it isn't limited to a single operating system.)
For people who feel disorganized and an OS disconnect when switching between devices, a seamless, unified experience is great. However, I feel Apple is pushing the changes in the wrong direction. They're developing of iOS then bringing the changes to OS X, which is fine. But iOS is largely underpowered in comparison to, say, Android. (Even Woz agrees.) It'd be nice to see some more powerful and full-fledged features be pushed down the pipes to iOS instead of the other way around.
As for Windows 8 and Windows Phone, I feel it may be much of the same – a powerful desktop OS being synchronized with an underpowered and still infantile operating system. Windows 8 tablets will clearly have a little more horsepower as they're running a full version of Windows 8. But when it comes to handsets, Windows Phone could use a little more oomph. Internet Explorer 9 is arguably the highlight of Windows Phone, yet the applications and operating system itself are still lacking some very important features.
You may recall an article I wrote last month titled A 'mental context switch' between phones and tablets isn't a bad thing. It was a rebuttal to an article written by Jason Perlow of ZDNet on Why Ice Cream Sandwich won't be able to save Android tablets. Among things like inconsistencies, sporadic scrolling and the 16:9 aspect ratio, Perlow states that there is still a mental context change between Android tablets and smartphones – notifications are handled differently, the app drawer is accessed differently, etc.
I extend the same theory from my view on Android tablets and smartphones to mobile devices and their respective full operating systems. A mental context switch isn't a bad thing. I want my devices to perform differently because I use them in totally different ways.
A perfect example of this is why I was never a huge fan of iOS on the iPad. I don't mind it on the iPhone, but it just doesn't feel efficient or optimized for the larger display. Most of the applications come out fine, but the home screen is full of wasted space and this trickles down throughout the operating system.
This is just me, though. I know many people who would love nothing more than to have the exact same experience on their laptop, desktop, phone and tablet. In fact, I was talking to someone about it just yesterday – about how they hate having to totally switch their mindset when they switch devices. I, on the other hand, use all platforms and actually like the mental switch.
Tell me, readers. Do you want the same experience across all of your devices, mobile and desktop? Do you like the changes that were introduced in OS X 10.8? What do you think will happen to Android as its counterparts converge with full desktop operating systems?