iOS and OS X: Time for Some Real Convergence
OS X is great. So is iOS. But there's a certain disconnect between the two operating systems that feels very un-Apple-like. I'm ready for a better, more integrated convergence of the operating systems, something that lets me run all the same apps on the Mac as I run on the iPhone and iPad. Making Apple TV part of the mix wouldn't hurt, either. I'd like to see Apple really throw its weight around.
Jan 26, 2012 5:00 AM PT
Lately I've found myself more frequently irritated and dissatisfied with my Mac than ever before. This is a weird feeling, made all the more powerful by the fact that Mac OS X Lion is the most useful operating system ever. With a simple two-fingered swipe on my Magic Mouse, I can flick my entire screen to a whole new desktop view, and with a swipe in the other direction, go back.
This feature alone is freakishly powerful for people who have a lot of different kinds of content on their Macs. It's an excellent way to focus, for instance, by leaving email back on another desktop so you can focus on a more important task.
Safari is also better than ever, letting me save groups of tabs (that feature took forever to arrive, despite other browsers having it), and I can now swipe with one finger on a Safari page to go back to the previous page. And it's fast doing it.
The Mac App Store is bringing some really excellent applications front and center to Mac users, and I'm a big fan. I've already bought way more apps than I would have otherwise. Plus, I'm more willing to shell out a few bucks to experiment because I know exactly who is handling the transaction details.
The Mac App Store and iTunes finally have horizontal flickable elements built-in (again, with the Magic Mouse if you don't have a track pad), which is nice and intuitive. Back when Lion first came out and Apple changed the scroll direction to mimic flicking a piece of paper around on a flat desk, I was having a hard time with the switch. Now, though, that action is so intuitive that I can barely use a PC or an older Mac running a previous version of OS X. The geniuses at Apple got that move right.
And Yet Something Is Wrong, Very Very Wrong
So the why the ongoing angst? If there's so much to love about my Mac, why am I irritated?
Mac OS X is not iOS. Or vice versa.
I'm so totally ready for a better, more integrated convergence of the operating systems that my teeth hurt from grinding them together.
First of all, there are great applications on my iPhone and my iPad. They've got nice clean interfaces, they are lightweight, they do just what they should and nothing more. I want them on my Mac -- the same interface, the same features. Sure, there are some companies that produce versions of their applications for the iPad and also for the Mac, but not enough. And they don't yet easily talk to each other to keep things in sync. With Apple's iCloud, there's a communication conduit just ready for this sort of thing.
Why can't I have the same weather, the same clock on my Mac as on my iPhone? These are simple things. With Mail, I can have essentially the same accounts on iOS as on my Mac, and they keep relatively in sync easily enough. But how about the awesome Reminders app on iOS? Sure, it integrates with my email and my Mac well enough, but there's no app for it. I can't, for instance, add or delete items on it with my Mac and keyboard; heck, I can't even open it up to look at it since it doesn't exist.
Instead, I have to understand how it connects with various applications under the covers, and that's not friendly at all. In order to work with Reminders, I have to hold my iPhone or tap away at it on my cradle next to my Mac's monitor. That's the opposite of elegance. Juggling devices. That whole issue is so un-Apple like. I might as well be controlling my TV and cable system with three different remotes.
Sure, some to-do applications have both iOS apps and Mac OS X apps, and they do a pretty good job of keeping them synced. But many of them suffer from either too much bloat or not enough power. Reminders hits the sweet spot.
So that's one nagging problem: There are lots of great apps for iOS that you simply can't run on your Mac.
The iPad Angle
This also goes with apps that were designed just for the iPad, which forces guys like me to pick either my iPad or my MacBook. Which one do I take with me? Or both? What's worse is when you do pick one then realize you really want to use an app that's only on the other device. Or you have to train yourself to use two different interfaces to accomplish essentially the same thing.
If this whole issue was focused on any company other than Apple, I wouldn't worry about it. It wouldn't cross my mind at all. Why? Because this kind of vision and integration is impossible for anyone else. It's not going to happen with Android and Linux and Microsoft Windows. OK, it might happen with Windows on the desktop and the smartphone, but it won't for a long, long time. But Apple, damn it, Apple can make the impossible seem possible. And as a loyal Apple buyer, I can start making connections.
Remember the famous Steve Jobs quote from years ago where someone asks him about not using consumer focus groups? His comment was something along the lines that consumer don't know what they want until Apple shows them what they want. Well, that was then. These days a good many consumers have some pretty good ideas about what they want.
Now that Apple has $97.6 billion in cash sitting around, I'm having a hard time seeing money as the challenge. I'd like to see Apple really throw its weight around and get some of these issues fixed.
I want a way to run an iOS app on my Mac. If that's a MacBook Pro with a touch-sensitive screen ... perfect. If it's an iMac with a touch-sensitive screen, perfect. I should be able to seamlessly move from mouse to keyboard to touch ... all at the same time on my screen. If I want to flick my desktop to move to a new desktop, I ought to be able to do that by touching the screen too. Or my Magic Mouse.
And What About Apple TV?
Then there's my living room and my Apple TV. I love the thing, but it's maddening, too. It could so easily run apps that I don't understand why it doesn't. Oh, wait, it sort of does through AirPlay ... that's a great start. But again, why can't I have the same Weather application everywhere?
While where at it, why can't I have a Notification Center on my Mac? Notification Center, especially when you swipe down from the top of your iPhone, is awesome. Don't have it integrated with my Mac. And it's definitely not integrated with my Apple TV.
So what's my point?
Jobs and Apple dissed the fractured nature of Android with all the different devices and flavors, right? Well, it turns out that living in Apple Land isn't as seamless and integrated as it pretends to be. There's all sorts of ways that I have to have four different devices to get the kind of experience I want. And the user has to remember all these different devices, interfaces and passwords.
I'm ready for a much better integrated experience. I know Apple can deliver it. I'm waiting.