In 2007 when we were first introduced to the original iPhone and iOS, many questions arose. Did it mean the end to OS X? Was iOS the “future” for Apple? Why did Apple create iOS instead of a mobile version of OS X?
At the time mobile hardware was fairly limited and in its infancy. Apple needed an operating system that was light weight (so not to drain battery power) and yet powerful enough to handle a new touch interface, run multiple apps and of course handle telephone call functions. OS X was never designed to work within such narrow parameters, so Apple forked OS X to create iOS. It is difficult to say whether Steve Jobs was more proud of the hardware or the software on the original iPhone. It probably was a combination of both — working together to make something “magical”.
Over time Apple has worked to make their two operating systems more and more alike as well as work better with each other. There was iCloud and iCloud Drive to share files. Continuity allows us to start a particular task on an iOS device and finish it on an OS X one (or vise versa). In El Capitan we got split screen functionality on the latest iPad hardware. However, for whatever reason, Apple has been reluctant to give iOS, mostly for iPads, a Finder. While iCloud and iCloud Drive work they are somewhat cumbersome and often require working from within an App and not a the directory level. This lack of interoperability can be somewhat frustrating.
Enter Microsoft, stage right. With Windows 10 Microsoft aims to do what it thinks users want: One, not two, operating system. Nadella’s Windows 10 attempts to do what Ballmer’s Windows 8 and 8.1 failed to do — give a unified platform, no matter what type of device you are using: smart phone, tablet, desktop. Microsoft is able to start here because a) they are very late to the mobile party and b) hardware is vastly superior in speed and efficiency than it was when Apple exploded the idea of mobile.
It is interesting to think if Apple were to launch its first iPhone in 2015 would it run a mobile version of OS X instead of iOS? Given today’s hardware versus what was available in 2007, would Apple choose a single operating system across all devices or still have gone with two distinct operating systems? We will probably never know the answer to that question, yet with each release of iOS and OS X we see these operating systems behaving more and more alike (and looking more and more alike). What’s most important though is that sharing files and workflow between devices is seamless, and that there is no frustration.
Which strategy will win out? Good question. All I can say is that Microsoft is committed to their single operating system strategy and with Nadella they finally have someone in charge that can execute it well. Today Microsoft is in third place in mobile, but that may soon change as people upgrade to Windows 10 on their desktops and then get a new complimentary phone or tablet running the same operating system.
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