Apple execs say iOS and OS X won’t merge, and 10.10 will prove that


Among the hoopla surrounding the 30th anniversary of the Mac last week, Macworld‘s Jason Snell had an excellent interview with Apple’s Phil Schiller, Craig Federighi, and Bud Tribble about both the past and the future for the Mac. While the entire interview is well worth a read, the talk from Apple executives about iOS and OS X convergence being a “waste of energy” stood out to me the most.

“It’s obvious and easy enough to slap a touchscreen on a piece of hardware, but is that a good experience?” Federighi said. “We believe, no.”

“We don’t waste time thinking, ‘But it should be one [interface]!’ How do you make these [operating systems] merge together?’ What a waste of energy that would be,” Schiller said. But he added that the company definitely tries to smooth out bumps in the road that make it difficult for its customers to switch between a Mac and an iOS device—for example, making sure its messaging and calendaring apps have the same name on both OS X and iOS.

Of course, it appears that the Apple executives are taking shots at Microsoft, Windows 8, the Surface line of products, and Google’s new Touch-enabled Chromebooks. Microsoft is well known to believe that computer operating systems should be the same regardless of devices. On the other hand, Apple has two complete different operating systems: one for the iPad and iPhone, and the other for the Mac. Federighi explains why:

“The reason OS X has a different interface than iOS isn’t because one came after the other or because this one’s old and this one’s new,” Federighi said. Instead, it’s because using a mouse and keyboard just isn’t the same as tapping with your finger. “This device,” Federighi said, pointing at a MacBook Air screen, “has been honed over 30 years to be optimal” for keyboards and mice. Schiller and Federighi both made clear that Apple believes that competitors who try to attach a touchscreen to a PC or a clamshell keyboard onto a tablet are barking up the wrong tree.

That being said, Apple obviously believes in there being some shared design elements between products. Remember, by the time Scott Forstall was fired, OS X Mountain Lion and iOS 6 were both filled with similarly appalling linen. Now that Jony Ive has put his stamp on iOS, natural speculation points to him doing the same for the next release of OS X.

But I don’t think we’re in for that… just yet.

Sure, OS X 10.10 (codenamed “Syrah” and currently sitting around development build number 14Z109) will pick up some of the enhancements from iOS 7 like improved notifications (and perhaps AirDrop compatibility with iOS and Siri — which the company has been toying with for months on the former and years on the latter), but I don’t believe we should expect a thorough iOS 7-like overhaul for OS X 10.10 this year. 

Instead, I am expecting OS X 10.10 to have user-interface tweaks that will make the interface “flatter,” but not as stark as iOS 7’s look. I’d also expect some blur and translucency effects in a few places, but not in anyway that is central to the experience like it is on iOS. There will be a little bit more white space, more defined menu bars, and squared-off window controls, but I would not expect a full color palette change and redesigns for every single application and icon.

So don’t expect OS X and iOS’s designs to converge this year. Instead, think of 2014 for the Mac OS as more of a transition year. A transition from glitz to flat(ter), but nothing too dramatic.

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  1. Rafael Costa - 9 years ago

    Why 10.10? Why not believe that they’ll follow the LOGIC and use OS 11?

    • rzozaya1969 - 9 years ago

      Because it’s versioning, not math. I would expect a mayor overhaul to make OS 11 or OS XI. Since it’s from what I see a major release, they will only increase the subversion (to .10)…

    • Mac OS X is a BRAND NAME. There will never be a “Mac OS XI”

      • telecastle - 9 years ago

        Mac OS X is no longer the brand. They dropped Mac from the brand name some time ago. It’s now called OS X.

    • oomu (@oomu) - 9 years ago

      it’s VERSION numberING. 10.9 = 9nth version of OS 10. You can make 3295325325 versions of OS 10 if you want

      you can even numbered it like that: Mac Os 10.31.65Release 4.659b52alpha-gamma-zeta-patch3152 build 14404.

      do you see my point ? It’s NOT a DECIMAL number. it’s the n revision of Os 10. nine, ten, eleven, twelve MAJOR revision of OS 10.

      And ONE day, if Apple decides the new Os is significantly different from os 10 or just want to mess with people’s head, they can do OS 11

      and OS 11.1, 11.2, 11.3 … 11.25259.352.1rev5

      10.9 IS NOT A DECIMAL number !

      • Jeremy Bohn (@76jer) - 9 years ago

        Oomu you are correct, except that 10.9 is really the 10th version because 10.0 counts as the first.

    • The X in OS X comes from Steve Jobs NeXT: :: When Jobs when back to Apple through the NeXT buyout, they merged the two operating systems. The X doesn’t really stand for 10, it stands for NeXT. They started the OS X with 10 because it was also an iteration from Mac OS 9.

    • Paul K Kho - 8 years ago

      Nah. The way I see it I think Apple will continue adding 10 to every version so that years from now we will have a long string of OSX…. I rest my case.

  2. sardonick - 9 years ago

    Makes sense to me to have two separate interfaces, but I disagree about the add-on keyboard to a tablet. I type like a beast on my iPad, but I do so much quicker and more efficiently using the bluetooth keyboard. Luckily, there’s options for anyone, and that’s the big plus. Like the keyboard that’s built in, use it, need an external, use that. That’s the beauty of good design. As for flatter OS X. Oh God please no more flattening and sterilization. I simply can’t stand iOS 7’s look and it completely kills the iOS experience for me. I miss the iOS 6 look, no matter how unpopular. Still, I have yet to find a better piece of hardware than my iPad…and I hope it stays that way.

    • I also prefer to use the iPad keyboard while on the go, rather than using one of those bulky keyboard covers.
      While at home, I use my Apple Bluetooth Keyboard when I’m sitting on a desk or table and need to do a lot of typing.
      The only thing I don’t like of iOS 7 is the flat buttons with no borders. Sometimes it’s difficult to identify a button from plain text in some apps.

    • Thomas Durfee - 9 years ago

      Let us not forget the Keyboard Stand for the original iPad! oops! haha actually not a terrible idea, it just didn’t make sense to try to replace a desktop with an iPad. ClamCase and Zagg keyboard cases are where it’s at. Honestly I wish apple would make a 13″ iPad Pro with a “flip-back”keyboard base, with extra battery, storage, speakers and usb… just get a MacBook Air, right?

  3. pucagaeilge - 9 years ago

    Mark, I think you’re confusing look-and-feel (flat, white, and translucent) with functionality (larger buttons, tables, and other tap-friendly elements in iOS).

    There’s no reason OS X 10.10 won’t have a complete flattening like iOS. But what Apple is saying is that the buttons and tables and toolbars won’t become the same size and functionality as iOS. OS X will continue to be optimized for mouse and keyboard.

    • Mr. Grey (@mister_grey) - 9 years ago

      There *are* “… good reason(s) why OS X 10.10 won’t have a complete flattening …”

      The two best ones are:

      a) It’s actually almost completely flat already. There are lots of gradients, but those are actually a hallmark of iOS 7. There are very few “3D” elements left and no skeuomorphism at all.

      b) The main “non-flat” element of OS X are the drop shadows, which are actually supremely functional and helpful. They could be toned down of course, but to eliminate them completely would clearly be a detriment to the user interface.

      I’m expecting it to be a lot flatter looking, and certainly less shiny, but to still have things like (subtle) drop shadows. Ive clearly “went too far” with iOS 7. OS X is used in much more mission critical situations. Hopefully he will deal with it with more humility and respect this time.

      • Lou Miranda - 9 years ago

        I agree that Jony Ive went too simple with iOS 7, but I’d be surprised if they gave up much ground in iOS 8.

        If you want to know what a flat OS X UI would look like, take a look at Xcode.

  4. PMZanetti - 9 years ago

    It makes sense to optimize the experience for the device. End of story.

    Hopefully this interview eliminates this annoying talking point among amateur bloggers.

  5. w1ngnut (@w1ngnutz) - 9 years ago

    The simple answer is: look at what MS does and do EXACTLY THE OPPOSITY.

    So, yes, you have a winner product. lol

  6. Joe Bennett - 9 years ago

    The thing I love about people touting how awesome it is that the interfaces would be the “same” don’t seem to realize that even in Windows, they aren’t “the same”. In Windows phone, your tiles scroll vertically when you want to see more tiles. In Windows proper, you scroll horizontally to see more tiles. And this might not be true anymore, but at one time you could resize tiles on one of the OS flavors and not the other.

    So even when they are the same, they aren’t the same.

    “But, but, who cares if it is horizontal or vertical – it’s still tiles!”. Fine, if that’s how you feel, fine. But what it means is that there ARE two code bases, or at least code bases with a #define in them. So they are different. If they are different, then make them different in a way that makes sense – for a big screen with a keyboard, use a mouse and a cursor and a graphical representation that works best for that. If it is a small screen without a keyboard, use a finger with a graphical representation that works best for THAT.

    Either make them the same, or don’t. Don’t make them sort of the same and pretend to me that they are the same, Microsoft.

  7. Kieran Navickas - 9 years ago

    I would still love a file management app by Apple on iOS. As a lawyer, I need to manage PDFs and docs in a Finder kind of way. I use GoodReader, but Apple really needs a “Finder App” that comes standard on iOS devices. To load the same file in GoodReader, Pages, and Echosign is really pointless. Let the use have 1 place for their stuff that can be accessed by any app. They already do it with photos.

    • o0smoothies0o - 9 years ago

      Definitely disagree, I don’t think there should ever be a finder on iOS, it is something that mobile devices do not need. Just adds complexity where there doesn’t need to be any. iOS should remain as locked down as possible to always remain at maximum simplicity, and efficiency. Simply need good apps for what you are talking about.

      • rzozaya1969 - 9 years ago

        Nah… well, you could look into other phone OS for more power stuff if you want to go there. I prefer Android over iOS mostly for being more open. There are always drawbacks if you go more open or closer.

    • Mr. Grey (@mister_grey) - 9 years ago

      Re: File Management … speaking as someone who has helped people with their computers since the very beginning of the personal computer on a daily basis … the average user has no idea about file management and the number of folks who need anything more than “one folder deep” management (which is provided in every, single iOS app BTW), is so small as to be negligible. Giving users more than that one level is a recipe for users to mess up. The very small number of folks that organise their documents on a deeper level are best served sticking with a laptop.

      iOS needs a way to have documents not necessarily stay in one app, but it doesn’t need a file system per se. For instance if I have three PDF apps (this assumes I’m basically an idiot of course, but idiots do use iOS), I should not have PDFs that are “locked” within one app that the other app can’t see. That is the only “problem” with iOS file handling and it doesn’t require a user accessible file system to solve.

      • Bradley Brahms - 9 years ago

        Then let file management be only 1 level deep. I much prefer iOS of Android but iOS does need some type of common file access across apps. Yeah, I’ll admit most people do not need files, but there are enough people who do that it would make since.

    • oomu (@oomu) - 9 years ago

      ho please no , no more complexity.

      just use a good pdf applications.

      about duplication of file between apps, yes it’s a good argument, but no need for a central file manager : just better and smarter sharing of docs between apps, something invisible and transparent, with revisions management.

    • telecastle - 9 years ago

      Use Box or Dropbox and you will get fFinder-like file manager with levels of nested directories. You will also be able to sync your files instantaneously to multiple devices. Both have corporate accounts with encryption.

  8. John Smith - 9 years ago

    I certainly hope that the IOS7 look is not coming to my Macbook.

    Obviously taste is a personal thing, but my personal taste is that IOS7 sucks at an aesthetic level. To me the simplistic style, acres of glare, and garish colours look childish – more suitable for the nursery than the board room. Are Apple now marketing towards kids ?

    I’m actually holding off updating not only the IOS on my iPad but the whole device so I can hold onto IOS6

    Not sure we need fake leather, but I don’t need childish either. Has Apple not heard of ‘themes’ ? – give us a choice so people have flat white, kiddie colours or something different at their own choice.

    • rzozaya1969 - 9 years ago

      .. choices and Apple don’t rhyme well together ;)

      I think functionality is more important that the look of an app or environment, but I do think that there should be some color themes that could be given the user…

      • John Smith - 9 years ago

        Absolutely – this sort of thing can only be personal taste. A bit of choice – like on the $200 samsung phone I get from work or my free webmail – would be nice on a ‘premium’ product. As I say, it just looks childish to me.

        Something did interest me. Have a look at the apple website iPad page. How many large images of the big glary white screen or silly childish colours can you see? Most of the large images show the screens dominated by apps which aren’t white, translucent etc. Obviously apple’s own marketing people think iPads sell better if you don’t show the IOS7 theme in the advertising.

    • Completely agree.

      I have always disliked “Flat deign”. I love functionality of iOS 7, and even after using it for a while I started to think that I actually like it better than the good old iOS 6 design, but i picked up my friends phone with iOS 6 and it did look so much better :( Polished Icons, non of that cartoonish c**p :)

      I love layers in iOS 7, but iOS 6 was a better design. I think Windows phone styling is just horrid and iOS (even though fundamentally different) is going down that road

  9. drtyrell969 - 9 years ago

    Thank God. This post-PC era is going to kill Apple if they don’t hang onto Desktop technology unique from mobile.

  10. Mr. Grey (@mister_grey) - 9 years ago

    I hope they move away from translucent overlays. The Notification Centre is borderline useless and horrifically ugly. That black translucent overlay turns every possible background into a muddy, splodgy, mess and the type on top of that, unreadable (assuming I want to strain my eyes to *read* the weather).

    Similarly, the overlay on the control centre makes it (harder* (some might say impossible) to use it to set the only thing I ever use it for … brightness.

    The translucent overlays in the Photos app add nothing at all, yet take away part of your picture so you always have to tap twice to actually see the fucking picture. Also, when I’m editing a picture, there is no way to do so and actually see the entire picture, because the editing controls are part of the overlay that hides part of the picture.

    IMO … ALL translucent overlays in iOS 7 are a FAIL. They add NOTHING, yet they all take away significant usability.

    The overlays are design based on dogma. Like a lot of iOS 7, they are an unworkable gimmick that “looks cool” but doesn’t actually add anything.

    The Emperor’s (Ive’s) new clothes indeed.

    • Derek Paul - 9 years ago

      I’m thrilled that you’re not the one making those decisions then. As a UX designer, I’d say that you have no idea what you’re talking about.

  11. Gregory Wright - 9 years ago

    Shucks! I was hoping the two would merge. I mean Mac, iPhone and iPad completely integrated. What’s wrong with that.

    • Mr. Grey (@mister_grey) - 9 years ago

      There is a world of difference between “integrated” and “merged.”

      Things can be deeply integrated, they can even have a symbiotic relationship wherein each actually *requires* the presence of the other and yet still be different and still not be “merged.”

      • rzozaya1969 - 9 years ago

        I hope it never gets to need the other. Some people don’t want to get into a single company for all. I have a iMac and prefer Android for phones. I would really think twice if a newer version of the mac would require that I need to buy an iPhone… or viceversa, if someone has windows and can’t buy an iPhone because it require Mac OS.

        I do think that maybe integrate seamlessly or some benefint in having an all-Apple product can work. But not in a dependency merge…

  12. OS X.X? That would look weird. Don’t they use that for cartoon characters that bit the dust?

  13. patstar5 - 9 years ago

    What? I thought apple was suppose to make a device this year that was a cross between iPad and Mac! Forget you apple! I am switching back to windows. This costs $500 and is a laptop and tablet, 500gb HDD, way more than 16gb iPad. My iPad 2 and mid 2010 13 inch MacBook Pro are so slow, apple isn’t going to make me buy another one because they won’t support it. I won’t buy an iPad again until apple cuts their price down $100-$200 and that will never happen

    • telecastle - 9 years ago

      iPad 2 us pretty old. Yet,?it still works for most apps. If you jailbreak it, you can install My3G and do FaceTime over 3G like all modern devices can.

      As fir your 2910, upgrade it’s memory o the maximum supported and create a Fusion Drive on it by getting a 128 GB SSD and pairing it with the existing HD. Your MacBook Pro will be blazingly fast. You can do the whole thing for about $200!

  14. sarnerjamie - 9 years ago

    IMO it is just fine to have those two separated at some level. Firstly I think merging them into one and having basically just one touchscreen and one peripherals operated interface would be redundantly debilitating. And on the other hand I personally really don’t mind seeing different things in my hand and on my desk. I think of them differently, perceive them differently and basically like to have it made that way. Sure, common naming of the apps is handy, but some general differences will only do good keeping our heads a bit busy.

  15. ziongpham - 9 years ago

    SO happy to hear this.

  16. Stefan Labuschagne - 9 years ago

    The most frustrating thing about the ipad (for work purposes) is that you still can’t attach something that’s not a photo to an email when replying. I get so fed up with having to email documents from pages/numbers/pdf apps and breaking the email thread by doing so. The least they can do is open up iWork documents on iCloud to be attached to an email directly from the mail app.

  17. Despite the rhetoric from Schiller (which he’s full of) I do think someday iOS and OS X will merge. This doesn’t mean the desktop/laptop experience is the same as the phone and tablet experience (god i hope not) but the OS itself would be the same with different a size and layout for each type of device (maybe that will be called OS 11).

    If you see what they are doing with each iteration of the iOS and Mac SDKs you can kind of see it coming. They may never call them the same but at some point I do believe they will be the same code base for both.

  18. wherein the alpha-beta fused 10.10 syrah?

  19. Apple considers point releases to be major releases, thus the next would be 10.10. OS X 11 would have to be an entirely new OS. I think they are just going to do away with number releases and just use the OS name – OS X Syrah.

  20. Aaron Dennis - 9 years ago

    If 10.10 is iOS flat. I will ride 10.9 until I can no longer own a Mac. I miss iOS 5. And I miss snow leopard. I held out till the last minute with both of them.

  21. Craig Constable - 9 years ago

    I’d like to see an iPhone that you connect to a larger screen and use it like OSX and when on the run you use it like IOS.
    With wireless charging on it’s way it would be nice to have wireless keyboards, mice and monitors that have batteries that are charged wirelessly.
    The iPhone as a PC replacement would be perfect, they just need a way to increase performance when running as OSX and scale back when running as IOS to save power.

  22. dsnwiirocks - 9 years ago

    Why not OS 11? Because nothing looks as visually appealing, and sounds that awesome as OS X (“OS ten”). You can slap an X there, not only it looks more powerful, you can call it a day.

    I believe Apple will fade out the version numbers in marketing (like Mavericks), and switch to names completely instead.

  23. Min Lungelow - 9 years ago

    I will stab an Apple Exec if they iOS 7-ify Mac OS. I think iOS 7 was a hideous design change, and I personally don’t even like the changes they’ve made since Snow Leopard to the way OS X looks and works.

    I want to see some under the hood stuff, because Mavericks runs like a fat kid on the first day of PE.