When Steve Jobs introduced the iPhone back in 2007 he pointed out that it was based on Mac OS X, the precursor of today’s macOS. Not long afterwards iOS was born, then came macOS, and Apple seems to insist they are different animals.
Perhaps, but each species seems to be on a collision course of sorts as iOS gains more powerful elements of macOS, and macOS gains some of the simplicity and elegance of iOS. Will Apple’s two most popular operating systems meet? What if?
macOS and iOS remain inherently well differentiated. The Mac is point-and-click centric, while iPhone and iPad are touch centric. Many of today’s most popular Windows PCs have touchscreen capability, yet Apple remains firm that such will not desecrate the Mac. Yet, Apple has started to make app development work across both platforms; from iOS to macOS.
As much as Apple’s iPhones and iPads have a degree of graphics power not found in entry-level Macs– notebook or desktop– the Mac can run apps with more power and capability. Photoshop comes to mind. GarageBand, too. And there are many professional level apps on the Mac that do not have an iOS counterpart– Logic Pro, Pro Tools, Adobe Audition and Premiere, among many.
Yet, Apple seems hell bent on moving app development capability so that some iOS apps can be developed in a way that they also work on the Mac. Last year Apple implemented a project called Marzipan which provides APIs (application programming interface) that allow iOS apps to be reformed to run on macOS. Think of it as built-in app support which would enable an iOS app to run on macOS.
Does that mean that macOS and iOS are headed in the same direction?
Kinda, sorta, mostly, yes but with major and obvious differences. That is to be expected. Marzipan apps on the Mac are not exactly killer apps. Apple News comes to mind. Voice Memos, Stocks, Home, too. These are not killer apps, but they are a view to the future when developers can create one app that runs on iPhone, iPad, and Mac.
OK, let’s carry that ongoing trend down the road a decade or so. Will macOS and iOS actually meet and be one and the same?
No. Hardware differences remain and that is likely to be the case even when Apple switches from some Intel Inside chips to its own A-Series CPUs. The Mac has a few major differences which must be addressed in any common operating system components.
The first is screen size. Mac displays are, relatively speaking and when compared to iPhone and iPad, monstrous; huge. That must be an element of consideration for any common app development.
The second is the keyboard. Forever and always, the Mac is keyboard centric with trackpad and mouse, and that varies dramatically from how navigation is handled via iOS for iPhone and iPad.
Third, the Mac is not yet touchscreen capable but I would expect that to change in the future, too. App developers will have yet another layer of navigational capability to drop into future cross-platform applications when the Mac finally goes touchscreen.
Does that future mean that macOS and iOS have finally met?
Actually, that’s a qualified yes. Apple seems to be working toward a single developer platform that will encompass iPhone, iPad, and Mac. Write once, run everywhere.
It could happen. Apple seems intent on moving in that direction, so every iteration of macOS in the future will contain more capabilities for iOS apps to be developed to run on the Mac.