For Apple customers who date their ownership back to the last century you likely remember when compatibility was an issue with Mac vs. Windows. Microsoft helped to solve that problem by investing in Apple when Steve Jobs returned in 1997. Compatibility as an issue is dead but incompatibility is on the rise.
Compatibility vs. Interoperability
Microsoft’s financial investment in Apple helped to keep Microsoft Office on the Mac for five years and beyond. Apple needed Office compatibility for the Mac. Since then, compatibility has undergone a dramatic change.
For example, the internet has become mostly compatible with all browsers and devices across all major platform. Files– photos, videos, documents, PDFs, and so on– have become compatible across platforms and are interoperable between applications.
There is a difference, however, between compatibility and interoperability.
For example, Apple’s Mac uses industry standard Intel Inside, RAM chips, graphics chips, displays, and other components. The same holds true for iPhone and iPad except Apple designs its own customer ARM-based CPUs, and customer could not care less about the components which make up each device.
Enter Jason Snell’s consideration:
Compatibility and interoperability are concepts Apple has ignored or embraced, depending on its situation. To me, it seems that the Mac is about to enter a new era of incompatibility… and I’m okay with it.
Snell and I came from similar worlds and similar times. Back in the late 1980s, and 1990s, the Mac and Apple were synonymous. Apple was the Mac.
Steve Jobs changed that.
The Mac of the 90s was populated with tech that was uncommon or unavailable elsewhere—ADB keyboards and mice, Mac serial printers, SCSI drives, AAUI and LocalTalk networking, Mac file sharing, Motorola 680×0 processors, and the rest. It was an enormous liability: If you were in certain markets, in certain industries, needed to attach to certain networks or peripherals, you just couldn’t use a Mac
Compatibility dominates platforms on specific file types and content, but far less so on hardware. Linux runs on PCs, and the Mac is a PC which also runs macOS and Windows and Linux (and other flavors of Unix-based OS versions).
Interoperability covers hardware and Apple may be set to change that, too– especially on the Mac.
The iPad Pros introduced in the fall of 2018 are faster than most of the PC laptops in the market. If the A12X is a processor that can easily power a laptop, it’s not hard to believe that an A13X (or would it be A13M?) could drive a whole new generation of Mac laptops—without any speed complaints.
Where is all this going?
Think Apple’s own ARM-based CPUs in a line of Macs; maybe this year or next year, maybe the year after, but in the not too distant future, because Apple’s own chip design efforts are on a roll and Intel has sputtered in recent years, 2019 Mac Pro notwithstanding.
You can see the same bridge being built with Apple’s efforts to begin porting iPad apps to macOS in the Catalyst Project. App developers click a box in Xcode, and poof– there’s an app that runs everywhere. iPhone, iPad, macOS Intel, and macOS ARM.
Snell has this idea covered.
The end result will be a Mac that, in the 2020s, will be a bit more like the Mac of the 1980s—running Apple-only software on a processor architecture nobody else is using. The difference between now and the 1980s is the mobile revolution that has made developing for Apple’s devices more popular than ever and has also discouraged the creation of software and services that can only run on a single platform like Windows back in the day.
Apple remains the outlier, going it alone where it suits the company, remaining both compatible and interoperable where it makes sense.
I look forward to an $899 Mac notebook that runs rings around 90-percent of Windows PCs with Intel Inside, and a similarly sized clamshell iPad with a detachable keyboard– probably at the same price point– that does the same, and both with more applications available than run on Windows.