At the WWDC keynote this year (2018), Apple took a firm stand in answering the question if iOS and macOS were heading towards a merger. Craig Federighi took the stage and answered “no” to that very question, unequivocally.
This, I think, is the right move. The whole appeal of Apple is that they understand the form and function of each device. Though they build similar apps with similar functionality using similar interfaces, they remain distinct in being discrete for the mode of manipulation for that particular device. Apple Pages, the app in which I am currently writing this article, may have the same core code that allows it to function—and much of this is shared between both platforms—but the means by which it handles interface interactions is different. The iOS version is optimized for touch, with a clean look, distinct use of white space and adequate sizing; while the macOS version has a more traditional look for pointing devices. The similarities in iconography make it easy to understand what each button does across iOS and macOS, but the use of those buttons differ. Whether I am working on my iPad or my Mac, I feel comfortable and in control, knowing that I can work to the advantage of whichever device I choose.
This is Apple’s strength, and I think many would agree. They are certainly vindicated by their users, their sales numbers and their profit—to be that successful, one must be doing something right. They choose also to contrast their designs and products to that of Microsoft’s. But it is not simply a petty competition, this is bread into the ethos of Apple: firm, purposeful design, a strong outlook, and educated planning are the key strengths of the ease-of-use of their products. By comparison, Microsoft consistently tried to shoehorn Windows into every single device, eventually culminating on Windows 10 now, where they have focused once again on the desktop interface and sadly neglected that of the tablet portion. The lack of focus and foresight there has further proven the strength of Apple’s philosophy, and I countenance that wholly.
To have Federighi affirm that this continues to be their approach should be welcome music to the ears of Apple users. I know I have chosen Apple (and I venture that most have, too) because of this exact approach. I grew tired of Microsoft’s lack of focus in almost any area where they envisioned branching out; they came up with great ideas that simply sputtered to nothingness due to this lackadaisical approach. Apple had, and has, purpose. They design the whole system to work in tandem, and the quality of work this produces has confirmed how important it is to do this. There is no halfway point; there is foresight, an objective and evolution; good principles to follow in design and engineering.
The future Federighi and Apple has shown us will be one in which iOS apps can be more easily brought to the Mac. This should be an enormous incentive for current iOS developers, the dominant platform for Apple, to easily make quality Mac apps with only a portion of the effort needed now. It of course remains to be seen how effective this approach will be; but it may be assumed that it, too, will be more effective than the approach of their competitors. This all depends on Apple providing excellent tools to create these apps, and developers to latch onto the tools and create them. They do this currently with iOS, and the rest should be a natural progression. As long as macOS retains its identity, and iOS retains its own, we should be optimistic that the future of Apple computing will be harmonious.