Does Apple really need to keep maintaining two separate operating systems (OS), one for mobile devices such iPhones and iPads, and the other for notebook and desktop computers? Will Apple merge iOS with Mac OS X instead? That's what some developers are wondering right now.
"It doesn't make sense for [Apple] to be developing two of everything, one good, one not as good -- two calendars, two address books," said Panic's Cabel Sasser during a chat session sponsored by Ars Technica.
Too Early to Merge the two OSs?
Maybe, but for quite some time, reasoned John Tudor, a Perl programmer and former Apple marketing exec. In a separate blog post in Mac Observer, Tudor pointed out that sales of Apples' Macs and mobile devices are both on the rise.
"With an estimated 60 million active Macs on the planet and 50 percent of all new customers coming from Windows, a merger doesn't make sense any time soon," according to Tudor, who linked his blog to a write-up of the Ars Technica chat session for more more perspectives on the issue.
Loren Brichter of Atebits concurred that the Mac still has plenty of time remaining. "Mac in the awesome old grandma, whose kids (iPhone & iPad) have left home," said Brichter. "Not dead; not really dying. But it's our job to keep her comfortable until she's gone."
Although iOS is derived from the ten-year-old Mac OS X, Apple's mobile operating system been stripped of many of the APIs (applications programming interfaces) and functions of the older OS.
At the same time, iOS now has capabilities that OS X lacks. Yet some of these features wouldn't necessarily that useful inside Mac OS X, Tudor observed. Desktop users might strain their arms and necks trying to handle multi-touch on a 27-inch display screen, he illustrated.
Technical Aspects Only Part of the Problem
The panel of developers in the Ars Technica chat session agreed unanimously that iOS will eventually subsume OS X. Mekentosh's Alexander Griekspoor predicted that consumers will buy iPads instead of MacBooks. "Unless the pro segment will remain [on Mac OS X] -- they need the accuracy of a mouse," he said.
In his blog, Tudor maintained that it wouldn't really be that hard for Apple to add features from iOS to Mac OS X, or to restore functionalities to the mobile OS that have been stripped out. However, "the technical aspects of merging the two OS are only part of the problem," according to Tudor.
"There are just too many professional and technical UNIX users out there who love Macs to do anything that would upset them. A premature push into a merger, even if technically possible, has UI (user interface) implications that many customers just don't want to deal with. Maybe it's better to let time, technology, and the sales of iOS devices naturally lead the way rather than trying to force the issue," he said.
Although some have suggested running Mac OS X apps inside iOS until OS X fades away, Tudor rejected this notion on the grounds that iOS might not contain all the APIs and processes needed to support the OS X apps.
As one possible alternative for co-existence between Apple's two OS, Tudor raised the idea of developing technologies that would allow both OSes to run on the same piece of hardware in dual-bootable fashion.
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