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.