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iOS on a Mac? Not happening anytime soon

Microsoft is going for a one OS to rule them all strategy but as Billy MacInnes discovers Apple seems quite happy having a desktop and mobile OS

They may have found water on Mars but it looks as if there’s still some way to go before anyone finds iOS on a Mac.

Microsoft is already well on the way to making Windows its common operating system across desktops, laptops and tablets, but Apple is proving to be something of a refusenik when it comes to merging its desktop and mobile device operating systems.

Apple CEO Tim Cook confirmed the company’s opposition to running iOS on its computers in conversation with Aaron Levie, CEO of Box, at the BoxWorks conference in San Francisco.

“We don’t believe in having one operating system for PC and mobile,” he said. “We think it subtracts from both, and you don’t get the best experience from either. We’re very much focused on two.”

To be fair, you can’t fault Cook for inconsistency as Apple has held the line on separate operating systems for PC and mobile for a number of years.

 However, it’s probably worth noting that his comments didn’t implicitly rule out a combined operating system at some point in the future when Apple (and users) deem it to be more appropriate.

 What Cook appeared to be saying was that at the moment, the best experience on computers and mobile devices is provided by separate operating systems.

 While a touch-based interface works well on smartphones and tablets, Apple’s argument, at least for the present, appears to be that working with a vertical touch-based screen on a desktop computer rather than a horizontal one is likely to be a physically uncomfortable experience for the user.

That was the argument advanced by Craig Federighi, Apple’s senior vice president of software engineering, last year when he seemed to rule out a touch-based Mac, telling CNET: “We don’t think it’s the right interface, honestly. Mac is sort of a sit-down experience.” He said it would be “awkward and uncomfortable” to continually reach forward to touch a computer screen while sitting at a desk.

Federighi has been consistent in his stance, telling Macworld in January 2014: “It’s obvious and easy enough to slap a touchscreen on a piece of hardware, but is that a good experience? We believe, no.”

He added: “To say [OS X and iOS] should be the same, independent of their purpose? Let’s just converge, for the sake of convergence? [It’s] absolutely a non-goal.”

Does that mean it will never happen? I suspect the fact Cook referred specifically to “one operating system for PC and mobile” leaves some wriggle room for deploying OSX on more powerful iPads in the future if that makes sense or for iOS to be installed on Apple laptops.

But the arguments in favour of Apple producing ‘one operating system to serve them all’ right now aren’t that compelling. Long term, it might make sense but just as plausibly, it might not.

Everyone accepts that the presence of water on Mars raises the likelihood of there being life on the red planet while also providing potential landing sites for human missions in the future. The question for Apple users is: Would the presence of iOS on a Mac open up new worlds for them?

This was last published in October 2015

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