Apple said iOS and Mac OS won't converge, but could they both run on the iPad Pro?
The rumors about a potential 12.9-inch iPad Pro being in the works for Apple, and those rumors have stirred up quite a bit of speculation about the future of the Mac line, including some speculation here about whether or not an iPad Pro could eventually replace the MacBook Air. Unfortunately, most of the speculation (ours included) was based on a mobile-centric view, and forgot to include MacOS.
The problem seems to be that I thought of the idea of convergence the way the majority of software companies seem to view it (Microsoft, Google, Canonical), in that convergence is something of an inevitability. We've seen various stages of convergence happening with various platforms, and the benefits of convergence seem apparent. But, I never took the time to look at it from an Apple standpoint, which is usually something of a contrarian view when it comes to things like this. And, it turns out that convergence is not in the plans for Apple, at all.
A new article from ReadWrite has made me recognize the error in my thinking and put forth a very interesting question (and one that I wish I had come up with first): could the iPad Pro run MacOS? Last week, Apple's software engineering VP Craig Federighi essentially made it clear that iOS and Mac OS will not be converging, ever. He said:
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. You don’t want to say the Mac became less good at being a Mac because someone tried to turn it into iOS. At the same time, you don’t want to feel like iOS was designed by [one] company and Mac was designed by [a different] company, and they’re different for reasons of lack of common vision.
This is a pretty interesting assertion by Apple, because the other major mobile platforms, and even one of the new players in the market are working towards convergence. Android already runs on mobile devices and TVs. And, there have been consistent rumors about Android making its way to laptops soon Chrome Apps are soon going to make their way to both Android and iOS.
Microsoft has already unified the UI across Windows Phone, Windows desktop, and Xbox, as well as gotten the much hyped "shared core" into Windows Phone/RT and Windows 8. Additionally, there have been rumors of one of the three - Phone, RT, or desktop Windows - being abandoned and merged into one of the other two. It seems reasonable to assume that at some point Microsoft wants to complete the idea of having the same system running on everything from mobile to desktops to TVs.
Lastly, there is of course Ubuntu, which looks like it will be the first platform to be completely converged. Even though Ubuntu Touch for phones has yet to make it to market, and Ubuntu Touch on tablets is still in the works, the plan is that by April of this year Ubuntu 14.04 will be the first platform that can run on any device including phones, tablets, laptops, desktops, and TVs. Even more, Ubuntu 14.04 is expected to bring the beginnings of functionality which will allow you to dock your phone to a monitor and keyboard and have it run like an Ubuntu desktop, even transferring over your app data and running apps.
Apple doesn't see the value in this, apparently; but, that doesn't necessarily mean it isn't working on converging the two platforms to a certain extent. Apple's execs made it clear that the two operating systems would continue to be separate systems, but that doesn't necessarily mean that they won't exist on the same hardware, nor does it mean that we won't ever see data sharing between the two systems similar to what Ubuntu has planned.
In that same Macworld interview, Apple execs were clear that iOS and Mac OS would remain separate systems, and they were also clear that iOS would never be found running on a Mac product, which seems to kills off my idea of an iPadBook Air to an extent. However, as ReadWrite points out, Apple never said anything at all about seeing Mac OS running on an iPad. Apple's Phil Schiller made it clear that Apple's plan is to make specific operating systems for specific devices, in order to make sure that every device does what the user needs from that form factor:
It’s not an either/or. It’s a world where you’re going to have a phone, a tablet, a computer, you don’t have to choose. And so what’s more important is how you seamlessly move between them all. It’s not like this is a laptop person and that’s a tablet person. It doesn’t have to be that way.
Of course, right at the outset it is clear that Apple doesn't want to cannibalize its Mac line of products by extending iOS too far, which is probably a solid idea and really the number one reason why Apple probably wouldn't put Mac OS on an iPad Pro. Apple has already seen its iPod sales plummet because of cannibalization from the iPhone, and it's hard to say how much longer iPods will be around. Tim Cook has admitted that iPods are on the way out as well.
Mac OS won't be impacting the sales of iOS devices, but as I've mentioned before when talking about the potential of an iPadBook Air, there is a real possibility of a device like this hurting Mac sales. The big question would be in pricing, because too low of a price would cannibalize the MacBook Air, and
too high would severely limit the market for this kind of product. In the end, if Apple really were to put both platforms on the same hardware, it would likely have to go with my idea of replacing the MacBook Air with the iPad Pro.
So, let's take a look at what we know: we know that Apple will not be merging iOS and Mac OS into a single operating system; we know that iOS will not be found on a Mac; we know that Apple wants you to be able to "seamlessly move between" your devices; and, we know that Apple never mentioned anything about Mac OS on an iPad, despite there being plenty of opportunities during the Macworld interview. But, we also know that price concerns and worries over cannibalizing Mac sales will likely be on the top of the list for Apple.
This doesn't add up to a smoking gun, but it seems obvious that Apple wants to create more sync points between iOS and Mac OS. iCloud could be the vehicle for these sync points, but it could also be that Apple wants to create connection points for the systems on the same hardware. Of course, this being Apple, there will likely be restrictions. Whereas the plan for Ubuntu is to have each app translate from the mobile environment to desktop, Apple is more likely going to leave certain apps where they are. Your Safari tabs will already sync across, and it would be easy enough to sync across any iWork files, or media that you may be listening to/watching in iTunes. But, the question would be in whether other apps would be given the same functionality.
Would Apple allow the iOS Netflix app to spawn a new tab in Safari since there is no Netflix app in the Mac App Store? What about games? There are definitely quite a number of games that exist in both the iOS App Store and the Mac App Store, but giving those apps access to talk to each other is probably something that Apple would be very very careful in doing.
Apple has been pushing forward the idea that the iPad can do anything you want, including productivity tasks; but, it seems like the "Pro" line would need to split the platforms along functionality lines. iOS is designed for media consumption and gaming, while Mac OS is where you go to get real work done. This type of dichotomy makes sense from a user perspective, but it would undermine quite a bit of Apple's marketing, which adds another trouble spot in the idea of putting Mac OS and iOS on the same system.
Similarly, there is the issue of the keyboard itself. Mac OS needs a keyboard, and any device that runs Mac OS would therefore be required to have a keyboard. Apple has always insisted that iOS doesn't need a physical keyboard, and so it has never build an official keyboard accessory for the platform, although plenty of other manufacturers have. But, if you have an iPad Pro that runs both systems, it would be silly to allow the keyboard to work in one platform, but not the other; so, once again Apple would have to go against what it has previously and continuously asserted.
Of course, Apple has gone back on what it has said plenty of times in the past anyway, and moreso now that Tim Cook is in charge and not Steve Jobs. Back in Jobs' day, Apple said it wouldn't make a cell phone, until it made the iPhone; it said there wouldn't be a tablet, until it made the iPad; and, Jobs said there wouldn't be a larger iPhone, but that seems inevitable right now. Jobs also said the company wouldn't make a 7-inch iPad, and then Cook made the 7.9-inch iPad mini. Tim Cook apologized for the Apple Maps fiasco, something that Jobs likely never would have done (we all remember "you're holding it wrong"); and Cook has said he is open to licensing deals in order to stop the rash of patent lawsuits.
Many of these things boil down to never commenting on rumors, which plenty of companies do; and, some are simply that the market pressure forced Apple to do something it said it wouldn't, and Apple having to come up with a semantic reason why it wasn't going back on what it said (like making the iPad mini essentially 8-inches rather than 7.) This means that we could very well see the day when iOS and Mac OS are merged, but that is well in the future.
Right now, Apple will stick to its word, but the one thing that it never mentioned was whether or not Mac OS would ever be put on an iPad. While it would certainly be interesting to see such a device, it's hard to imaging Apple making a product like this that would almost need to kill off the MacBook Air in order to survive. At the very least, we can either get a dual-boot iOS and Mac OS device, or we can get an iOS-only iPad Pro and a Mac OS-only MacBook Air, because there isn't room for both.