Some folks disagree -- including Apple CEO Tim Cook, but I think that in time, Mac OS X and iOS will merge into one operating system. AppleOS anyone? In a 2014 readwrite article, journalist Dave Smith predicted that the rumored (at the time) iPad Pro would be the first step in the merging of Mac OS X and iOS. I think he's correct in his premise, if not in some of the specifics. (And I think Cook is talking about the here and now, not a year or two down the road).
Smith said that developers and other experts readwrite had spoken to were intrigued by the notion of a hybrid device that offers the best of the company's desktop and mobile experiences. Some believed the device would be a large iPad with a built-in keyboard aimed at professionals that can handle applications built for both iOS and OS X, and have the ability to switch between touchscreen and keyboard input. Or perhaps it’s the “MacPad” hybrid device hinted at in an Apple patent (see separate article).
Though OS X and iOS (which is actually a mobile version of OS X) share technical roots, Apple has generally developed them separately, though the two operating systems are increasingly borrowing features from one another. Still, an iPad app won’t run on a Mac, and a Mac app won't run on an iPad.
Smith said there are two ways an iOS/OS X product such as an iPad Pro could work:
° Apple merges its two operating systems, which would force Apple engineers and iOS and Mac developers to completely rewrite their software for a multitouch-friendly version of OS X.
° Apple builds a product that can dynamically switch between iOS and OS X with the tap of an icon.
Smith thinks the second option is the most likely to prevent developers from having to completely rewrite their software for a merged OS. However, I don't think Apple wants users to have to swap back and forth between Mac OS X and iOS. It goes against the company's penchant for simplicity.
It's possible that Apple could implement a system where iOS apps could run "inside" Mac OS X or, less likely, that Mac OS X apps could run "inside" iOS. After all, when Mac OS X debuted, it had a "Classic" environment, a hardware/software abstraction layer that allowed Mac OS 9 apps to run on Mac OS X.
Classic was part of Apple's strategy to replace the traditional Mac operating system (versions 9 and below) with Mac OS X as the standard operating system used by Macs by eliminating the need to use the older OS directly. Perhaps the same strategy could be applied to iOS/OS X, but this seems kludgy and inelegant.
I do think the two operating systems will merge somewhere down the road into, simply,"AppleOS." The trick for Apple will be to make AppleOS as easy for consumers and newbies as iOS currently is, while still offering features needed by power users and creative professionals.
Apple will have to proceed with caution. Microsoft tried an “all things to all people” approach with Windows 8 — and that didn’t work out too well. Then again, Apple excels in successfully tackling products/categories that other companies have botched.
So merging the two operating systems at some point — though that could still be years down the road — is likely. A few years ago, Jefferies & Company analyst Peter Misek said that combining OS X and iOS will lead to “synergies,” including better gross margins and an ease in licensing of content. In particular, Apple customers would be able to then experience TV shows and movies and such, stored in iCloud across desktops, laptops, phones, tablets, an Apple TV, and get the same licensed content.
“Users want to be able to pick up any iPhone, iPad, or Mac (or turn on their iTV) and have content move seamlessly between them and be optimized for the user and the device currently being used,” Pisek told clients. “We believe this will be difficult to implement if iOS and OS X are kept separate … We believe Apple is looking to merge iOS (iPhones/iPads) with OS X (Macs) into a single platform for apps and cloud services starting in 2012-13.”
That didn't happen in 2014 won’t happen this year. I don't foresee it happening in 2016. As for 2017 or 2018 or beyond, I think it’s a strong possibility.,
(By the way, the graphics in this article are Andrew Ambrosino's concept of an iOS-ized version of Mac OS X.)