Is Convergence the Way to Go?

Both Apple and Microsoft are bringing their desktop and mobile computing experiences closer together. Is this a good idea, or a recipe for disaster?

Current rumor has Apple releasing Mountain Lion next month.  Windows is due to hit the streets outside of Redmond, likely in October 2012.  While considered polar opposites, these two new versions of OS X and Windows have one key ingredient in common – they are both trying to bring their desktop and mobile computing experiences closer together.

Microsoft Windows 8
You can see Soft32′s Windows 8 deep dive, here.  In Windows 8, Microsoft is designing an operating system that can be used on either a desktop or laptop as well as a tablet.  Windows 8′s new user interface, Metro, is heavily touch based. It has the user physically interacting with the hardware and the computing objects on it via touch.  If the hardware being used doesn’t have a touch layer, then the user can use both keyboard and mouse to simulate touch.

As I pointed out in my review (URL), this doesn’t always lend itself to the best computing experience. Using the mouse to simulate a touch and swipe to scroll through a screen isn’t as intuitive as it sounds, and is really rather clumsy. I think I’ve established, with Windows 8, that having one OS for either hardware types or categories doesn’t create a good user experience. However, in my opinion, this is clearly in response to only Google’s Android (to an extent), but to Apple’s Lion and Mountain Lion releases of OS X.  Microsoft sees the movement towards a unified computing experience and has taken a unified approach in developing a single operating system to cover all computing hardware types.

Last time, we looked at Microsoft and Windows 8. Let’s take a quick look at how Apple has decided to converge iOS and OS X.  Mountain Lion continues Apple’s desire to blur the lines between the two…

Apple OS X 10.8 Mountain Lion
Apple’s approach is much different.  Instead of putting OS X on your iPhone or iPad or iOS on your Mac, Apple is bringing specific iOS features to the desktop.  These mobile device features are adapted to the desktop or laptop for, what Apple feels is a better experience on the non (or not as) mobile hardware.

The difference here is approach and design.  Apple is taking specific features from iOS – Messages, Notifications, Reminders, iCloud Integration, etc., those that make sense to have on the desktop and are finding a way to implement those. The features are similar, but not identical, given the differences in the hardware.  Their addition is subtle, even elegant in some cases, as in the implementation of Notifications.  The point is though, that while both platforms have similar features, while they may share a similar look and/or feel, they are implemented and presented differently, taking advantage of the benefits of each platform.

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