The Successful iOS-ification of OS X

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I’ll lead off by saying that when OS X Lion was the big cat in town, I liked the OS. Now, after spending a week with OS X Mountain Lion, I realize that Lion wasn’t the greatest OS X release. It was good, but not great. Mountain Lion feels like the realization of the idea that was behind Lion.

The idea behind these releases- bring iOS features to the Mac. In less capable hands, the people working on these releases would simply dress up OS X to look more like iOS and call it a day. Luckily, this isn’t how things turned out. No, instead we received some genuinely useful features that do not feel glommed on, but rather, built to fit.

To me, Mountain Lion is a further refinement on Lion, which it is. But more important is the fact that OS X, with the release of Mountain Lion, feels more like a grown up version of iOS, rather than, say, a dumbed down version of OS X. This was the fear I had when Apple announced that they were bringing iOS features “back to the Mac”. I was afraid it would be a glommed mess, where the new features did not feel at home on the Mac, and our Macs would not function as they have for nearly thirty years now.

On a technical level, both iOS and OS X share a UNIX foundation, and even some of the higher level code. Then they diverge. One is driven by keyboard and mouse, the other by touch. For me, Mountain Lion feels like a solution one would come up with, if the iOS device had come first, and the Mac was the new kid on the block. That is, in a hypothetical world, where touch had been the de facto input method for decades, and keyboard and mouse was new, Mountain Lion feels like the optimum solution to that new input method. None of the formerly touch-based features, such as Notification Center, feel forced on Mountain Lion. They seem just as natural on the Mac as they do on an iPad.

The point I’m trying to make is this: Mountain Lion merges the touch features of iOS wonderfully on an entirely different input method such as the keyboard. Nothing feels forced, and the features are genuinely useful. Granted, some features such as greater iCloud support, are nice and could work with an older paradigm, but things like Notification Center, Dictation, iMessages and Sharing all feel at home on the Mac due to wonderful design work and careful planning. I suspect this trend will continue, and only get better as new features are added to each OS.