The Desktop Is Done, Think Like iOS

It’s time to think of the desktop operating system as outdated. And if we’re going to continue using iPads and iPhones, then the way we think about and use OS X needs to change as well.

The idea of bringing features from iOS to the Mac isn’t new, but with the release of Mountain Lion we can see that the transition might be bumpy, especially for application developers. Regular users will benefit from the change, and except for getting used to “Duplicate” instead of “Save As” while using applications like Pages, I don’t see them having any problems in adopting this new way of using the Mac.

The increasing frustration that developers are feeling with the new sandboxing rules in Mountain Lion and the new desktop interface to access iCloud documents has made me think that the end goal is if not iOS, then the iOS way of doing and thinking about things.

Last year, I though bringing iOS to the Mac meant only new features. It turns out that Apple is bringing over all of the restrictions that they’ve built into iOS also. As much as it may pain developers who have traditionally developed for the desktop, the new desktop model is the one that has made the iPhone and the iPad market leaders. What I think has happened is that Apple has decided they’ve found a better way of doing things, but the two models aren’t compatible with each other. It’s also very un-Apple. Supporting multiple ways of doing things on the desktop, and multiple mental models for how things work is legacy support for our brains.

There’s going to be a point where when there’s something we want to do on our Macs, we’ll go about it just like it was iOS. The Mac will intend for us to use it like iOS, and using desktop computers like we have will be as disparaged as using the command line.

What’s even more apparent now than was four years ago is that simple technology doesn’t just mean one device. It means owning many different devices, at home and at work. It means that you know how to use them all because they all behave the same way, follow the same rules, and use the same language.

Just like how iMessage becomes more useful when it’s on the iPad, the iPhone, and the Mac, the same can be said for FaceTime, and now for how we work with documents with iCloud. The desktop metaphor, and its place in work and life is only diminishing.

The key terms that make technology appealing include: Mobile, social, ubiquitous, simple, and comfortable. The future will be realized by platforms that moves us into a time where everyone is technologically literate and comfortable with computers. Until the iPhone, none of this existed.

The most defining characteristic of the direction of this new device landscape is is that the focus and the language is moving away from the technology and from the language of technology to the devices, products, apps, services, and platforms. In regards to this discussion, the focus is on the devices themselves: What model phone? What model tablet? What laptop? Everything you need to know about the operating system, its software, and the ecosystem of the user can be determined from these questions.

Eventually the focus will, and I think should, disappear from the devices as well. Technology will reach a place where it becomes the background of our lives, not the focus of it. And for that to happen a single mental model needs to be adopted. At the moment, its iOS.

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