Is Apple Turning OS X into iOS?

Last week saw Apple announcing the arrival of the latest Mac OS X revision, Mountain Lion, which will be released later this year.

Apple’s website clearly states that Mountain Lion will have “all new features, inspired by the iPad.” These include the Game Center, Notification Center, and system-wide Twitter integration that already exists on iDevices.

A quick glance at the Apple forums reveals that this announcement has polarized Mac users, with some techies and power users rather vocal regarding the fact they don’t want to see their beloved OS X morphing further into iOS.

The iOS-ification of OS X began with OS X Lion, with its iPhone-like LaunchPad and natural scrolling. The thing is, quite a lot of long-term Apple users still strongly dislike Lion, feeling that is represents a consumer-focused dumbing down of a powerful operating system.

The incredible success of the iPhone and iPad has enticed many people into the world of Apple products for the first time. It makes sense that Apple would love to see some of the thousands who have swapped their Nokias and Motorolas for iPhones also swap their Windows PCs for MacBooks and iMacs. Making the operating system on these machines closely resemble the iOS that these people already know and love is a logical thing to do to hook them in.

OS X Mountain Lion
OS X Mountain Lion

Meanwhile though, some of the Apple hardcore (who have been paying premium prices for Apple kit since people had Sony Walkmans instead of iPods) are getting frustrated with what appears to be Apple’s focus on the mainstream market at the expense of the hardcore. A similar reaction was seen amongst serious Nintendo fans when, in the middle of its lifecycle, the Wii became a platform for casual games like Just Dance rather than deep gaming experiences.

Despite the vociferousness of the doubters, the increasing iOS-like feel to OS X doesn’t actually prevent anyone from carrying out any specific task on a Mac. However, it would be hard to argue that OS X Lion is as lean and slick as its refined predecessor, Snow Leopard. Shiny, user-friendly features add bloat to an operating system. It’s unlikely that writers and graphic designers want a Game Centre – they want a computer that is as fast as it can possibly be – and they don’t want Apple hiding the filesystem by default either.

The sense of anticipation that Apple manage to cultivate with their secrecy regarding new developments is this time leading some Apple fans to get a little twitchy about the future. Dropping the “Mac” from OS X is even leading some to speculate that the MacBook Pro line will cease to exist.

OS X Mountain Lion Will Drop the

For some, Apple announcing Mountain Lion when they are not perceived to have “fixed” Lion yet is a serious blow. Many users share concerns about Lion’s overall speed and stability, and dislike changes in functionality related to Spaces and Mission Control. Apple could do much to silence the doubters by putting some more work into these widely discussed issues – but the announcement of Mountain Lion, to some, seems like final confirmation that Apple intend to stick to their guns with regard to the direction the operating system is taking.

Ultimately all companies need to make money. The worst case scenario for the dissatisfied power users is that Apple have simply decided that hooking in the iPhone-loving consumers at the expense of the techies and the designers will make them more profit. The fact that Apple have seemingly neglected to update the Mac Pro line in some time only serves to add fuel to this fire.

As ever, no one will know what’s in store until Apple’s next huge announcement. Apple have been riding an unparalleled wave of success of late, but history tells us that no company is immune to an unexpected backlash. With some parties already considering Lion to be Apple’s Vista moment, what happens next could lead some militant Mac fanboys in the direction of Windows 8. It’s certainly an interesting time.