Apple will this year release two operating systems: iOS 6 for iPhone, iPad and iPod touch, and Apple OS X 10.8 Mountain Lion for Macs and MacBooks. But what's the difference between iOS 6 and Mountain Lion? We explain.
Many more clever tech industry watchers than me were taken aback by the very existence of OS X 10.8 Mountain Lion. The removal of the word 'Mac' from the last but one iteration of OS X seemed symptomatic of an operating system that was moving ever closer to its little iOS brother and into a brave new Post-PC world. The suggestion was that iOS would swallow up OS X, in a single unified operating system, much in the same way that Microsoft is attempting to roll up every device into Windows 8.
That it hasn't happen is in some ways testament to the enduring brilliance of OS X. Like so many of Apple's key products, OS X wasn't the first of its kind, but it is probably the best from a consumer point of view. There were graphical X86 PC operating systems before OS X, but none has been so stable and easy to use, for so long.
Here we'll take a look at the new features in both iOS 6 and OS X 10.8 Mountain Lion, and then look at the way features found in both work differently. See also: How to use iMessage in OS X 10.8 Mountain Lion.
iOS 6 vs Mountain Lion: comparing the new features
iOS 6 will launch in late September, and brings with it a bevvy of new and interesting features. Chief among these is the removal of Google Maps, to be replaced by Apple's own Maps, with Yelp integration and real-time crowdsourced traffic information. Well, expect those in the US, at least, Yelp isn't nearly as useful on this side of the pond. You will get turn-by-turn navigation by default, however, and this will fold in traffic information to update your route on the fly. And Maps themselves will be a lot prettier, we are told. For a start they are rendered in 3D, and there is also a top-down satellite view.
The Phone app has been shown some much-needed love. Do Not Disturb mode is clever, letting you put the phone on silent and blank out the screen, unless the same number calls you repeatedly - an emergency situation, perhaps. You'll also be able, for instance, to dismiss incoming calls with pre-loaded messages such as "I'm busy and will call back later" (and then automatically set a reminder to ensure you do exactly that).
There have been improvements to Siri, the intelligent iOS voice-recognition function. Siri is coming to the iPad, and now supports auto integration. In principle at least Siri has better integration with apps and online services, and should in turn have greater knowledge. Again, it remains to be seen how well that will pan out away from the States.
As Microsoft is attempting with Windows 8, Apple is integrating social networking notifications into iOS, and appending Facebook info into Contacts. The same thing is happening with OS X 10.8 Mountain Lion - you get built-in Facebook support so that Mac users can easily share photos and status updates, and add Facebook contacts to their contacts book. In both operating systems the Notification Center will shows Facebook updates.
Similarly you'll be able match up Apple IDs and phone numbers, so just as Mountain Lion users can now call and iMessage other Mac users over the web, iOS device users will be able to join in. The difference is that iOS users will be able to make voice and FaceTime calls over 3G.
Finally in iOS, expect a new VIP Mailbox, that will push new emails to the lock screen in the same way that iOS 5 posts social network updates and SMS messages.
OS X enjoys other new features in Mountain Lion. For Mac completists AirPlay mirroring lets you share your computer's screen with an Apple TV. For those whose Macs contain SSDs there's a feature known as 'Power nap' that lets you put your PC to sleep as it performs OS updates, updates App Store apps, and backs up.
The Mac now gets the Game Center, so you can play games with and against other Mac and iOS users. There are other new apps too, including Messages, Notes, and Reminders, as well as Dictation. Those of you who are awake will notice that these are all very iOS-like applications.
We continue our exploration of the simularities and differences shared by iOS 6 and OS X Mountain Lion by looking at iOS feautures now found in OS X.
iOS 6 vs Mountain Lion: from iOS to OS X
So it's fair to say that iOS is becoming more full featured, and OS X more social and connected. The joined up social features mentioned above show that they're definitely moving closer together, but they remain distinct.
There are, of course, lots of other areas in which OS X and iOS share the same features. There's the App Store, and FaceTime video calling. LaunchPad, SpotLight, Automatic Downloads. The list is big, and increasing.
Here we'll pick out some areas in which features have been ported from iOS to OS X, and look at how they work together across both platforms.
Game Center. The Game Center on OS X Mountain Lion is pretty much the same as that on iOS 6 - it certainly offers virtually the same functionality. Apple's social gaming platform has made it to the Mac. As with the iOS flavour, you can compare your scores to your friends and play multiplayer games against friends and strangers. You can now play multiplayer games between not just iOS devices, but any combination of iPhone, iPad or Mac - providing all are running the latest version, and the game is cross platform.
Notification Center. Another aspect of the new releases that is new to OS X in Mountain Lion, but pre-existing in iOS. The Notification Center and improved notification UI both first appeared in iOS 5 last year.
The OS X Mountain Lion notification UI is simple and elegant. Notifications rotate in the top righthand corner of the screen, and slide off the to the side unless you click them to read. There's a Notification Center button in the Menu bar and a two-fingered trackpad gesture, both of which bring up your notifications.
Messages. iMessage brought SMS-like messages over the web with 2011's iOS 5 release. Mountain Lion sees it coming to the Mac. iMessage is great because it uses only a tiny amount of data to send a message, rather than taking a text out of your mobile phone plan. It's also clever enough to work out when it is best to send an iMessage - ie: when you are messaging anothe iDevice and both devices are web connected.
The beauty of Messages on the Mac is that they synch seamlessly with iOS messages. So you can pick up a conversation on your desktop that you started on your iPhone or iPad - it's your Apple iD that is the contact, in essence, and you sign in to that to use any of Apple's online products including iTunes and iCloud. Speaking of which...
iCloud. iCloud is much more deeply embedded into both Mountain Lion and iOS 6. As an online service you wouldn't expect it to work any differently for iOS or OS X devices, and it really doesn't. It's a critical part of both operating systems now, and is unlikely to become any less so.
Indeed, iCloud is at the centre of much of the integration between iOS and OS X. Set a reminder on your iPhone, and it will appear on your Mac virtually instantaneously, for instance.
Notes. That's right, an iOS staple that is now integrated in OS X. And if you're wondering why, join the club. Notes is a very basic note-taking app. As such it is very useful for taking, ahem, notes on an iPhone when you need to jot something down quickly. But it seems less useful on a desktop or laptop PC. Although...
Like other apps, iCloud capability means that Notes can now be shared or synched between iPhone, iPad and Mac. iOS 5 brought sharing of notes, and now iOS 6 and Mountain Lion means you can synch notes across all your iCloud-enabled Apple devices. So take notes on your iPhone, write them up on your Mac, and display them on your iPad. It's all gravy.
Dictation. Let's get one thing straight, Dictation isn't Siri. It is, however, a useful speech to text tool, previously available only on the iPad. It may be a new feature you never use on a desktop or laptop, particularly if your Mac is in a public space. But if you've ever considered buying expensive speech to text software, Mountain Lion says you don't have to.
iOS 6 vs Mountain Lion: the future
The integration between iOS and OS X is now so great that the idea of them becoming a single entity is a side issue. Windows 8 and Windows RT look the same and play nicely together, but they are based on different code. And the same could be said of iOS and OS X. Apple is still enjoying great success with both, and as such it is unlikely to ditch a successful product. But expect the similarities between iOS and OS X to grow, and the points at which they synch to increase.