Tim Cook: Apple may further meld iOS and OS X; says Macs could run on ARM chips

“Apple Inc. Chief Executive Tim Cook wants to make its Mac more like an iPhone,” Jessica E. Vascellaro reports for The Wall Street Journal.

“In an interview at the company’s headquarters here, Mr. Cook unveiled a new version of the company’s Macintosh operating system… named ‘Mountain Lion,’ the new version of Mac OS X is the clearest sign yet of Apple’s belief that the mobile, laptop and desktop world are destined to converge — and that Apple wants to be a catalyst,” Vascellaro reports. “‘We see that people are in love with a lot of apps and functionality here,’ said Mr. Cook, 51 years old, pointing at his iPhone. ‘Anywhere where that makes sense, we are going to move that over to Mac.'”

Vascellaro reports, “Mr. Cook said he already thinks of Apple’s iOS and OS X operating systems “as one with incremental functionality.” He said both laptops and tablets will continue to coexist, but he didn’t rule out that the technologies could converge further. When asked if Apples iPhones, iPads and Macs might run the same microprocessor chips, he said: ‘We think about everything. We don’t close things off.'”

Read more in the full article here.

[Attribution: AppleInsider. Thanks to MacDailyNews Reader “Fred Mertz” for the heads up.]

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My experience with Apple’s OS X Mountain Lion Developer Preview – February 16, 2012
Apple’s Phil Schiller talks rapid speed of OS X Mountain Lion release; mere 7 months after Lion – February 16, 2012
Hands on with Apple’s new OS X Mountain Lion – February 16, 2012
Apple releases OS X Mountain Lion Developer Preview; public release coming in late summer 2012 – February 16, 2012


    1. It’s slightly misleading, but there is one sentence in the linked-to article that kinda covers this subject, namely:
      When asked if Apples iPhones, iPads and Macs might run the same microprocessor chips, he said: “We think about everything. We don’t close things off.”

      This is of course a very vague response and pretty non-committal.

      1. It’s misleading in that there’s another way that iPhones, iPads, and Macs could all run on the same chips: iOS devices could switch to Intel. I know that’s silly now, but I wouldn’t assume that ARM will trounce Intel in performance-per-watt in perpetuity.

      2. Exactly.

        We have got to assume that Apple has been developing iOS for Atom as well as OS X for ARM for quite some time now, just as they secretly ran parallel development of OS X on PPC and Intel platforms for years before making the switch.

        As Mountain Lion is focused on cruft cleanup (Gruber’s words) one should assume that iOS and OS X development will continue to flow in the direction of streamlining, standardizing and enhancing the user experience with their content and apps with iCloud as the hub of that experience.

        This will require coordinated parallel development not only between different device classes but also a wider range of different processor types.

        As they have done so far, Apple will choose the most appropriate processor for each device based on which provides the best overall balance of features and functionality, both at present and for the foreseeable future.

      1. Why are people who are the most technologically illiterate always the most snotty? Intel has significant process technology while ARM is a licensed design. Nobody has a monopoly here.

        1. I’m not sure if Michael A. Robson’s tech literacy can be ascertained from this comment of his. IOW, I don’t think he said anything particularly wrong, unless you want to nitpick. Finally, products (and design licenses) from both Intel Corp and ARM Holdings enjoy monopoly positions in various markets.

  1. I think the earlier than expected release of the next Mac OS will accomplish three things:

    (1) Allow some ARM-based ultra-portable Macs to be released.

    (2) Add a higher degree of “resolution independence,” to allow resizing of GUI elements (such as Menu Bar and dialog boxes) that are currently dependent on pixel size. This will permit Mac displays to go “more Retina” than the current max of about 130 pixels per inch.

    (3) Throw some more new cool features in the face of the Window 8 release, when it’s too late for Microsoft to copy them.

    I wasn’t expecting another “big cat” release, but I think it’s a good (and necessary) move.

  2. You can bet somewhere at Apple OS X is being ported to ARM the same secretive way when they ported OS X from Power PC to Intel chips. But probably with the same issue Microsoft has with Windows 8 on ARM – none of the older apps are compatible and all will have to be rewritten for the ARM version.

    1. > none of the older apps are compatible and all will have to be rewritten for the ARM version.

      The Mac OS 9 to Mac OS X transition had Classic. The PowerPC to Intel transition had Rosetta. So, Intel to ARM has…

      But in any case, this situation will not be the same, because it’s not a “transition.” Apple will keep using the more powerful Intel chips and employ ARM where it makes sense, in Macs that need to be ultra-portable and power-efficient (versus having brute force processing power). Apple can make it easy for developers to write code once and compile for both Intel and ARM, and also update existing apps that were created using the same tools and standards.

      Since the majority of new Mac sales are (and have been) to customers who are new to Mac, most customers who would buy an ARM-based Mac are not going to have a large library of “legacy” apps that cannot be easily updated (for ARM) by developers. If it’s sold through the Mac App Store, it will just a past purchase that is downloaded free to the new Mac, and the customer won’t even have to deal with an ARM build versus an Intel build.

    1. Possible, but Apple has a good reason to want to push ARM since it offers them freedom and unique customizability.

      Here’s the only scenario I could see Apple staying with Intel in 5 years; and this includes Macs: give Apple complete control over how to design the chips, and give Apple a huge exclusive that they do not offer to Apple’s rivals. Either at all or at least for 6-12 months.

      I think Apple will own enough of the computing industry in 3-4 years that they can start dictating to Intel and then Google as well.


      1. Yeah. It’s a smart strategy. It worked very well for them before, and it will work again. The flexibility allows them to turn on a dime in the event of some horrific market shift/upheaval.

  3. A few years is a lifetime in processor development. I’ve already installed iMessage on my Mac Mini and been using it for a couple of hours tonight and it’s excellent; really neat seeing my messages pop up on my phone a little while after I sent them from the Mini. This sort of platform integration is where Apple can really score big time. If a MacBook of some sort can run ARM chips then so much the better; better battery life and cooler running, hell, the cheaper iMac’s use laptop processors anyway, why not an A8 multicore in a future Air.

  4. People get too fixated on software names.

    The fact is that OS X is just rebranded NEXTStep, which wasn’t originally designed to run on any processor, or processor family, that Apple now uses. NEXTStep ran on old Motorola 68000 family processors, ran on SPARC, ran on Intel, etc. etc. It was designed to be processor independent and is one of the main reasons Apple has been able to switch architectures relatively smoothly.

    That’s also the real reason for finally getting OS X cocoa-only: doing that purges OS X of processor-dependent code that had to be injected into the code brought over from NEXT back when Adobe and others didn’t want to have to rewrite.

    iOS isn’t really a different operating system than OS X–it is just OS X with sandboxing etc. and touch-specific classes. iOS is OS X is NEXTStep–there’s nothing technically stopping Apple from reuniting iOS and OS X and making it so that applications are distributed as fat binaries with one app capable of being run on everything from iPod touch to Mac Pro tower.

    Personally, I’m surprised Apple hasn’t done that yet, and I wouldn’t be surprised at all if somewhere in some lab on Apple’s campus there are touchscreen or other touch-input Macs equipped running iPhone apps within OS X.

  5. Unite; Fine, but remember that iOS and Mac in the wild are separate devices with separate workflows, and some of the things in Lion have made my Mac life harder, things like disappearing menus and controls, etc.
    I will say that one of the good effects is that I am far more disciplined in how I organize my project folders. When I am working on a project, I keep a separate window open showing everything in the project organized by “Last Modified” and I watch it to confirm every Save. I get the concept of what they are doing, but think it has just added more steps to every project. In one project, I may use 6 different apps in one hour.

    I absolutely must have total control of the timing (and the knowledge and confirmation of) EVERY SAVE. Or not! I saved my own tail on a project because I happened to be looking at the window at the exact time that an app autosaved. YES, I can go back to a version, but for me thats the hard way. It was a graphics project, I was experimenting, and decided not to go with the experiment. Total manual control of the Save would have been better for me.

    I am learning to adapt to the Lion way, but certain specific things seem almost Windows-like in that “the computer knows better” Its my computer, and I am a control freak and proud of it.

    Having said that, the video preview of Mountain Lion has lots of good things. Just hope that the devil is not in the implementation details like Lion, which I think suffers in many places from the Law of Unintended Consequences.

    Macuser and Defender since 1988. Not going anywhere because the alternatives are much worse. However……..lets not let the Mac go to far as an “entertainment device” For me its a tool that I use to make my living. Benefit of the doubt for now.

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