At this time, Apple has 4 different operating systems, which are developed for their main devices. The first one is MacOS, made for Mac. They also have iOS for iPhone and iPad, watchOS for Apple Watch, and the last one is tvOS for Apple TV. Each of them has different characteristics and UI optimisation. It is because each device has unique UI. Mac with mouse and keyboard, while iPhone and iPad have the multitouch display. Apple Watch has also its own uniqueness with small multitouch and digital crown, while Apple TV comes with its remote touchscreen.
However, Apple keeps trying to connect those 4 OS. For example, the Siri animation, the colour and design for the icons for WiFi, Airplane mode, and Bluetooth on Apple Watch are now adopted by iOS and MacOS. It shows their UI system consistency of 4 different OS.
They insist that they need those OS for their 4 main devices because each device has its own unique characteristics. Apple never has the plan to merge those 4 OS into one. They believe, it will just waste their energy, as it was said by Phil Schiller. Apple’s software head, Craig Federighi said,
“The reason OS X has a different interface than iOS isn’t because one came after the other or because this one’s old and this one’s new. Instead, it’s because using a mouse and keyboard just isn’t the same as tapping with your finger.
Microsoft has a different approach regarding their OS. They have made one operating system with the same UI for their devices through Windows 10. The concept is known as universal apps. It can make the apps look same and they offer consistency for all devices, starting from phone, tablet, PC, XBox to Hololens. Therefore, users will not confuse using an app in different devices. Furthermore, it can also help developers to create one app only because it can be used in different devices without any change.
What is exactly the advantages and disadvantages of these two different approaches from Apple and Microsoft? Why Apple has 4 OS? Can they unify them into one?
The reasons why Apple has 4 OS instead of unifying them into one
UI design and optimisation for an app
We cannot make a perfect app for touch and mouse all at once. Both have a different usage experience, different icons size, slider, and even the font. The Apple approach makes sure the app are designed optimum for each device to get a great design quality. For example, WhatsApp for iOS and Mac both have the same features but different designs. One is designed for touch and the other one for the mouse. If that app has the same design for all devices, it will limit the optimisation of that app.
The app design differences for the different device can make developers focus on developing apps for that platform. The app can optimise features on each different device and make it more useful for users. This focus is needed to ensure that the developers build a perfect app design. Moreover, this focus can make developers keep researching and developing based on new features from each OS and device.
Pro and lite version designs
Having 4 OS for different Apple devices make each user realise that there are two different versions of apps. For instance, Adobe Photoshop is available for Mac only. iPhone and iPad don’t have this app. It shows both OS are designated for different purposes. In the other word, Apple wants to make sure that the pro apps still belong to OS desktop, while you can get the lite ones on the mobile version.