Monday, January 18, 2021
Archived Post

One operating system to rule them all: AppleOS

I know that Apple execs, including CEO Tim Cook, have repeatedly said that macOS and iOS will remain separate. However, I think that’s the official company line until the tech giant feels it has all its ducks in a row to pull off such a momentous move. And with the tech giant transitioning its Macs to its own “Apple Silicon” over the next two years, I think that time is fast approaching.

As I’ve been saying since 2017, I think “AppleOS” will be an operating system that can run on devices as small as an Apple Watch or as big as a 32-inch iMac screen (something I want, but which Apple hasn’t announced). In a 2014 readwrite article, journalist Dave Smith predicted that the rumored (at the time) iPad Pro would be the first step in the merging of macOS and iOS. I think he was correct in his premise, if not in some of the specifics. 

AppleOS would be an operating system that takes the best of iOS and macOS but ditches some of their features. One suggestion: replace the XNU kernel and BSD unix underpinnings. This new, single operating system would be the basis of all future Apple products, and the distinction between the Mac and iOS would disappear.

In this 2014 article, Smith said there are two ways an iOS/macOS product such as an iPad Pro could work: 

° Apple merges its two operating systems, which would force Apple engineers and iOS and Mac developers to completely rewrite their software for a multitouch-friendly version of macOS.

° Apple builds a product that can dynamically switch between iOS and macOS with the tap of an icon. 

Smith felt the second option was the most likely to prevent developers from having to completely rewrite their software for a merged OS. However, I don’t think Apple wants users to have to swap back and forth between macOS and iOS. It goes against the company’s penchant for simplicity.

I think Apple will merge all its operating systems into one. However, I don’t expect this to happen until 2022 or afterwards — when the entire Mac line is running on Apple Silicon.

Also, I guess great minds think alike (though my mind has been described as “warped,” not “great”). Charlotte Henry in a June 25 MacObserver column says “It is Time For a Single, Unified, AppleOS.”

“I understand that there are some different technological requirements for an iPhone and a Mac,” she writes. “Of course there are. But I’m also pretty confident Apple has the ability to do that ‘under-the-hood’ stuff and present a unified AppleOS in such a way that users would not know the difference and developers would not be inconvenienced …. Apple has a fluent design language running through all its products. While that does already extend across its various operating systems, a unified AppleOS would only enhance this. The truth is, we’re already well along this path. It just needs Apple to make it official.”

Of course, Apple could decide not to roll all its operating systems into one. If so, I still think the macOS and iPadOS will merge and that Apple will introduce a new hardware line that will replace its current desktop, laptop, and tablet lines with a merged product. But that’s a column for another time.

Dennis Sellers
the authorDennis Sellers
Dennis Sellers is the news editor of Apple World Today. He’s been an “Apple journalist” since 1995 (starting with the first big Apple news site, MacCentral). He loves to read, run, play sports, and watch movies.