iOS Morphing Into a Desktop OS?

imageDuring the Apple WWDC, I was really struck at just how many features were added into iOS 5 and just how few new features had been added to Lion. Don’t get me wrong here, I like Lion a lot but after using many of the 250 new features, few altered how or what someone can do with a computer or already to with a tablet. The one exception was AirDrop, which makes peer-to-peer sharing easier. Also, many of the iOS features seemed like desktop features, and the new Lion features appeared to make it look more like iOS features. Let’s take a look.

New Desktop-Like Features in iOS 5

  • Tabbed Browsing: I remember some apologists explaining away the lack of tabbed browsing with the iPad 1. Now Safari has tabs…. on its 9.7″ display.
  • Basic Photo Editing: No longer an add-on app like my favorite, Photogene, photo enhancements are available right inside the Photos app. Users can use auto-enhance, remove red eye and even crop photos.
  • Reading List: Previously available on the Mac, the iOS Safari browser has the Reading list, a place to save articles you wish to read later.
  • Mail Features: Now users can edit email text, add or delete email folders, and even search all the email text, not just the subject line for topics. All of this in the new Mail.
  • Calendar Features: Like on Lion, users can drag time bars to set meeting time, can view attachments inside the calendar app and even share calendars.
  • Mirroring: Via a cable to wirelessly through an Apple TV 2, see on a monitor or TV exactly what is on the iPad 2 or iPhone 4s.
  • Improved Task Switching: With new “multitasking” gestures, users no longer need to click the home button to return to the home screen or switch between apps. They use a four-finger left-to-right gesture to switch tasks and what I call the “claw” to go to the home screen.

New iOS-Like Features in Lion

New Gestures: Every iOS user is familiar with finger scrolling, tap to zoom, pinch to zoom and swipe to navigate. Now this is available on a Lion Mac.

  • image
  • Full Screen Apps: By design, every iOS is full screen. Now Lion has this capability.
  • App Store: Required since the first iPhone, now ships with Lion.
  • Launchpad: This is Lion’s fancy name for iOSs Home Screen. A bunch of app icons.
  • Mail Improvements: Yes, even desktop Mail is getting more like iOS. In this case, adding full height message panes.


So What? Why Should we Care?

So what does this mean, if anything? It is too early to tell, but it could signal a few alternative scenarios:

  • Unity of UI? By uniting many of the UI elements across phone, tablet and computer, quite possibly it could make switching between iPhone, iPad and Mac easier. Also, as advanced HCI techniques like voice and air gesture emerge, do input techniques get even closer? Can one metaphor work across three different sized devices?
  • Easier Switch to Mac from Windows? The logic here says, even if you were brought up on a Windows PC, if you can use an iPhone or iPad, you can use a Mac.
  • Modularity? I’ve always believed that a modular approach could work well in certain regions and consumer segments, but only if the OS and apps morphed with it. For example, a tablet with a desktop metaphor makes no more sense that a desktop with a tablet metaphor. What if they could morph based on the state but keep some unifying elements? For instance, my tablet is a tablet when it’s not docked. When docked it acts more like you would expect with keyboard and mouse. They two experiences would be unified visually and with gestures so that they didn’t look like two different planets, but two different neighborhoods in the same city.
  • Desktop OS Dead or Changing Dramatically? What is a desktop OS now? If a desktop OS is a slow-booting, energy-consuming, keyboard-mouse only, complex system, then Microsoft is killing it with Windows 8 next year anyways, so no impact.
  • Simplicity Dead? If phone and tablet OSs are becoming more like desktop OSs, is that good for simplicity? Or are desktop operating systems getting more like phone and tablet operating systems? How do you mask the complexity and still be able to do a lot?

Where We Go From Here

We will all get a front row seat next year to see how users react to one interface on three platforms. Windows 8 will test this next year and Metro UI will be on phones, tablets and PCs. The only caveat here is the Windows 8 desktop app for traditional desktop which will server as a release valve for angst and a bridge to the future. Whatever the future holds, it will be interesting.

Mac OS X Lion and the Future of Computing

By now, you’ve probably all heard or read about Apple’s new desktop operating system, Mac OS X 10.7 Lion, or just “Lion” for short. While I believe it is a really good operating system today, what I am most interested in is what it means for tomorrow. I’d like to share with you my thoughts on what I believe OSX Lion tells us about our computing future.


Device Modularity

Device modularity is essentially when one device, when docked or connected to another one, becomes something even better or more functional. It’s a world where a phone becomes a tablet; a tablet becomes a notebook and even a phone or tablet becomes a desktop. I’ve touched upon modularity with a few previous blogs covering the Motorola Atrix Lapdock and Multimedia Dock, the BlackBerry PlayBook and even the Motorola Xoom.

One of the inhibitors to good modularity is modality in UI. Or in other words, the smartphone, tablet, desktop, and laptop act like you would expect in the context you want. When you plug the phone into the dock to make it a laptop, it acts like a laptop, not a phone.

Lion has unified many of the UI elements and HCI (Human Computer Interface) between the iPhone, iPad, MacBook and the iMac:

· Gestures: Lion unifies gestures, or begins to, between the four platforms. Familiar gestures from iOS like pinch to zoom, tap to zoom, and swipe to navigate are just a few of the multi-platform gestures that are shared between phone, tablet, laptop, and desktop.


· Launchpad: Does this look familiar? This isn’t an iPad or iPhone; it’s Launchpad in Lion on a Mac Air laptop. Launchpad is a place for apps and folders of apps just like you see on the iPhone and iPad.


image image

· Full screen apps: This isn’t exactly revolutionary if you’ve used Windows 7, but full screen apps does just that; allows apps to be maximized to the whole screen, just like iOS apps look with no windows. Then, a user can even “three finger swipe” between apps, similar to iOS 5.

So by unifying user interface and basic HCI, Lion has removed a major hurdle for the future, modular designs.

Air Gestures

We’ve all seen Microsoft Kinect in action in the living room and some of us have even seen “home-brew” tests using the Kinect SDK for the PC. Imagine more advanced, future computer “vision” on a much closer scale, or “near-field” basis, removing some of the actual physical peripherals. This could use very common and inexpensive cameras, possibly stereoscopic, with interconnects like CSI-3 and a heavy compute engine building a 3D model of the hand.

· “Magic Hand”: Consider removing the mouse and trackpad and replacing with a camera to use your own hand to do the gestures. Maybe even remove the keyboard and replace it with a projected virtual keyboard. The camera, like Kinect, tracks exactly what your hand is doing.


· Consistent Gestures: As described above, by having consistent gestures between all devices, the computer would be very focused on a specific set of near-field air gestures, not different ones by platform, increasing the chance of success.

With Lion unifying gestures today tied with future improvements with compute power and lower power with architectures like Fusion System Architecture, higher speed camera interconnects like CSI-3, a future without the physical mouse and trackpad becomes a distinct reality. Removing the physical keyboard is more of a stretch, but with pico projection a robust investment area, who knows? Also, with the success of keyboards on iOS and Android tablets, users are becoming conditioned to be satisfied with virtual, non-haptic keyboards.


Peer-to-Peer Communication

Peer-to-peer communications occur when one device directly interacts with another without the need for a LAN or WAN. The trend with services and the internet has led to the belief that peer-to-peer was dead. Not so with Lion, as it actually dialed it up a notch.

· Airdrop: Airdrop enables two Lion-based Macs to safely send files directly between each other without the need for an intermediate LAN or WAN. It automatically creates an ad-hoc WiFi-WiFi connection.

I find this very interesting given Apple’s forecast of a “post-PC” world. With very innovative features like HP’s “touch-to-share” and enabling communications like WiFi Direct and BlueTooth 4/5, peer-to-peer comms could be making a comeback. I’d guess that we will be seeing even more of this in CE devices. Who would have thought in this “everything in the cloud” world? J


OSX Lion is a really good operating system for users today and also gives us some indications of interesting things to come in the computing future. I believe that Lion tells us a lot about the future of device modularity, our ability to ditch the mouse, trackpad, and maybe even the keyboard. Lion also guides to a world that increases the likelihood of even more devices talking directly to each other without the cloud middleman. It’s a future I can get excited about. How about you?

Pat Moorhead is Corporate Vice President and Corporate Marketing Fellow and a Member of the Office of Strategy at AMD. His postings are his own opinions and may not represent AMD’s positions, strategies or opinions. Links to third party sites, and references to third party trademarks, are provided for convenience and illustrative purposes only. Unless explicitly stated, AMD is not responsible for the contents of such links, and no third party endorsement of AMD or any of its products is implied.

See Pat’s bio here or past blogs here.

Follow @PatrickMoorhead on Twitter and on Google+.

My 5 Favorite New Features in OSX Lion

After spending some time working with Apple’s new operating system OSX Lion, I’ve landed on my top five favorite new features. Now granted, everyone uses computers differently. So for me and my computing habits these are the ones that lie at the heart of my upgraded experience.

Auto Correct

There are actually a number of very good new features for writing and typing. My personal favorite is a new and improved auto-correction feature that, like iOS, will fix a misspelled word or typo for you as you type.

Once a word is fixed a blue dotted line appears just under the corrected word to let you know it was fixed. This allows you to go back and edit the word if the in line edit was not what you wanted.

I type and write quite a bit and not having to backspace several times every sentence is extremely useful. Now that I have adjusted to the improved auto correction feature, I feel as though I can type more freely and clearly.

One other feature around text that I am coming to appreciate is the built in dictionary and contextual word search. You can highlight any word you see and right click with a mouse or triple tap on the trackpad to bring up a dictionary as well as contextual word search and wikipedia of the word.


I use spotlight for nearly everything. I do not have a very organized desktop nor do I organize my files very well so Spotlight saves me a huge amount of time. Primarily because although I don’t know where my files are most of the time I do remember the files name. I use Spotlight for more than just files but for programs as well.

The biggest edition to Spotlight that I absolutely love is called Quick Look Results. What this does is allow you to mouse over any of the Spotlight results and to the left of the Spotlight results drop down appears a quick view preview of the actual file. This way if you have multiple files similarly named or just want to make sure the result is the exact file you were looking for you can now see a quick preview before opening.

Another edition to Spotlight that i’m finding quite useful is the ability to drag and drop the file anywhere on your computer right from the Finder results.


I am a big Mail user and I have been for quite some time. I never could get used to Microsoft Entourage and even when they launched Outlook for Mac I still preferred Mail. Threaded messages, smart folders, integration with iCal and more were what had me hooked. So naturally I was quite pleased with many of the upgrades to Mail.

The upgrades to Mail’s search capabilities have to be my favorite new feature. Like my needs to search for files often with Spotlight, I also need to search for emails frequently. I don’t always remember the details of who a specific message is from, I only vaguely remember important things. The last upgrade Apple made to Mail helped be a good bit in this department but the latest upgrade to search has made it even faster and less work to find the email desired.

This is because of an advanced filtering process called search tokens. Search tokens let you filter your search down each step of the way and quickly narrows any and all search results until voila, you find exactly what you are looking for.

I’ve used the threaded messages options in Mail but the newest feature Conversations takes it to a whole new level. This has been fantastic because I tend to have very long conversations through email. By being able to see all the conversations organized and threaded in the same window pane has been a joy to use.

Mission Control

When Apple added Expose to OSX I became an Expose junkie. I keep many applications open frequently and I multi-task jumping between them all just as frequently. Expose drastically improved my work flow efficiency. Mission Control is the next step is multi-tasking efficiency and it certainly lives up to its name. I particularly like how Mission Control organizes all your applications and keep your desktop, dashboard and other workspaces at the top of the screen always accessible.

One of the more enhanced elements of Mission Control that is not possible with Expose is the laying of windows on top of applications. If you have multiple windows open from the same application, Mission Control layers the images on top of each other and allows you to select which you are trying to get to.

Auto Save and Application Resume

Most modern applications have some level of document recovery but Auto Save in OSX Lion makes the process standard. Not having to worry about whether or not a document is saved or work is going to get lost certainly eliminates some of the distraction to work efficiently.

Application resume is another great feature that is built into OSX Lion. This features lets you close an application and upon re-opening you are right where you left off. One of the areas where this is particularly useful is with Safari. I like to leave tabs open with some of my most frequented websites and being able to open Safari and have all my tabs re-open with my favorite websites or the last ones open has been extremely useful.

I’m sure as I use Lion more I will find more features that I love but for now those are my top 5. I’d be curious what those who have Lion think and what your top 5 new features are?