The Case for padOS

Jan Dawson / December 3rd, 2015

It’s been an interesting year for Apple – they’ve announced one completely new hardware product (the Apple Watch) and two major updates to existing product lines (the 4th generation Apple TV and the iPad Pro). In the process, they’ve also launched two new operating systems: watchOS and tvOS, for the Apple Watch and the new Apple TV respectively. However, the one really new product that didn’t get a new operating system was the iPad Pro, which runs iOS, the same operating system that runs on all iPads as well as iPhones and the iPod Touch. There’s a logic to this, but there’s a case to be made Apple should have launched a new OS – call it padOS – with the iPad Pro.

What watchOS and tvOS represent

The two new operating systems Apple has launched recently are, in reality, versions of iOS optimized for two new form factors – the Watch and the Apple TV. Each of them has customizations which make them work best on, respectively, 1.5 inch screens worn on the wrist and 40+ inch screens several feet from the user, which they interact with through a remote. Even though both operating systems are based on iOS, each is markedly different. The Watch adopted a black background with circular app icons arranged in a tightly-packed mosaic rather than a grid. The Apple TV adopted a light background with landscape-orientated rectangular app icons arranged in a scrolling grid. Within apps, too, the interaction models are very different, reflecting once again the significant differences in how users will interact with them. Both tvOS and watchOS represent versions of iOS fundamentally re-thought for new form factors while retaining many of the benefits of their iOS heritage, including ease of porting apps, and concepts such as apps and the App Store.

The case for padOS

Let’s turn to the iPad Pro, and the case for an equivalent operating system optimized for that device. Like watchOS and tvOS, this operating system wouldn’t be completely new but would instead be largely based on iOS while making adjustments and optimizations for the new form factor and interaction models. In reading through the many reviews of the iPad Pro over the last few weeks, a recurring theme has been the way the iPad Pro both succeeds and fails in breaking the traditional iOS model. Though optimized in some ways for use with a keyboard and the Pencil, there are some glaring shortcomings in this approach, many of them covered very well by John Gruber. It’s hard to avoid the sense, as you read these reviews, that Apple was somewhat hamstrung in its approach to the iPad Pro by not wanting to break any of the iOS conventions, most strikingly that it should always be a touch-first operating system. That makes perfect sense on iOS devices that were never sold with official accessories like the Smart Keyboard or Pencil, but far less so on a device where one of the main selling points is the ability to work in an optimized fashion with an official keyboard.

What a separate padOS would allow Apple to do is break the set of expectations that come with iOS and to start to allow this new operating system to flourish in a way it can’t when it’s strapped so tightly to the rest of the iOS portfolio. UI changes, new interaction models, and more would make perfect sense on the iPad Pro that would be nonsensical on the iPhone and vice versa. Separating the two would allow the best features that make universal sense to exist on both platforms, while also allowing each flavor to be optimized for the devices that run it. Split-screen multitasking, picture-in-picture and other new features Apple introduced in iOS 9 suggest at least some of this can be done within a single universal operating system. But the grid of icons that characterizes iOS feels like the wrong model for the iPad Pro, where the massive amount of real estate on the home screen could be put to more efficient use. The problem is, both users and Apple engineers working on software for the iPad may well feel like the iOS badge comes with certain expectations that can’t be broken, even on a new form factor.

The clearest expression of the future of computing

I think back to Tim Cook’s comment in introducing the iPad Pro, that it represented, “the clearest expression of [Apple’s] vision of the future of personal computing”. If that’s truly the case, and all Tim Cook and Phil Schiller’s comments since then seem to bear this out, then the iPad Pro can’t just borrow iOS from the iPhone. It needs to have a dedicated operating system designed first and foremost for this device and not primarily for the installed base of 500 million or so iPhones in the world. As long as the iPad Pro is a tiny fraction of the installed base for the operating system it runs, it’s going to be very tough for it to grow into the vision of Apple’s senior management. But put a dedicated team on creating padOS, with the freedom to depart from conventions and patterns that have become inextricably tied with iOS, and you could see much more rapid development toward the device Cook, Schiller, and others are imagining. Just as it was right to launch the new Apple TV and the Apple Watch with tvOS and watchOS rather than simply versions of iOS, so to the iPad Pro’s operating system needs its own distinct identity to be able to truly flourish.

If you buy into all this, the next big question becomes which iPads should run this new operating system. Does the iPad Pro truly stand alone, or do the same accessories and interaction models eventually extend back down the line to the iPad Air and even the iPad Mini? Should those devices also run padOS? Or should the new OS instead be called iOS Pro or something else that makes clear it’s optimized for this specific device and not iPads in general? These and other questions certainly need to be answered before Apple can move forward with such a strategy but I absolutely believe Apple should be moving down this road if the iPad Pro is to achieve its full potential.

Jan Dawson

Jan Dawson is Founder and Chief Analyst at Jackdaw, a technology research and consulting firm focused on the confluence of consumer devices, software, services and connectivity. During his thirteen years as a technology analyst, Jan has covered everything from DSL to LTE, and from policy and regulation to smartphones and tablets. As such, he brings a unique perspective to the consumer technology space, pulling together insights on communications and content services, device hardware and software, and online services to provide big-picture market analysis and strategic advice to his clients. Jan has worked with many of the world’s largest operators, device and infrastructure vendors, online service providers and others to shape their strategies and help them understand the market. Prior to founding Jackdaw, Jan worked at Ovum for a number of years, most recently as Chief Telecoms Analyst, responsible for Ovum’s telecoms research agenda globally.
  • obarthelemy

    There’s already a PadOS: It’s “iOS when running on an iPad Pro”. The set of features and capabilities are so different from “when running on a phone”: pen, multitasking, multiwindows, force touch, touch ID, performance… on top of the obvious screen size and layout.

    The lack of widgets is as ridiculous on a phone as on an iPPro. You’ve just gotten used to it on a phone.

    I’m still unclear as to why supporting mouse and keyboard would be such an upheaval. Wins do it, Droids do it, even underrated Tiz do it… especially with the new mice and their touch surface, but even on old wheel+button mice, the disruption is minimal. Force-touch level, if that, certainly less than going from a 4″ screen to an 8″ creen.

    Apple is suffering from some kind of NIH variant. “No-mouse is mine ! It is mine ! mine ! mine !”. We’ve had a long road to separating app logic from hardware in general and UI constraints especially. Do we really want to roll that back in ? Wouldn’t one, maybe 2 new UI modes/layouts achieve the same result with 99.9% code commonality ?

    Not having a separate padOS ensures iPPro actually has apps. Apple can force devs to make iPPro-compatible and even -optmized apps via Appstore rules; not complying would threaten devs’ access to the iPhone AppStore windfall. That avoids the dearth of apps new devices suffer from.

    • Words are pouring out like…

      How ’bout them Yankees?

  • My sense is that too many pundits are overreacting to the iPad Pro keyboard and the differences between it and the rest of the iPad product line.

    John Gruber’s review, if anything, clearly shows that the the iPad Pro’s keyboard was rushed, and was not an integral part of the original concept of a larger iPad. Maybe senior management demanded it because they wanted something new to show off, to distract shareholders from ever decreasing sales. Even looking at Apple’s web page for the iPad Pro, both the keyboard and the Pencil are far down the list of features. And while the Pencil makes a prominent appearance in the introductory video and the TV commercial, the keyboard hardly gets a mention. Despite what Tim Cook says, there is little indication that Apple as a whole is obsessed with the iPad Pro / Laptop comparison.

    I think it’s just as important to decipher Apple’s marketing message as it is to scrutinising Tim Cook’s comments. Unfortunately, there seems to be too much or the latter.

  • Chris Marriott

    Two things will prevent any iteration of an iPad from meaningfully competing with laptops: 1) Apple’s adherence to its own ideology in that touch must be first, that file systems are somehow evil, and that pro software on the app store can’t be trialed and; 2) Apple Core Rot – the amount of systemic bugs in iOS are just staggering if you need to use it to get real work done. Any pro user will only get so far on an iOS device before their productivity and sanity take a major hit.

    Apple’s ideology and neglect of its platforms and infrastructure are driving pro users out the door. Soon, they’re going to screw somethign up big time and they’ll find nobody around to support and defend them.

    Apple is so arrogant and inflated from its success that it is abusing premium paying customers knowingly so they can take engineers away from supporting existing platforms and task them with coming up with something new. Apple just doesn’t fix anything. The foundation is rotten and they keep piling stuff atop it.

    • jfutral

      File systems are evil. Even in the analogue world few things are more frustrating than trying to figure out a file system, for yourself or someone else’s. If traditional computer file systems are as good as it gets, I’ll stick to paper and pencil.

      Joe

      • obarthelemy

        Looking for stuff is never sexy. But do I want to watch “30 Rock” or to use VLC Media Player ? To watch 30 Rock of course. So looking for it (in //Synology1/Series/30 Rock) and clicking on it fits the thought process a lot better than than opening an app then the media. Especially when you widen the use case to different media (works the same for music, ebooks, abooks, office…). And different formats that might require different players. And different OSes with different apps. And different file pickers for each app (if they have file pickers at all, many media players are insisting on trying to be “smart”).

        “Find the content, click it” is both more intuitive and more consistent than “find the app, then open the content”

        • jfutral

          I’m more fond of the library metaphor than a document file system metaphor, from a day to day user perspective. I watch videos, not video _files_. A video _file_ is a code writers way of thinking, not a video watcher’s way of thinking. So, for me, the app as library works _better_. But I still think there is better to be had. Neither is very forgiving if you don’t play by the rules.

          As an analogy, I also hate calendar programs. Same kind of limitations on thinking. No one has come up with a three (or any kind of greater than two) dimensional calendar organizer. Using tags come close, but not quite.

          Joe

          • obarthelemy

            I’ll use a den analogy then; the file explorer is my den. Once I’m there, I can go for a book, a video, a record, start working… It all happens in the same place, which I’ve tweaked to my taste: modern file explorers have per-folder settings (videos, pictures…), favorites, multiple tabs, cloud integration… and you can choose your preferred explorer app.

            In-app file pickers don’t have all those options, and are barebones and/or very opinionated about they list your content. I’ve rejected quite a few apps (Kodi !) because the way you pick your content just sucks. Kind of like having to go to different rooms depending on what you want to do, with each room designed by a different designer, sometimes an engineer, sometimes an artist, sometimes a trainee, sometimes the accountant… And then having to constantly change rooms and get a headache when trying to multitask :-p

            And then you realize that some similar content is spread over multiple rooms.

          • obarthelemy

            As for calendaring, maybe what we need is different front-ends: one for reminders, one for me-only appointments, one for group scheduling. As long as the backend is reasonnably open and standards-compliant, no reason why we can’t use the best front end for the job.

          • jfutral

            (Trying not to get too far off topic) I often find myself needing to manage calendars for multiple, but over lapping events. For instance I’ll have three rehearsal spaces, and three groups of performers who each have multiple projects they are working on. Sometimes I need to know what is happening at one space for a given time, then sometimes I need to know what each group is up to, and sometimes I need to know the schedule for the particular project. That would require essentially a four dimensional calendar vs juggling and reconciling three separate but related calendars.

            I have yet to find a calendar solution sophisticated enough to give me this. I find most file systems, even my preferred in app library metaphor, unable to allow for this cross thinking, too. They are all too linear.

            Joe

          • Space Gorilla

            My teenagers mostly use the search feature in iOS and OSX to find and launch apps or files. They don’t think much about where a file or app is, I don’t think it matters to them. I wonder if iOS will just expand this capability going forward.

          • jfutral

            Even the OS search function is problematic. It returns too many irrelevant results. Just like (and related to?) AI, there is no context of _meaning_, only text accuracy.

            Joe

          • Space Gorilla

            True, but I do find it interesting that my four teenagers, even on OSX where they can use the file system, prefer to use the search function as a file system of sorts. For most users we’re not talking about sorting millions of files and apps. What needs to be sorted/browsed is much more finite, perhaps manageable in this fashion.

          • obarthelemy

            Indeed, that seems like a complicated case, I wasn’t thinking about that at all. And I can’t imagine how I’d do that with the tools I know. Even just scheduling multiple rooms in a coordinated manner…

            I think that’s an edge case though, in need of a specialized app. We can’t begrudge our OSes’ built-in calendaring, nor even run-off-the-mill calendar apps, being unsuited to that type of tasks.

            Get coding ! :-p

          • jfutral

            Yeah, that’s why I didn’t want to get caught up in the specifics of calendar apps, just use it as an example of what is wrong with traditional OS file systems. They are tied to analogue and linear thinking. We have an opportunity to create something better, just as databases went from flat-file to relational because linear is not always most efficient. The traditional file system is not how it has to be. It is only the way early programmers and coders could translate what they were doing.

            Joe

          • obarthelemy

            Well, a file system is also how computers works, and all OSes/apps do use a filesystem. Though filesystems have evolved a bit, they’ve done so in the technical details (BTRFS vs ext), no huge qualitative jump in the real world (OO- or DB-based filesystems remain curiosities).

            I’d translate your calendar example also to a tweaked file explorer, same as I said you’d need a specific calendaring app. Both are intrinsically flat, linear things, but can be virtualized and… more-dimensionned… via specific apps.

          • jfutral

            Sort of. I mean, the computer doesn’t care. The file system is for us.

            Joe

          • obarthelemy

            Well, the whole computer is for us… to do anythingat all (not just handle our documents, but be able to boot at all), it must have a way to save and retrieve bits, and a filesystem is pretty much the only way to do that.

    • Guy

      1. In app purchases allow for meaningful trial versions
      2. I can use mine for multi-track audio, multi-track video, layered images, blog posts, serious writing, and many other things including silly little games, email, content consumption and so on with a device that’s light, has great battery life, and is always online due to a cell connection not dependant on WiFi

      Sorry you have no imagination

    • derefere

      You have a problem and you’ve shown it clearly.

  • pjs_boston

    I totally agree with this article. Hopefully, Apple will break out the iPad into its own iOS variant in 2016. The new padOS should include support for external pointing devices and enhanced support for external keyboards (i.e. make keyboard shortcuts work properly, like they do in Mac OS X).

    • obarthelemy

      Indeed, I’d love those 2 features on my tablets, and they’re lacking on Android too. But how do they require a separate OS ? They have 0 impact on the OS when no keyboard nor mouse are connected, and frankly, they’re such a small change that they barely have any impact when kb+ms are connected either.
      I understand multi-touch will be hard to do on a mouse, unless they force a touch mouse. But multi-touch is only used in very specific scenarios, they can probably nix it, apart from zooming, which does need to be handled nicely from the mouse.

      • pjs_boston

        These features don’t necessarily require a separate OS, although external pointing device and keyboard support is rather pointless for a phone.

        If Apple did break out padOS, they could make other iPad specific customizations to further optimize the platform.

        • obarthelemy

          Depends on the phone. I’ve had to use my phablet as a quasi-PC a few times. I was very happy to have a BT keyboard and mouse (even USB, twice) to do that with.
          I blame my nephews for commandeering my tablet… they can’t resist Frozen…

  • Mel Gross

    What I’ve been saying for a very long time is that Apple needs a UOS, a Universal Operating System. This doesn’t need to have the Mac run the same thing the phones and tablets are running in the way Microsoft is still attempting to do.

    What it means is that an OS will have certain us and feature parameters depending on which device it’s on. The Mac can still look and feel different enough because of its expanded capabilities, over the iPad, and the iPad the same over the iPhone.

    Software can be universal as well, and when installed, would install with the UI and features of the corresponding device. Each device would have a more sophisticated version of that OS, and so would the software running on it. It would allow for ARM chips and x86 chips.

    We’re getting close to that now, with a number of apps on the iPhone and iPad doing a number of functions, saved in the cloud, and openable on another device with either more, or less abilities.

    • obarthelemy

      I think Apple are slowly moving towards that, with apps now installing only the right version of the code and resources Almost like Android’s install-time compiling, except Apple do it on their servers, not on the phone.
      The UI is still not part of that, but it is the logical next step. Except Apple seem to refuse the idea.

    • I think your last paragraph sums up the situation quite well.

      If by “another device” you are referring to PCs, the vast majority of PCs that people own, and I even suspect the majority of iPhone customers own, is a Windows PC. Let me repeat this. In the US alone, Mac market share is something like 10%. However, 50% use iPhones. Therefore, 50% – 10% = 40% use the combination of iPhones and Windows PCs.

      Therefore, unless your Universal Operating System caters to people running Windows, you’re still leaving out the majority of your installed base.

      Given this situation, it is more sensible for Apple to improve the interoperability of iOS apps with Web apps and not native desktop apps. That is, the data that iPhone/iPad apps store in the could should have a web interface, that is accessible from both Mac and Windows PCs. That is indeed what I think the CloudKit Web services are about.

      https://developer.apple.com/library/prerelease/ios/documentation/DataManagement/Conceptual/CloutKitWebServicesReference/Introduction/Introduction.html

      Of course it is possible that Windows PCs sales will dwindle and most iPhone users will be using Macs most of the time. In that case, a Universal Operating System makes sense. Indeed this is why Microsoft makes sense to a certain extend with its Universal Windows Platform (although it has the reverse issue with smartphone market share). However, the Mac is not in the enviable position that Windows is, market share wise.

      • pk_de_cville

        “…(although it has the reverse issue with smartphone market share [in spades])…

      • obarthelemy

        The issue is the lack of alternatives to Windows. Old-school PCs mostly over-deliver, especially at home. Around me, more than half of the people are on PCs excusively for the keyboard and monitor, their tablets do the job just as well but are too cramped.

        a Universal OS might be a way to break in the low-end xtop market. Or might have been, now that Windows PCs are down to $100 and Chromebooks have gotten enough legitimacy. Still, I’m fairly sure Apple could get their benchmark 50+% margin on $400 uOS desktops and laptops that would open whole new market segments for them.

        • I find very little reason why anybody would want to develop an OS for a dwindling market, and no, I don’t think Apple can get a 50% margin on $400 desktops. I think the estimates for margins on the current > $1000 Macs is somewhere around 25%.

          If you’re going to spend the effort for developing a brand new OS, that market better be growing. And it better not be just the low end, unless you’re interesting in tracking students’ online behaviours.

          • obarthelemy

            It’s not developping a new OS though, it’s adding a small handful of tweaks to support a mouse and keyboard. One of the comments alluded to a reason to do it: displace Windows and get more lock-in+synergy. Plus if new products/market stop being invented, IT becomes a 0-sum game and cutting your competitor’s air supply becomes more valuable.Whatever MS is trying to do in Mobile is financed by Home xtops and Entreprise.

            And the cost structure is nothing like a Mac’s, whose most expensive parts, the Intel CPU and the HD, won’t be included. More like a $400 iPad mini minus screen and battery, plus a bit more RAM, flash, and CPU. Probably cheaper to make actually.

          • I thought the original commenter meant a grander idea by “universal operating system”. If all that is intended is iOS with mouse support and better keyboard support, then it would be simple.

            Problem is, that won’t be a Mac. That’ll be an iPad with a nicer keyboard cover, designed not to topple over in clamshell mode.

          • Space Gorilla

            Yes, and keep in mind, it’s mostly the ‘old dogs’ that want a mouse and keyboard and are projecting that desire on the market. My kids don’t want a mouse. I’ve used my iPad 2 in a keyboard case since 2011 and I’m used to touch + hardware keyboard. I don’t want to go back to a mouse/pointer. I’d much rather have the jobs-to-be-done evolve to fit touch than go backwards.

          • As I mentioned above, I totally understand how kids love the touch UI, but I have difficulty imagining how a stock trader sitting in front of four or six 24-inch monitors would manage on a mobile OS.

            The easy way is to connect it to a mouse, or to use wild combinations of function keys. I’m hoping that Apple comes up with a more interesting solution.

          • obarthelemy

            Stock trader might be a bit of an extreme example, well suited to an Entreprise OS. But simply typing anything more than a letter ‘including school work), doing the family’s accounts, mapping out a room for some home improvements (or sketching out your home-made case for your upcoming new tablet ^^)…
            Things don’t have to be “interesting”. Actually, boring is better, and I think one of the subtexts of “magic” is that it’s natural and thus uninteresting.

          • Yes, boring is sometimes better, but my interest in tech is because it isn’t boring.

            You’re certainly not boring either ;-).

          • Space Gorilla

            It isn’t just kids. The more I get used to touch the more I love it. The mouse/pointer feels awkward and old-fashioned in comparison. As long as the screen is angled touching it isn’t hard on your arm. But yes, really large screens, and multiple screens, I’m not sure what the best solution is. Sure, connecting a mouse/pointer is easy, but it really feels like a step backwards. I agree with you, I hope Apple is working on a better solution.

          • Yes, yes. This is getting very interesting.

            I am actually reminded of the iPad Pro Pencil reviews that mention how good the palm rejection is.

            One problem with working on a large touch screen, in a way that is similar to how we used to work with paper, is that you will want to rest your palm and arms on it. That is probably one reason why current large touch screens are positioned in front of you, like a regular monitor. If palm/arm rejection worked perfectly, it could be comfortable enough to have a touch screen be your whole desk. You might even want coffee mug rejection :-).

          • Space Gorilla

            In university I used to love working on drafting tables and light tables, huge desks slightly angled. It was a very comfortable way to work on a large surface. And I’ve long wanted my 27 inch iMac to angle down like a drafting table and work like an iPad. The goal for me has always been paper and pencil, but with computing power built in. The iPad Pro is a step in that direction. Pencil + multitouch easily beats mouse/pointer. But we’re a ways from that yet, maybe five years? Probably the next logical step is an even larger iPad, a 17 inch screen perhaps? I would love that even more than the current iPad Pro.

          • A drafting table would be 30-inch, 40-inch maybe?

            That would be a dream. And the iPad Pro, I think, is clearly on that trajectory.

          • Space Gorilla

            Drafting tables can be pretty large, but most are probably in that 30 to 40 inch range, large enough to lean over and put both elbows on the bottom portion. Not sure we’d ever see a table computer (original Microsoft Surface), but you’d need an angled desk to work comfortably on your 40 inch iPad 🙂

          • obarthelemy

            What I’d like more than Touch on my desktop screens is Touchless. I could get Touch right now if I wanted to, but my screen is at the recommended distance (a bit more than arm’s length), I don’t want to smudge it, and even on a tablet obscuring what I’m trying to touch with my hand is a bother – I think I’m slightly better at Clash of Clans with a mouse ^^ -.
            Touchless doesn’t have to be dependent on Minority Report’s holograms and 3D gestures. Just an eye tracker that aplies whatever gesture I’m doing to wherever I’m looking would be fine, and solve my 3 issues.
            But then again, if supporting a mouse is an unbearable complication, what are the chances they can bake Touchless in ?

          • jfutral

            I would think multiple monitors is a better case for touch screen than mouse. Even with two monitors, trekking a mouse around gets cumbersome. In lighting there are two PC based consoles that have the option for mouse or touch screen, the ETC Ion and GrandMA, with the GrandMA supporting three+ monitors. The fastest operators always prefer touch screen to a mouse.

            Joe

          • Space Gorilla

            I was just thinking along these lines. A large touch screen at a proper angle, or multiple screens, could actually be superior to a mouse/pointer. Maybe the solution is simply the ergonomics of the screen, we’ll move from straight up screens to angled down screens. I’m reminded of Horace Dediu’s iPad Pro video, showing him manipulating an app with both hands and multiple touch points. A mouse/pointer can’t compete with that.

          • Ah yes! You’re right. I totally understand that.

            I’ve had a similar experience when designing a UI for simple manual data checking. A touch UI was at least twice faster than a trackpad/mouse based UI, and much less stressful. I think there is a hidden stress element to using mouse/trackpads as you unconsciously carefully align the cursor with your target. The stress goes away with a touch UI.

            The mouse UI is terrible when you want quickly touch screen elements that are far away on the screen. Touch screens are much better.

            You and Space Gorilla are on to something!

          • obarthelemy

            Maybe he did. I’m not sure we want one single app-base for Mobile, Mobile+, and legacy xtop OSes though, but I think the idea is that a slightly boosted Mobile OS can displace most of old-style Desktop installations. I think there’s little doubt that MS plan/wish for Metro to become the dominant UI+ecosystem, with Desktop gradually niched out to “Entreprise” versions of Windows.
            I think legacy OSes are massively overserving, with lots of extraneous features (resizable overlapping windows especially, few use them and most would be served just as well by split-screen and a small handful of specific floating widgets -not true app windows), at the cost of added complexity.

            Basically, I think we just need Mobile to support a “comfy desktop” use case. That’s mainly support for standard USB peripherals, maybe 2-3 screens.

          • I agree with you. The one thing though that I’m trying to understand is, if the OS is mobile, then what is the fundamental benefit of the desktop form factor?

            My current thinking is that the fundamental benefit is the ability to have one or two 27-inch monitors. The mouse is still useful as a user interface, only because touching a screen in front of you is inconvenient and hurts your arm if you do it all day. A touch interface is inconvenient with a single PC screen, but imagine how annoying it would be if you had to touch any of your two or three 27-inch screens at work. It would be maddening.

            Therefore, if Apple were to forgo adding a mouse but were still interested in a desktop form factor, then what they would need to do is come up with a user interface paradigm, based on touch, that still allows you to use a huge screen.

            I try to imagine what that would be like. Maybe your whole desk will become a huge iPad. Maybe a camera will read your pupils, see what you are looking at, and make that into some kind of user interface; a glance controlled UI.

            I think it would be a shame if Apple decided to put a mouse on the iPad. I think they should try harder to come up with something new. I think there are more interesting UI paradigms that have not yet been fully explored, and are more suited to a multi-screen desktop work setup.

            Just a hope.

          • obarthelemy

            Well, the form factor with its large screen(s), keyboard, and mouse is an even biggger step up in usability than the jump from 4″ to 5.5″ that most people like so much in phones.
            Again, from the OS point of view, the mouse is an insignificant detail. Apple has everyone convinved it’s a huge deal… it isn’t. Just try it out in Android or Windows/Metro. And keep in mind Android’s mouse support is mostly accidental, they never did anything to make it better : it could use some work, but it works well enough to be enormously better than Touch for desktop setups.
            Frankly, I don’t think there needs to be a seismic shift in what a desktop is. Just kicking all those WIndows desktops out from iOS users’ homes should de quite nice for Apple.

  • A-thought

    It becomes increasingly difficult for a company to manage a growing number of OS variants in its strategy, as one can see with the android fork issue. quite possible Apple is beginning to feel the “death of a thousand cuts”, which might be why they’re avoiding one more iOS flavor.

    I do believe a single unified OS at its core, adaptable to different presentations, is the right long-term strategy. This is the tried-and-true “separate the data from the presentation” principle that has driven the computer industry, in order to preserve integrity and unity of the data. (Those trained in computer engineering or software know what I’m talking about). Only here it’s “separate the (unified) OS from the (screen/device) presentation.” It will result in integrity of OS, while allowing for varied user experience.

    • You are assuming that the only difficulty in developing for multiple devices is the presentation layer. You are assuming that the business logic layer can remain the same, regardless of whether you are on a desktop PC, a smartphone, a TV or a watch.

      I don’t agree to that.

      I think that for the watchOS at least, you need a very different business logic layer, or in some cases, you might simply have to forego that layer and create your watchOS app almost as if it was only the presentation layer. That was certainly the case for the first batch of watchOS apps. The watchOS app was just a presentation layer for an app that actually resided on your phone. Current watchOS apps don’t seem to be too much different although the presentation layer has certainly improved.

      Of course, if you are talking about a web app or apps that are simply gateways to online services, you could design it so that the business logic lives almost exclusively in the cloud. In that case, native code would only support the presentation layer anyway. You would not write any native business logic code (or only a small bit), and the benefit of a universal app would be minimal. In this case, a universal OS would only make sense if you could reuse the presentation layer code among different devices.

      • A-thought

        I was oversimplifying to try to point out the difference between data versus presentation, or in the case of the subject at hand, the difference between OS and presentation. I still think the point stands… The more unified and OS is the greater the potential to expand different presentations with minimal fragmentation and rework

      • obarthelemy

        I think that a tablet is closer to a desktop or laptop than it is to a phone, yet they achieved code commonality between phones and tablets, but excluded xtops ?

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