In user experience design, it is very common to approach desktop platforms different from the mobile platforms. On the technical side, desktop brings larger screen space, faster cpu, continuous internet connectivity, and a mouse/keyboard based interaction. On the user behavior side, users are assumed to be more focused and less in a rush, and spending more time, surfing, working, designing, etc…
But since the introduction of iPhones and iPads and Androids, we are seeing that the differences above that are taken for granted seem to disappear. Today, Apple released the developer beta version of its next OS X release, OS X Mountain Lion, and the new features list proved to be a very significant example of how the boundaries between mobile and desktop platforms are disappearing. The features that will be adapted to OS X are below:
- Applications like Messages, Notes, Reminders: These basic functionality that are unified between iPad and iPhone is now coming to desktop.
- Notifications: MacOS never had a decent notification system and there were 3rd party applications like Growl to fill that hole. Now the notification system that was introduced first in iOS 5 is being ported to the next version of MacOS (note that, Apple dropped the ‘Mac’ from the name, but I will use both versions for clarity).
- Twitter integration: Self speaking.
- Game Center: another integration with iOS devices to enable social gaming features.
You can read more about these features in the Gizmodo article.
What is interesting? The desktop inheriting mobile features
It is very interesting to see that the mobile platforms used to be pushed to its limits to do the tasks and provide the features that their desktop counterparts used to do. Feature list which started only with making calls grew as new features added: send email, listen to music, check calendar, etc… They used to be a stripped down version of desktop platforms.
In this OS X example, now we see that the features that are designed for iOS being added to its desktop counterpart, blurring the borders between mobile and desktop platforms and I believe this is more than just unifying their OS experiences. I believe this is also the result of mobile platforms taking the lead on innovative design in operating systems. In the 4 years, iOS had seen 5 major releases whereas MacOS had 3. On OS X Lion release, it already imported many of the iOS features including LaunchPad, fullscreen mode for apps and touch gestures. The Metro interface from Microsoft is first introduced with Windows Phones, and now it is being implemented into the next version of Windows Operating System.
I am quiet enthusiastic to observe the effects of this shift, as minimalist designs in mobile applications and operating systems can have great effect on simplifying today’s operating systems.