Inside Apple's iPad: iPhone OS vs Mac OS X

Posted:
in iPhone edited January 2014
Apple's new iPad is facing criticism for using the streamlined iPhone OS rather than the full Mac OS X, but Apple has a number of reasons for aligning the iPad with the iPhone rather than its desktop Mac platform.



While Apple's new iPad was widely anticipated to run the iPhone OS well before the company officially announced it, some observers have decided that it would make more sense for the tablet device to use the full version of Mac OS X instead, in order to enable the device to run a wide array of existing desktop applications.



Such a strategy would have resulted in the iPad looking more like Microsoft's Tablet PC and OMPC devices, which run Windows XP/Vista/7 with some extra software that enables stylus and or touch features.



Resolution problems in mobile devices



A primary problem with running a desktop operating system on a mobile device is that it would devote a lot of the available screen real estate to elements designed to support a mouse-based interface. While the iPad offers the same 1024x768 display resolution as the first iMac models, it squeezes those pixels into a 132dpi, 9.7" screen rather than the original iMac's 15" (13.8" viewable) display.



As screen pixels get packed together more densely, the targets of interface elements that were originally designed for a mouse pointer get smaller. But the iPad's multitouch screen is designed to be navigated by fingers, which are larger and less precise at pointing than a mouse cursor.



This means that in order to be usable, interface elements such as buttons, the menu bar, and window frames all have to be drawn larger than they would be on a conventional desktop computer at the same resolution. But since the resolution available on a mobile device isn't any greater, the user would end up with much less usable area for content, such as their browser page.



Rethinking for mobile constraints



Rather than delivering the iPad as a slower notebook with less usable area for content (which is essentially what Tablet PCs deliver), Apple used the iPhone as a starting point for creating its interface.



The iPhone already uses a relatively low but dense resolution, so the finger-optimized human interface guidelines Apple developed for it make much more sense on the iPad. Rather than being a dumbed down notebook, it's a scaled up iPhone.



In addition to thinking about usable screen resolution and interface target size, Apple also devoted a lot of thought into how the iPad would handle a multitouch interface, evolving upon the model set by the iPhone.



Applications created for the Mac OS X desktop all assume the use of a mouse or trackpad to navigate. While a few touch elements could be added to the mix as Microsoft has done with Windows 7 and as Adobe is working to do with Flash, all existing desktop software would have to be rewritten to take advantage of this new functionality, because existing titles simply wouldn't work as designed without a mouse pointer.







Cocoa Touch: no mouse pointer



For the iPad, Apple used the new Cocoa Touch platform created for the iPhone to deliver an interface that isn't just coated with a thin layer of touch functionality, but is designed from the ground up to be piloted by fingers. The differences are subtle, but significant.



With a mouse pointer, the user is constantly pointing at targets, and can select or open icons by clicking. In a multitouch environment, the system usually isn't aware of what a user is pointing at until his or her finger makes contact with the screen, which typically needs to be recognized as a click.



It quickly becomes complex (and increasingly less intuitive) to try to mimic mouse behaviors with touch. Rather than trying to emulate mouse pointer behaviors via touch and various combinations of gestures, Apple designed Cocoa Touch to intuitively respond to finger touches the way users would naturally expect to interact with the screen.



This resulted in Cocoa Touch being an entirely new platform developed around touch rather than a pointer. There's no mouse pointer on the iPhone's screen, and it's not missed because all the Cocoa Touch software developed for the iPhone is designed around direct finger contact rather than pointing devices.



Failing to make the leap



Most other mobile devices have attempted to retain some sort of trackball or directional buttons or stylus to rely upon in order to drive a mouse pointer, because they're trying to run conventional pointer-centric software. This was Microsoft's strategy with Window CE Handheld PCs and Pocket PCs, and its Windows XP-based Tablet PCs and OMPCs. None of those became very successful.



This is also an issue for Flash, because while new touch-oriented content can be developed using Adobe's latest tools, the vast majority of the installed base of Flash apps and other content make pervasive use of mouseovers and other dependencies on a pointer-centric environment. Trying to support this existing content on the iPad would result in a disappointing user experience.



In addition to simply lacking the vision to the migrate toward touch interfaces earlier (in the way Apple very decisively did back in 2007) other vendors have been slow to make a decisive leap into touch because doing so would necessitate a new platform (just as Apple created with Cocoa Touch).



The catch-22 of new platforms



The problem with creating new platforms is that they require a lot of work (and luck) to make them successful. In order to launch a really new platform, a vendor has to get customers to buy it, but users are unlikely to get very interested unless there are a lot of applications available.



At the same time, getting developers on board to create applications is difficult unless there is an existing installed base to sell those apps to, a vicious cycle that has prevented a number of promising new platforms from ever gaining any traction.



With Cocoa Touch, Apple was able to successfully sell the iPhone to a broad audience based solely upon its bundled apps, before ever launching a third party developer program. By that time, there was a significant demand for new apps that could fuel a development gold rush.



The iPad is leveraging that existing interest and expertise among iPhone coders to incite an expectation of tablet adoption that is driving iPad-centric development. If the iPad could run existing Mac software, there would be little new demand for software for developers to address. It would also run that desktop-centric software poorly, resulting in a disappointing experience for users.



Instead, developers have a great incentive to create original multitouch interfaces for their existing Mac apps, as well as more sophisticated versions of their existing iPhone apps. Apple has demonstrated examples of how to do both, showing off a multitouch version of iWork in addition to expanded versions of bundled iPhone apps like Calendar, Mail, and Notes.



«1345678

Comments

  • Reply 1 of 147
    ibillibill Posts: 392member
    I nominate Khara Cara for the official spokeswoman for Apple's multitouch OS.
  • Reply 2 of 147
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by AppleInsider View Post


    Apple's new iPad is facing criticism for using the streamlined iPhone OS rather than the full Mac OS X,



    Criticism from where?



    The IT drones on tech forums?



    Doesn't count.
  • Reply 3 of 147
    paxmanpaxman Posts: 4,608member
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by AppleInsider View Post


    Apple's new iPad is facing criticism for using the streamlined iPhone OS rather than the full Mac OS X



    From who? I know there is a loud group of naysayers but the above makes it sound like there is a LOT of resistance.

    Quote:

    Such a strategy would have resulted in the iPad looking more like Microsoft's Tablet PC and OMPC devices, which run Windows XP/Vista/7 with some extra software that enables stylus and or touch features.



    Which truly would have made it a complete failure. The idea of standard OSX on a 91/2 inch screen with a stylus, or worse still, a finger just seems totally wrong.
  • Reply 4 of 147
    solipsismsolipsism Posts: 25,726member
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by Quadra 610 View Post


    Criticism from where?



    The IT drones on tech forums?



    Doesn't count.



    Quote:
    Originally Posted by paxman View Post


    From who? I know there is a loud group of naysayers but the above makes it sound like there is a LOT of resistance.



    Which truly would have made it a complete failure. The idea of standard OSX on a 91/2 inch screen with a stylus, or worse still, a finger just seems totally wrong.



    1) I think the criticism goes beyond the tech forums. A decade of tablets have used a full version of Windows people are programmed to think that is how it should work with the most pessimistic thinking that Apple is just trying to make more money by forcing an App Store and closed ecosystem on us for no reason.



    2) It's funny, I could swear that the same people on tech forums who say that the iPad will fail specifically because all other tablets have failed in this space are the same ones who are saying that Apple should have used Mac OS X on the iPad, despite the unmodified desktop OS being the crux of the problem for a decade of tablet failures.
  • Reply 5 of 147
    sandausandau Posts: 1,230member
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by paxman View Post




    Which truly would have made it a complete failure. The idea of standard OSX on a 91/2 inch screen with a stylus, or worse still, a finger just seems totally wrong.



    I've used remote desktop apps on the iphone and they worked just ok - i could do some tasks I needed to do. I think that VNC or LogMeIn will work great on the iPad...for limited applications - and not all the time.
  • Reply 6 of 147
    Anyone who didn't think Apple's tablet would become part of the iPhone ecosystem is huffing paint. You could see it coming from miles away.
  • Reply 7 of 147
    Heres to hoping that with 4.0 we will see some new interfaces. Refreshed home/lock screen with better notifications and widgets, more customization which I think is a possibility since just with this 3.2 stopgap they enabled background pics. Some form of multitasking I think is almost guranteed, just unsure how it's gonna be implemented. I'm very excited to be getting an iPad, and hope that a 4.0 release a few months later will make it even that much better.
  • Reply 8 of 147
    aizmovaizmov Posts: 989member
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by Quadra 610 View Post


    Criticism from where?



    The IT drones on tech forums?



    Doesn't count.



    Exactly



    The same people who criticized the iMac, iPod and iPhone. Boy were they wrong about it all!
  • Reply 9 of 147
    Nice article! I agree to almost everything that was said. Basically some people complained it was just a large iPhone touch, andthis article is a good answer towhy it is not running the more complete mac os x. Also one point that could be added to the article is that the masses are really not familiar with mac osx, there are more people familiar with iPhone OS.

    Also why multitasking is not there is basically to preserve batterylife and to keep the user experience simple, though it might be added later. ( I may not use it that much )
  • Reply 10 of 147
    Some people have to criticize something just to feel good about themselves. While not as rabid and prone to foaming at the mouth by the very mention of Steve Jobs, nor trying to take up residence in his pants like many here, I do believe the iPad is going to shock and amaze. It surely has the Kindle lovers in an uproar. Not bad for a product that has not even hit the stores yet. Putting a full fledged OS on the iPad would have meant all kinds of OS rewrites which goes beyond the function of what the iPad is designed. While it is capable of computing, I do not view it as a computer. In the tablet spaces, Apple have very little to worry about from the likes of MS, Dull, re I mean Dell, and the rest of the wannabes.
  • Reply 11 of 147
    zunxzunx Posts: 620member
    Mac OS X rules. Mac OS X touch is what the iPad should have. And the reason that it does not have it is simple: Intel could not deliver a chip with a TDP as low as ARM. Simply that. A shame! Now, bring Microsoft Office to the iPad and specifically PowerPoint to the iPad and it will make it.
  • Reply 12 of 147
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by zunx View Post


    Mac OS X rules. Mac OS X touch is what the iPad should have. And the reason that it does not have it is simple: Intel could not deliver a chip with a TDP as low as ARM. Simply that. A shame! Now, bring Microsoft Office to the iPad and specifically PowerPoint to the iPad and it will make it.



    So you think you know better than the developers? Do you think you are the only one that came up with this not to bright idea. Mac OS X is not designed with touch in mind. It is designed around a mouse and keyboard input while the iPhone and iPod Touch are designed for touch screen input. Did you miss that?
  • Reply 13 of 147
    The thing that makes me frustrated is that so many users think that using the desktop version of os X is the way to go, and as you guys pointed out, doesn't work. What I think people are failing to see is that apple has finally figured out a way to make an OS that doesn't use a mouse. They designed it for the finger and they have done it very well. I think that apple should continue in this direction, and perhaps what they are looking to do is to eliminate the use of mice all together in favor of multi touch, and a keyboard. Could apple be using the iPhone/iPod touch OS as their map for mac OS 11? If that's the case then I'd say they are moving in the right direction.



    I think the reason they don't allow for multi tasking on their mobile devices is because they are still seeing the iPhone OS as a beta for OS 11. They don't want to introduce multi tasking untill it is perfected, and can be done better then it has ever been done before. I hope other companies finally get the picture, and create finger friendly OSs.



    I also beleive that there is more then enough evidence for OS 11 to be multi touch ONLY: apple has been moving their devices more and more towards multi touch, starting with the two finger scroll in their ibooks and ending on the computer end with the Magic Mouse and current macbook trackpads, and on the other side the ipad. If apple continues in this way, I beleive that the next step they have to take is to start making the iPad start eating the sales from their Macbooks when they come out with the iPad 2. If they can do this then we may see OS 11 be made just for multi touch and we will no longer need a mouse.....
  • Reply 14 of 147
    Nice points on:
    • Use of real estate

    • The constraints of pointers on screen

    • Flash (I hadn't thought of that one)

  • Reply 15 of 147
    I digg Khara Cara
  • Reply 16 of 147
    Hi, I apologise if this has been addressed/discussed elsewhere but....



    ....it seems to me that the iPad will be much more of a multiuser device than an iPhone, if you see what I mean. Phones are a little more personal and private. However the iPad will come into it's own in a household with multiple occupants where anyone can quickly grab it to fire off an email etc. However I am not sure I would want my mail account to be so accessible to everybody in the household - I know you can pin-code protect an iPhone (and I do) but that only really prevents visitors from picking it up and snooping my email. Anyone in the household would presumably know the PIN.



    So - I hope Apple address this at some stage in the iPad's deployment.



    fl
  • Reply 16 of 147
    I'm glad Apple decided on the name iPad instead of iTablet. Tablets are associated with stylus and writing capability. Pad introduces an in-between medium that uses finger touch instead. It would be great though if Apple eventually builds note taking into the device perhaps with the use of something like a digital pen that interfaces with the pad via bluetooth. While there is a valid point about the real estate of the screen and therefore non use of OSX full, I keep reading about touch coming to future versions of OSX, so somewhere down the line, perhaps they will bridge that gap.
  • Reply 18 of 147
    zunxzunx Posts: 620member
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by sapporobabyrtrns View Post


    So you think you know better than the developers? Do you think you are the only one that came up with this not to bright idea. Mac OS X is not designed with touch in mind. It is designed around a mouse and keyboard input while the iPhone and iPod Touch are designed for touch screen input. Did you miss that?



    Touch for sure. But a true full Mac OS X with touch interface on top. Not the crippled iPhone OS. I also mean the file system and how the user controls, installs/uninstalls saves/deletes things. In Mac you are in control. In iPhone OS Apple is in control (which is awful).
  • Reply 19 of 147
    It's good news for Apple's touch platform, Its just going to get better and better.



    I'm hopeing for a built in spellchecker for all text fields.
  • Reply 20 of 147
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by zunx View Post


    Touch for sure. But a true full Mac OS X with touch interface on top. Not the crippled iPhone OS. I also mean the file system and how the user controls, installs/uninstalls saves/deletes things. In Mac you are in control. In iPhone OS Apple is in control (which is awful).



    Agreed, but I want a light OS on a portable device such as the iPad. For full on computing, I have my MBP. I believe this is where Apple is trying to make a distinction.
Sign In or Register to comment.