Whether Apple took inspiration from Google’s Android and Microsoft’s Windows Phone when creating the iOS 8 operating system it’s preparing for the iPhone & iPad will be hotly debated for months to come. The same can’t be said for whether Mac OS X Yosemite takes inspiration from Microsoft’s Windows 8.1 operating system.
Apple announced OS X Yosemite on stage at its World Wide Developers Conference earlier today, and it’s clear that Apple has been paying attention to the moves Microsoft has been making with Windows. It’s also learned where those two operating falls short.
Look & Feel
For starters, OS X Yosemite will look ridiculously familiar to anyone who has used a Windows desktop or laptop since Windows Vista. OS X Yosemite borrows the clear headers and browser chrome that Microsoft first debuted in that operating system and has continued to use on the desktop ever since. In listening to Apple’s reasoning for making the areas around windows translucent so that users can see through them, the thought process mirror’s Microsoft’s original vision. Apple is hoping that translucency will help users keep user’s eyes focused on the content in each window and less on the window’s trappings. It also doesn’t hurt that Apple uses the same technique to great effect in the iOS 7 operating system for the iPad, iPod Touch and iPhone.
The icons and textures of OS X Yosemite are just as flat and include a slight gradient just like iOS 7. That is to say, it and the Windows 8 Start Screen and design look similar but slightly different. It is worth noting that Apple is adding the ability for users to turn on a night mode that darkens all of this traditionally lightly colored glass.
A new Today View is included in the OS X Yosemite Notification Center. While that may sound pretty basic, it’s what users can do to it that makes all the difference. Apple says users will be able to add different widgets into the Notification Center. These widgets will be both passive and actionable, that is to say users will be able to do things with them and quickly gather relevant information. The entire system sounds like a remixed Windows 8 Start Screen with interactive live tiles. The difference there is that this new Notification Center won’t completely cover user’s screen just like the updated Windows 8 Start Menu that Microsoft showed off at its BUILD 2014 event.
Apple’s Spotlight search engine has been the end-all-be-all for searching through files on the Mac for some time. In OS X Yosemite Apple is taking that a little further by integrating web searches. Spotlight will allow users to perform searches from the unified taskbar in different Finder windows. Results won’t just be taken from the user’s computer but from websites like Bing, Apple Maps and Wikipedia too.
Users have been able to open web pages from the address bar in File Explorer for some time. That being said, Microsoft added a new way for users to search with Windows 8.1 last year. Dubbed, Bing SmartSearch, it works just like what Apple is describing here, pulling down relevant information from the internet and searching the user’s device at the same time. The different here is that Bing SmartSearch is a full-screen experience in Windows 8.1 and is accessible through a File Explorer Window or through the Search Charm wherever a user is.
Of all the features Apple revealed today, it’s going to be iCloud Drive that raises the most eyebrows if only because it so closely mirrors Microsoft’s OneDrive cloud storage utility.
Apple says that users will be able to upload and store anything in iCloud Drive, an offshoot of its already existing iCloud service. Anything uploaded to iCloud Drive will be automatically made available through OS X Yosemite’s Finder. As such, to users it’ll feel as if their files are located on their device not on Apple’s severs. Microsoft beat Apple to this last year when it released Windows 8.1. OneDrive now does everything Apple says iCloud Drive will and also includes apps for every important platform including Android. Apple says iCloud Drive will have an app that syncs on Windows desktops and laptops, that’s it.
Apple has also paired down the browsing experience in Safari so that users can focus on content. Again, that mirrors a move Microsoft made with Internet Explorer 11’s Windows Store app and the Internet Explorer desktop app.
How Mac OS X Yosemite Stands Out
With all that, one might be included to thank that OS X Yosemite is a small update to introduce feature parody with Windows but they’d be wrong. OS X Yosemite blows Windows 8 out of the water it two very, very key ways.
The first is communication. Whereas Microsoft is still struggling to build something meaningful and workable with Skype, Apple has been busy implementing features Windows 8.1 users can only dream off. Users running iOS 8 and OS X Yosemite will be able to place phone calls and answer text messages – from their Mac. An onstage demo of the functionality revealed it’ll also pull down contact information from the user’s phonebook.
The second area where Apple scores big points is for their vision. More specifically, how the iPhone, iPad and Macs will complement each other going forward. With this release, Apple has made it clear that it doesn’t foresee a future in which these different form factors share the same operating system like Microsoft does. Instead, it’s betting that simply making these devices work together in interesting ways will make sense to users. Handoff will allow users to seamlessly open websites and documents across their iPhone and MacOS. Additionally, Mac OS X Yosemite users will be able to activate personal hotspot functionality on their iPhone.
In some ways, Apple’s plan should work out decently. Whereas Microsoft is struggling to find the balance between devices working together and being the same, Apple is slowly intermixing different features from its different operating systems and integrating where they make sense. Apple will need to continue to add features before switching from a Mac OS desktop to a iOS tablet is truly seamless, but it won’t get stuck trying to make sense of a desktop operating system on tablets like Microsoft is doing.
Users can download a beta version of Mac OS X Yosemite today. Apple says users should expect the software to become available to everyone this fall.