Personal computing is coming to a crossroads of sorts. With the rapid adoption of the iPad, many manufacturers are clamoring to introduce tablets. There is something very empowering and somewhat surreal about holding a slab of metal and glass in your hand and being able to accomplish so much. The same can be accomplished with an even smaller piece of glass known as your smartphone. These devices are becoming so pervasive that entire corporations have sprung up in their wake. But this movement hasn’t obsoleted the laptop and desktop market, yet. Almost everyone still needs a computer to slog out the heavy tasks like your taxes, video editing, dissertations, etc. But as our lives become ever more connected and centered more and more around appliance like devices (smartphones, tablets), a need has arisen for solutions that coagulate our digital life; a way to insure interoperability and create a single digital life accessible through different devices: phone, tablet, laptop, and desktop.
The two heavy hitters in laptop/desktop operating systems are, and always have been, Microsoft and Apple. For 30 years each has been trying to differentiate itself from the other ( Microsoft Windows and Apple Mac OS) and only now is there a clear distinction between brands. Windows has been the dominant desktop/office work environment for a vast majority of that 30 years. Mac OS has been relegated to the operating system of choice for creative professionals (hollywood, magazines, etc) during that time. But with the advent of the iPod in 2001, the iPhone in 2007, and the iPad in 2010, Apple has captured the heart and mind of many, many people throughout the world. Since 2007 alone, Apple has sold nearly 350 Million iOS devices.
And while Apple has begun to see more interest in their laptop/desktop machines as a result of their iOS device popularity, Microsoft keeps chugging along, maintaining it monumental lead in that category. After all, most businesses still use Windows despite it’s flaws. So many programs are Windows specific that businesses for many years were forced to stick with Microsoft. And thus, because of familiarity, most home computers purchased were of the Windows variety.
But familiarity has changed. Mobile computing is the future. Now, most families in the US have at least one iOS device in their house. Everyone from toddlers to centenarians can pick up an iPhone or iPad and immediately know how to use it. Many tasks, once only achievable on a desktop or laptop, have robust, intuitive solutions on your iOS device.
So that leave the average consumer at a crossroads. Many people are familiar with Windows. Many are becoming more and more familiar with iOS. It’s not uncommon to see a family home with multiple iPhones, iPods, and iPads along side a Windows laptop or desktop. And while you can certainly be productive in this setup, most don’t realize how much more fluid and connected your digital life can be by going all in with one company or the other.
In the interest of full disclosure, we will (obviously) be highlighting why you should jump head first into a
holy wholly Apple life. Microsoft, as well, is working on a way to merge your digital experiences across tablets and traditional PC’s with Windows 8. Microsoft believes you can have the same desktop software on your tablet but with a pretty skin that makes it more intuitive to use. Many have found fault in this strategy. The problem is it doesn’t solve any real problems, has few solutions for how your data is synced, isn’t released yet, and no one knows how much it will cost you.
Apple’s strategy is to maintain a distinct difference between your tablet and laptop/desktop experiences while giving you the familiarity of iOS applications and syncing your data across all of your devices. This allows you to have your entire digital life with you wherever you go; on your laptop/desktop, iPhone, and iPad. With the release of Apple’s latest operating system, Mountain Lion, anyone familiar with an iOS device can take the plunge into an Apple laptop or desktop with little to learn.
The screenshot you see above is from my personal Mac. If you have an iPhone or iPad but have never used a Mac, you’ll notice some very familiar things here. Only two of the icons above should be unfamiliar. From left to right we have icons for, the App Store, Mission Control, Safari Web Browser, Calendars, Reminders, Notes, iTunes, Messages, and TweetBot. If you use the official Twitter app on your iOS device, that icon would look familiar, too, if I were using that instead. In fact, many things you’re familiar with on iOS look similar on a Mac. With a pinch of your fingers, a Mac screen even looks like your iPad or iPhone.
You should recognize many of these icons, as well: Contacts, FaceTime, GameCenter, Dropbox, etc. Garageband, Photo Booth, and the the entire iWork suite are there, as well, hiding inside iOS-like folders.
The idea here is to make you feel comfortable with the experience. Yes, there are several other things about how a Mac operates that are different than a Windows machine. However, they are very easy to learn and make your computing experience easier.
Familiarity is good. It makes us feel comfortable. But it doesn’t really do anything to put the pieces of our digital life together. There in lies the magic of Apple’s newest OS. Mountain Lion, with the help of iCloud, works in the background to sync all of your data between your devices. Yes, that iCloud. It sounds familiar because you were prompted to create an account the last time you bought a new iPhone or upgraded the software. We’ve posted about iCloud numerous times here at ApplEvangelist.com. And while we’ve babbled on and on about how great it is, it’s hard to understand it without seeing it in person.
Let’s start with the easy stuff. That contacts icon you see on your iOS device and on the Mac screenshot above? They contain the same information. I didn’t have to do anything (besides being signed in to iCloud). My calendar on my iPhone contains the same info on my iPad and my Mac. And they stay in sync no matter which device I add an event on.
Above are the calendars (or snippets of) on my iPad, iPhone, and Mac, respectively. Though the iPad and Mac are scaled down, you can still note that the same events are appearing on all three devices.
If you’re a note taker, those sync, too.
Above: iPhone, iPad, and Mac Notes all synced. A note created on my iPad appears on my Mac and iPhone.
While these things are great for small items like notes, calendars, reminders, and contacts, the real functionality comes with it’s integration into Pages, Keynote, and Numbers. These are full, robust applications. You can create very impressive documents and presentations on your Mac. And now they are seamlessly available on any of your other devices. Below are screenshots from Pages (Apple’s word processing app) on my iPhone, iPad, and Mac.
Documents can be created or updated from any device and they’re immediately made available on all of your other devices.
Apple has also introduced Messaging for Mac. Now you can get text messages while at your computer. Anytime someone texts you from an iOS 5 device, that text appears on your iPhone, iPad, and Mac. Chatting with someone at the computer and need to run an errand? Just pick up your iPhone and continue the conversation there.
This is just the tip of the iceberg on what you can accomplish by weaving your digital life around Apple devices. And Mountain Lion does more than just that. With the right settings, Gatekeeper for your Mac insures that you’ll never get a virus. Notification Center pulls all your notifications from Messages, Mail, Calendars, Twitter, Facebook (coming soon), etc. into one place for you to see. You can share a webpage or picture straight to twitter or into a message. Later this year you’ll be able to update your Facebook status without even navigating to the webpage. As well, you can AirPlay mirror your laptop or desktop screen to an AppleTV connected TV. Want to cut your cable package? This is the way to do it. Anything you can watch online is instantly available on your big screen with AirPlay. YouTube user AppleNApps has made a good demo of how to cut the cord with AirPlay.
Mountain Lion is a fantastic upgrade for anyone with a Mac (newer than 2008). $20 gets you all of these updates. But this newest operating system is for you, the Windows user needing to buy a new laptop or desktop soon. You probably already have an iPhone or iPad. The Mac is the next step. It couldn’t be easier. And you won’t regret it.