So Apple is going to release its next version of Mac OS X, code-named “Mountain Lion” with the idea of bringing more of the iOS look and feel into its client operating system.
This includes making its iMessage SMS-like messaging system work on the Mac as it now works on iPhone, iPad and iPod touch, as well as providing common icons between platforms for notes, Reminders, and more. If Mac OS X Lion last year was Step One in convergence between Apple’s platforms, this will be a big Step Two.
This raises three questions where the answers will undoubtedly have a major impact on the IT industry:
* Will Mountain Lion eat Google Chrome OS for breakfast? If it does, it will be a rather small breakfast. Let’s face it: the rationale for Chrome OS was fairly dubious to begin with, and as of now it doesn’t even register a blip on the OS market share radar. With new MacBooks that are even more seamless with iPhones and iPads on the market, it will become almost impossible for laptops with Chrome OS to get even a look. It will be difficult for Google’s vendor partners like Samsung to continue to spend money on a line that will face such competition.
* How much will Mountain Lion hurt Windows 8? Mac market share has already been growing measurably in the U.S. for some time, so it’s not a question of whether Mountain Lion will hurt Windows 8 but a question of how much. A big selling point for Windows 8 is that, with Metro, it will provide a common look and feel between PC and mobile devices running Windows 8 for phones and tablets. But Apple has already been doing that to a degree with Lion and with two-year service lock-ins for iPhones it will be a big inconvenience to switch to Windows 8 phones right away. Bottom line: Apple already leads Microsoft in the cross-platform integration race (platforms being PCs and mobile devices) and Mountain Lion will serve to strengthen its hand.
* How much control will Apple assert over the ISV channel? You already need Apple’s sign-off to sell your software on its iTunes App Store or Mac App Store, although you can still sell Mac applications separately without the store. Will Apple entertain thoughts of complete ISV control of the Mac OS X platform as it does the iOS platform? Probably not. Backlash would be very severe and it’s not even all that clear that Apple would see an economic or market advantage from it. But it remains an option absent of any Apple declarations to the contrary.
Putting iOS and Mac OS X platforms on a path to a full merger means we may want to stay watchfull over how Apple works with its ISV ecosystem.