iOS has barely been with us for three years. But in that short time, it’s hard to argue that it’s not become the most influential operating system on any platform. And that extends across smartphones, tablets and PCs. Its features, and developments of those features, are being seen on a slew of gadgets, and not just ones made by Apple.
So where will its influence spread next? And how will the lines between smartphone and desktop operating systems blur even more in the future?
iOS’s major influence on desktop machines was seen last week thanks to the sneak peek of OS X Lion offered by Apple. In it, new features such as Launchpad show all your apps as one, the design clearly derived from the iPad, while the Mac App Store, a feature which is coming to Snow Leopard within 90 days, is the clearest indicator yet of Apple’s mobile operating system leading the way in terms of Cupertino's development strategy.
The migration from smartphone to tablet to laptop has been relatively swift. After all, its barely ten months since the iPad was first seen, and only six since it went on sale in the US. But iOS’s influence can be seen on a string of other kit.
Google might like to boast about Android’s impressive sales figures, but there’s no denying its look and feel owes a great deal to iOS forerunner, iPhone OS. The style of all touchscreen operating systems is no doubt influenced by it, no matter the deviations dreamt up by those working on social networking skins.
Its tablet iteration is also mighty impressive and is set to get better with the imminent release of iOS 4.2, which should consolidate the iPad’s position as the hottest slate going. And tablets is doubtless where we’ll be seeing more iOS influence as 2011 gets under way.
Android 3.0’s promised arrival on larger form devices in December, followed by the rumoured release of machines by HTC, Motorola, Acer and Asus, should see similarly designed user interfaces to iOS, which will keep consumers at large onside and aim to stop too many major differences which can lead to confusion.
If these OEMs don’t take iOS’s cue, then it’s likely that trying a different path will lead to issues. Deny it as they may, iOS holds a bearing over everything rival manufacturers do. It’s the first true touchscreen smartphone OS and has touched all of its competitors in some way. Call it derivative, but it shows that Jony Ive and his team are very much at the top of their game.
So, where next? Well, with iOS giving OS X plenty of new features, it can surely be expected that Windows 8 will follow a similar path. Microsoft has previously denied that OS X had any influence over Windows 7, but that’s evidently not the case when you play with it. Expect Windows 8 to look to Apple for inspiration when it does finally land.
iOS’s influence is growing and rivals can only be indebted. As for consumers, we get easier to use, easier to understand products, as Apple’s design team continues to push the boundaries.