A new note from Peter Misek, a Jefferies & Co. analyst, suggests that Apple may move to combine/unify iOS and OS X into a singular operating system. According to Misek, this would help Apple to achieve a better gross margin, and would make it easier to license content.
The note continues by suggesting that by doing so, Apple would then have a much easier time licensing movies and television shows to store in the cloud, which Apple customers could then watch not only on the iPhone, iPad, and AppleTV, but even the Mac. It would also help the content transition seamlessly between each device. Misek believes such a move would be difficult if iOS and OS X were kept separate.
Misek also believes that the “merger” of the platforms could boost unit sales across the product line, and he models a 50-cent-per-share-per-year boost to EPS for “every 1% increase in unit volumes” as a result. He also thinks a final merger into a single 64-bit platform could boost Apple’s margins significantly.
Misek believes that the process will likely beging by Apple placing an “A6” processor into a MacBook Air in 2012-2013, which would enable it to run iOS and iOS apps. While the new MacBook Air would run a “converged” version of a new combined OS, machines like the MacBook Pro and other “professional” hardware would continue to run OS X. Even so, according to Misek, even the “pro” Macs will move to the “converged” OS by 2016.
Personally, this really doesn’t make a great deal of sense to me – MacBooks and Desktop Macs simply perform different tasks and have different software “needs” than iOS devices like the iPhone and iPad. I’m not convinced it would be a very simple task to create a single operating system that works well on both current iOS devices and Macs. They could go the route that Microsoft seems to be going with Windows 8, which is likely to be multi-platform in this manner – having an simplified user interface for basic users, but allowing more advanced users to work in a more “classic” PC environment.
Features such as a file system, disk management tools, and a windowing system just aren’t necessary for iOS devices, but for Mac users that want to retain more control over their files, multi-task more efficiently, and manage their disks (such as creating and modifying partitions for storage, OS X, Boot Camp, etc) are crucial to a significant number of Mac users.
Another possibility to consider is that Apple will simply create an iOS front-end for OS X, which would allow Mac users to run iOS apps and access content only available on iOS while maintaining the standard OS X platform. This could function similarly to the Apple TV, which (despite its lack of apps) runs a unique variant of iOS that caters to its specific features.
Despite my reservations, however, this idea may not be as outrageous as it might seem at first. OS X Lion is significantly more like iOS than Snow Leopard, and this wouldn’t be the first rumor that has surfaced regarding a MacBook Air powered by Apple’s custom silicon. Further, Steve Jobs himself said, when Cheetah was launched in March of 2001, that OS X would be Apple’s operating system “for the next decade,” and a decade has already passed.
Could Apple be working on a new next-gen version of Mac OS that successfully combines the Mac OS with iOS? Sure. But my personal take on the matter is not to count on it.