An iOS macOS Analogy

On ATP episode 304: Island of Shortcuts, Siracusa mentioned the current Apple community discussion about iOS as it compares to macOS and what lies ahead. He said he has been unable to nail down an analogy that perfectly summarizes the differences between two operating systems and their fundamental behaviors like, windows vs. split view, command line vs. shortcuts, Finder vs. Files, and various other areas.

Long after the episode ended I kept thinking about this analogy and lucky for me I had a three hour car ride in my future. I initially focused on Shortcuts and how it was the perfect example of taking a process like writing a little program, but making it work within a rigid framework with a simple user interface. From the beginning iOS has followed this concept for application launching, multi-tasking, files access and application launching. The next requirement for the analogy was finding a situation where the original thing and the new simplified thing continue to live alongside each other. Finally, the hardest part was finding something where the most skilled people at using this thing tended to use the original version rather than the new up and coming process.

I thought about this for a while and then posed these questions to my wife. After a little thought and then some discussion we cracked it, ovens vs. microwave ovens. The oven in this case is macOS and the microwave oven is iOS.
- Both of these can be used to cook food, but in general ovens use a temperature setting while microwaves use the concept of power percentage. I bet there are microwave haters complaining about all the hoops they have to jump through to figure out the different power setting and time combinations just to warm something up properly, when they are used to a single temperature setting for accomplishing the same task.
- Most people when given the choice of having just one of these would go with the oven, even though they would probably be able to cook most of what they wanted to in a microwave oven.
- Extremely skilled chefs can probably cook dishes in the microwave that rival those cooked in a regular oven. The Viticci of microwaves can probably cook a good lasagna.
- The first ovens may have been very simple with a single dial and a limited ability, but some of the microwave ovens todays have a rich set of feature allowing for more complicated cooking options than ever before.
- The microwave oven has a popcorn button for cooking, it doesn’t get much easier.

Do you see it?? Both types of ovens do the same basic things, but they do them in very different ways. Heating up a cup of water is much better suited for the microwave oven, but baking a cake on the other hand is best suited for the big oven. However, in the end it comes down to your preference and what task you are trying to accomplish. I think this is very similar to the areas of iOS and macOS that currently crossover.

I did leave the best until the end though, because you may have noticed I didn’t mention the stove top, well that is the thing that brings this all together. The stove top is the piece of this that really matters, it is the thing that the professional chef needs in order to do his job. It is where the really tricky part of the cooking is done, the most finely honed part of their craft involves frying pans, sauteeing and whateveer other fancy things chefs do with a gas burner. It is the hardest part of the cooking toolset to replicate, because it is so basic in its makeup, but its use cannot be rigidly constrained. The controls are simple, you just turn on a burner, but how do you simplify the next steps of cooking on a stove top for the masses, you can’t just add an omelet button. The tricky part of getting iOS ready for developers is figuring out how to add a stove top so they can cook up some amazing new professional apps.