One OS to Rule Them All

Most people think that Apple has two operating systems — iOS and OS X — but the reality is that Apple is creating one OS right before our eyes, piece by piece.

Apple unveiled OS X Mountain Lion on Thursday, dropping the “Mac” label from the name in the process. It’s not a rebirth of Apple’s flagship computer OS, but instead transforms some of OS X’s most important apps into perfect counterparts to Apple’s most popular iOS apps.

iChat is no more. Instead, it is being replaced by Messages, which is interoperable with the Messages app on iPad and iOS. Reminders is being divorced from iCal, and iCal is becoming Calendar. Notes is become a standalone app from Mail. Game Center, Notification Center and iCloud are making their OS X debuts.

If that weren’t enough, OS X Mountain Lion is introducing Gatekeeper, which will, by default, limit the apps you can install to apps from the OS X store or verified Apple developers.

Oh, and one more thing: OS X Mountain Lion boasts complete integration with Twitter, just like iOS. Microsoft will need Facebook integration in Windows 8 more than ever if it’s going to catch up to Apple (remember, Microsoft is a Facebook investor).

These changes come on top of the additions Apple introduced with OS X Lion, which introduced Launchpad and the Mac App Store.

Apple is pushing iOS and OS X closer and closer together. In three years, you’re going to barely be able to tell the difference between the two, especially with OS X now employing a yearly development release cycle.

Apple wants you to have one seamless experience across all of its devices, whether it’s the iPad, iPhone, Macbook or the highly anticipated Apple television set. Everything you do on one device should simply “be there” on the other ones. That’s where iCloud comes into play. It is quickly becoming the cornerstone of Apple’s products, and its influence will only grow.

Here’s my prediction: in four years or less, Apple will not have two operating systems. It will have one unified OS with one brand and one development cycle.

You may think the two operating systems are too different to merge, but remember that iOS was derived from OS X. “The iPhone runs OS X” was even Apple’s official stance when the device was first unveiled.

Apple’s clearly merging iOS and OS X. The only question is how long it will take Apple to make it happen.