Apple's Continuity tack brings ubiquitous computing to Yosemite and iOS 8

Being able to move from desktop to mobile device and continue whatever you're doing makes for a whole new experience

At this year's World Wide Developer Conference, Apple execs demonstrated a variety of new features for the company's desktop and mobile lineup. While more than a few stood out as game-changers -- such as allowing iOS 8 apps to access data from one another and the rollout of the new Swift programming language -- I believe the most important change for users is the tightened bond between OS X Yosemite and iOS 8.

While traditional computers have allowed people to create and manage data at sometimes incredible scales, the rise of mobile devices and their always-connected Internet access is what has revolutionized the way we connect to the world around us. Mobile devices like tablets and phones serve more to augment the traditional computing experience then replace it, which makes communication between devices ever more important. As the number of devices we use rises, so does the importance of making sure your data can be found, accessed and manipulated on every one. Although Apple has worked to solve this problem with iCloud -- a set of services that invisibly syncs data to Apple's servers, and then back to your other devices registered to the same Apple ID -- the company is now taking things a step further.

Using the umbrella term "Continuity" to explain what it's up to, Apple showcased a variety of new technologies that take device communication to a more sophisticated level. In short, OS X Yosemite and iOS 8 will be more aware of each other and more easily able to share features and data than ever before. Continuity promises to change the way we use our computers and devices in a way that feels completely natural.

Think of it as the arrival of ubiquitous computing.

Mac OS X Yosemite's look and feel

First, Apple is changing the way OS X looks. The user interface for Yosemite, due out this fall -- and free -- has taken on more of the simplified design cues adopted in iOS 7. OS X uses a brighter theme with a specific focus on content by removing toolbar cruft, using flatter design elements and by adding translucency to subtly emphasize layering within apps and OS X itself. Like iOS 7, OS X app and folder icons sport a brighter 2D look, and the use of visual layering throughout gives the entire interface a subtle 3D feel without distracting from content or calling too much attention to itself. Also, like iOS 7, some app and system interface elements, like window sidebars, toolbars and the Dock are influenced by your background, their colors appearing diffused across a frosted glass layer.

OS X Yosemite has also picked up some iOS Notification Center features. In Yosemite, there is a divide between the Today view and the Notifications view; each can be toggled with a click. The Today view displays graphical data like weather, stock prices, reminders and information from other widgets. It's also been opened up to third-party developers, who will be able to extend Notification functionality with their own apps.

Safari toolbar
In OS X Yosemite, Safari gets a simplified toolbar and a new palette of icons more reminiscent of iOS 7. (Image: Apple)

Changes that are beyond skin deep

But a look that's more like iOS is just the beginning of the changes you'll see in Yosemite. Apple has figured out ways to get Macs, iPads and iPhones (signed in under the same Apple ID) to communicate with each other without any user configuration.

First of all, AirDrop -- a feature that allows you to wirelessly share files, photos and other tidbits -- finally works between iOS and OS X devices. Before now, it only worked between iOS devices or desktop-to-desktop. Now, instead of, say, emailing a video to yourself, or using a third-party cloud storage service like DropBox, it's possible to transfer the file directly from a Mac to your iPhone or iPad, or vice versa. It's instant and it's easy, and long overdue.

OS X Yosemite has picked up some iOS Notification Center features that give users more at-a-glance info. (Image: Apple)
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