Why iOS is the future of Apple (and how we got here)

As the world shifts to mobile devices, Apple puts its development resources where they matter

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But, then again, the Mac never had 500 million unique users.

OS X still matters

So, it makes sense for Apple's leadership to shift resources - developers and money -- away from desktops and laptops and the operating system they use. That, of course, doesn't mean that the Mac will be left behind. The Apple ecosystem relies heavily on the integration of Apple hardware, software and services, so it behooves Apple to keep pushing its mobile and traditional platforms. That's why rumors are spreading that updated MacBook Air laptops sporting Intel's new Haswell chips may arrive next week, along with preview versions of OS X 10.9 and iOS 7.

Basically, the success of iOS feeds back to OS X - which, of course, took on some of the mobile operating system's features two years ago - and will ultimately boost Apple's hardware line-up. It's a familiar phenomenon that even has a name: the Halo Effect. In essence, each Apple device serves to entice users to try out other Apple products.

What's interesting is the expanding ecosystem of hardware, apps and services that iOS will enable in the future. If my experience with health devices and apps is an indicator, the possibilities are almost endless: with computers in our pockets, on our clothes, on our wrists, and built into eyewear, it's now possible to imagine connections and integrations that go far beyond a notebook or desktop. (I'm now convinced that Apple is working on a sensor-laden wrist accessory and the software to support it, despite my initial skepticism. In fact, Apple CEO Tim Cook hinted at that prospect just last week.)

Even though we no longer live in a world of standalone devices, there are few companies selling device interaction the way Apple is now doing. You can see the plan unfold: The iPhone and iPad lead the way through a field of ever-converging devices and data, using iCloud services to keep you and your hardware and your information ever connected. All of it. Anytime. Anywhere. Whether it's an X-ray for your doctor, a movie you want to finish watching. A document that you need to send by email. Or your latest workout.

Jobs turned out to be right when he bet the future of Apple on OS X 12 years ago, because iOS is nothing more than OS X evolved, a modern take on an operating system that continues to deliver on the desktop, even as the times pass it by.

And that's why iOS is so important: because it powers the computer you always have with you. The Mac may be the Digital Hub for your traditional peripherals, but the iPhone is truly at the center of today's modern lifestyle. With its low cost, array of sensors and wireless connection options, these pocket computers will be used to connect hardware, services, and people in a way that never made sense with traditional computers.

Simply put, iOS is the future. And that's why when Cook and other Apple executives take the stage on Monday, they'll surely talk about OS X 10.9 and whatever improvements they have in mind for it. But the future they envision depends on iOS 7 and its successors.

This article, Why iOS is the future of Apple (and how we got here), was originally published at Computerworld.com.

Michael deAgonia, a frequent contributor to Computerworld, is a writer, computer consultant and technology geek who has been working on computers since 1993. You can find him on Twitter (@mdeagonia).

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Copyright © 2013 IDG Communications, Inc.

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