Apple took a lot of hits lately in the tech press regarding their underwhelming update to the MacBook line. The thing is, the Apple laptop of the future is not the MacBook Pro, it is the iPad Pro.
First, Google introduced the Chromebooks, a laptop with more or less a mobile operating system. Then Microsoft introduced Continuum, a way to plug your phone into a keyboard and monitor and turn it into an almost desktop. Then HP went one better and started selling a “lapdock” for their phone so you don’t have to find a keyboard and monitor, you can the lapdock with you.
Google is reportedly working on similar technology for Android, and it would be shocking if Apple were not also working on something. The problem for Apple is that they still need to sell proper laptops (and desktops) with their proper desktop operating system macOS because the mobile iOS is not quite ready to do all of the things that a desktop operating system would do. But I am sure that once the mobile operating system has improved enough, they will encourage all of their desktop users to migrate and provide great hardware to help them make the move. Why support two operating systems?
Meanwhile Microsoft is going the opposite direction. It has been doing, and redoing, mobile versions of its Windows operating system for the past decade and none of them have succeeded. So Microsoft is betting big that the mobile hardware will improve enough to let its flagship desktop operating system run on mobile devices with few modifications. From the recent reports about Windows on ARM, they are less than 12 months away from this.
At the end of the day, both Apple and Microsoft will have robust, touch enabled operating systems that work across all manner of devices, one with mobile roots and one with a desktop lineage.
Which approach will win? Well, the advantage of a mobile OS is small footprint and low power consumption. But if the hardware advances to let a desktop OS do the same, then why wouldn’t you want the extra horsepower if it really did not cost that much?
On the other hand, the app ecosystem has been very successful for Apple. Looking forward, one will have to consider future ecosystem needs such as virtual and augmented reality, automobile integration and cloud services. Right now, Microsoft seems to be ahead in these, but who knows what Apple and Google have planned?