Back to the iPad: What Apple should take from OS X Mountain Lion and give to iOS 6

Back to the iPad: What we'd like to see Apple bring from OS X Mountain Lion to iOS 6

Apple is clearly bringing the best parts of the iPad to the Mac, but how about bring iOS some of the best parts of OS X as well?

Yesterday Apple released the OS X 10.8 Mountain Lion developers preview, and like OS X 10.7 Lion before it, front and center was a drive to take what worked best in iOS in general, and the iPad in specific back to the Mac. To make an Apple experience that's more consistent across their two platforms.

But how about a little quid pro quo? There are several aspects of OS X, including some of what's being implemented in Mountain Lion, that I'd love to see in iOS 6.



Messages for OS X replaces the venerable iChat and brings iMessage to the Mac, including the ability to send text messages, as well as picture, video, and audio messages, and to share location and contact information. Just like in iOS, you get delivery and, if enabled, read receipts.

You can literally send an iMessage from your Mac at your desk, pick up your iPad and send a reply from the couch, then grab your iPhone and continue the conversation out the door. It does test the boundaries between connection and noise, staying in touch and being just to much, but it's there on the Mac if you want to use it.

And unlike the iPad, it also handles AIM, Jabber, Google Talk, and Yahoo! Messenger protocols. Can we have this for iOS?

The ideal would be a webOS-style Synergy, where Apple would collect all your IM accounts in silos and present them in a unified view, so it doesn't matter to the user what protocol anyone else is using, they just see it in iMessage. (Sort of like the unified inbox in Mail doesn't care which account anyone is sending from, or which account you're receiving from.)

One Messages app to rule them all, however, would be a good start. (Especially if they could figure out the iMessage overload issue.)


Notes has been around since iOS 1 (iPhone OS 1) and works in the best tradition of the venerable [](Palm OS) memos, automatically saving anything entered into it. Aside from some typeface choices added to settings, however, and rich-text options made system-wide, it hasn't had much attention over the years.

The Mountain Lion version keeps the iPad aesthetic but adds some functionality, including rich text formatting options, the ability to add images, and to tear off pages to stick to the desktop. It's not TextEdit-type functionality, much less Pages, but it's... something.

It's going beyond simple notes but not entering the realm of true text editor. It's closer akin to the very basic image editing features added to Photos in iOS 5.

I don't know if we'll see anything so "widget"-like as page tearing in iOS any time soon, but the ability to do rich text, basic formatting, and paste images would be nice. What would be even nicer would be more typeface choices, like the Mac.

Marker Felt, Chalkboard, and Helvetica make for a rather anemic selection. iBooks offers more for reading than Notes does for writing. iOS in general, now that it has far more processing power and bigger storage options, could do with more typographic options to go with it.

Notification Center

Both iOS 5 and OS X Lion make abundant use of the linen texture, but its inconsistency in iOS has caused some consternation in the design community. Given linen's use in the fast app switcher and folders, it seems to signify a layer beneath the Home screen -- something literally in the background. Yet Notification Center slides down on top of the Home screen.

Mac Notification Center uses linen, but is visibly beneath the scenes, just like folders and the iOS fast app switcher. It's more consistent, which is far from a mainstream problem to to be sure, but it's something Apple usually nails. So, yeah, want that.

The stacked banners shown off for Mountain Lion could work on iPad but not the limited screen real estate of the iPhone. Already on the iPhone the banners often obscure buttons at inopportune moments (until they automatically go away or you manually dismiss them.

Again, webOS does this better by making notifications much easier to dismiss with a quick swipe.

So take the background layering from the Mac, but take the functionality from webOS.


This is the big one. The thing most power iPhone users have probably dreamed of since the original, no-third-party-apps iPhone launched in 2007 -- the thing that led to the jailbreak scene. The ability to run apps not approved by Apple. The ability to run app that come from outside the App Store.

The Mac has always been able to do that. (The Mac App Store is a very recent development). With Mountain Lion, however, Apple has given users the choice -- run only App Store apps, run App Store apps and non-App Store apps signed by identified developers, and run any app, no matter where it comes from.

The App Store provides a lot of security -- it minimizes the chance for malware or other malicious software. For all the hoops developers have to jump through to get their apps approved, it creates a trusted environment that makes users not only confident and willing to buy apps, but eager to.

Non-App Store apps signed by identified developers is a good middle-ground. They don't need Apple approval but if any of them are found to be malicious, their certificate can be revoked.

Unfortunately, I don't think this would mean much for iOS. It still wouldn't allow the tweaks that jailbreak users enjoy, the ones that hack into notification center or the dock or folders or the messages system, or otherwise modify the system itself. It could potentially allow porn, copy-cat or other intellectual-property violating apps, GPL-licensed apps, and the few remaining things Apple still blocks or removes from the store, but what else? Tethering apps? Apple may yank certificates for those anyway. And unlike the Mac, the potential market doesn't seem worth the effort on iOS.

A few more things

There's more from OS X and the Mac, past and present, that I'd like to see on the iPad and iOS. In no particular order:

  • FaceTime conference calls. Like the iChat that Mountain Lion kills off, the big iPad screen -- especially a Retina display on a quad-core iPad 3! -- should allow for multi-person calling.
  • iPhoto. The built-in photos app has basic editing now, but it doesn't have the range of tools iPhoto offers. Aperture could be an App Store app, but unifying Photos and iPhoto, like iChat and Messages, should be on the agenda.
  • Print to PDF. A built-in PDF printer option, built into AirPrint, that goes right to Documents in the Cloud, would be great for everything from Mail to Safari.
  • Per-account mail signatures. No reason the current signature setting can't be moved down a step in the Settings hierarchy. Work and play can't always have the same signature.
  • Top Sites for Safari. I could do without the forced curve effect, but quickly getting my most common sites as thumbnails is very convenient.
  • Launch center. Or Expose. Apple originally tested a more Expose-like fast app switching system before settling on the current, dock-behind-a-the-dock approach. Visually, it still seems like a better metaphor, especially for a larger display like the iPad. Apple used it in Safari (well before webOS cards), and they could still take it system-wide.

I'm sure others would add multi-use login, or even guest login, to the list, but it's fairly clear Apple means for iOS devices to be personal devices at this point.

iOS 6

While iOS is based on the same core as OS X, and they share many of the same concepts and ideas, if different implementations at times, there's a lot about the Mac that should now go back to the iPad. Hopefully Apple has that planned for iOS 6.

Have something to say about this story? Leave a comment! Need help with something else? Ask in our forums!

Rene Ritchie

EiC of iMore, EP of Mobile Nations, Apple analyst, co-host of Debug, Iterate, Vector, Review, and MacBreak Weekly podcasts. Cook, grappler, photon wrangler. Follow him on Twitter and Google+.

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Reader comments

Back to the iPad: What Apple should take from OS X Mountain Lion and give to iOS 6


Great article and it's about time someone write about this topic. What I would like to see is the UI of OSX, not necessarily OSX but the UI, come to the iPad. I think this UI would work phenomenally well on the iPad.

I would like to see calling other iOS users over wifi without facetime... Just audio. often facetime lags and isn't worth it to facetime. Calling with no visuals would be cool/easier at times. especially now that iPhone is on every network it would allow for people to call friends/family around the world for FREE!

I usually call it MouthTime, but it's something I've wanted for a while now too. You can fake it by exiting the video part of FaceTime now, but it's more cumbersome.

Voxer (app for ios and android) already does this, I'm sure if Apple wanted native support, they would have to buy voxer out.

Thanks for your write-up on this blog site. From my experience, ansociocally softening upward a photograph might provide the wedding photographer with a dose of an inventive flare. Sometimes however, that soft blur isn't just what exactly you had at heart and can frequently spoil a normally good photograph, especially if you thinking about enlarging it.

Missing big ones Rene, like Airdrop for easy wireless media transfer, and Versions support for iWork, those would be huge. Also, we need the rest of Apple suites of programs like Aperture, and a version of Final Cut on the IPad.

I thought about AirDrop a lot, but I don't see how it exists in an iCloud word. There's no file system on iOS to "drop" between. Sharing rather than dropping is probably the iCloud way, and could slot into the existing Share Sheet/Action button system.
iWork isn't part of the core OS, and again iCloud changes the way versions work because there's no file system. Ideally, iCloud should do like Dropbox and keep incremental deltas of files, but we'll see how that gets implemented.
Aperture is possible; FCPX probably a long way off, but again those are app, not part of the core of iOS.

VoiceTime yeah! I dont see it being that hard to implement & I think it would be a good thing to have.

With my iPhone becoming my main camera I want the face recognition functionality so I can create smart albums etc and share albums via Bluetooth,web link or another method for family who do not own a airplay device to stream to.

I think it is about time they implement widgets and live icons. Of course they would still be thought the app store (or a new store) and so authorised by apple, and I think it is perfectly achievable with the grid pattern of icons, the processing power and retina displays of newer devices.

Awesome article Rene!
I totally agree about Message. Since it has no IM integration, I haven't really used it. I still use iChat or IM clients on my iOS devices as well because of this.
re: Notes - I agree to some extent. One of my current problems between OSX and iOS is what to do with all my notes. I had been using Circus Ponies NoteBook for years on my Mac, but have lately started to reconsider the benefits of a more plain-text approach, with Spotlight search. This keeps things more simple and compatible. The problem is iOS's file system, or lack of. If I keep my notes in DropBox, I almost have to keep them all in one subfolder belonging to some app like Notesy and try to keep it synced (which creates a challenge for too much off-line work. Edit something on the iOS end and Mac end without syncing somewhere in there, and you're screwed.). Searching the cloud is also a problem, as iOS devices don't keep everything local. I'm still trying to decide how to address this. If Apple could come up with some slick notes solution which did a bit more than just notes, but synced at a lower level of granularity (so a change at more than one point could be resolved), it would be cool.
Print to PDF - Yes please!!!
E-mail sigs - Exactly, or at least support something like TextExpander.
Multi-login - while I agree about the personal device, iOS devices are WAY to easy for kids to mess up, and anyone with kids knows they are pretty hard to keep away from them.
One thing from my list: please give us a real file-system. If Apple has some grand vision here, please let me in on it. The current implementation is simple for the beginner (for a while), but really annoying to everyone else. Once one has more than a dozen files, we tend not to think in Apps, but in projects, which is conducive to the time-tested folders and files approach.
Having to go to Dropbox app, or GoodReader and pull a file from the cloud, then send it to some app, then try to figure out how to save it back to the cloud, is a pain.

I don't think they'll ever do a file system. I would like a file repository, like the photo-picker but for all documents on your device (like how the old iDisk or the current Dropbox app presents files), but I don't think we'll get that either.
File systems aren't in Apple's future.

I just really don't get that Rene. If anyone does, please enlighten me. :)
Apple usually thinks these things through pretty well, but if they have some reason for this one, I just can't figure it out.

I have long wanted to see the ability to move documents into a container in iOS Safari so that I can upload documents to various web sites, sort of giving Safari its own "Open" dialog box. As an attorney who has to upload documents to court websites, the fact that the iPad will not allow this kind of uploading sadly limits its usability for me.

The biggest thing I want is the ability to change the default map application from google maps to an app store app like Telnav or Waze.

Print to PDF is essential, and broader support for AirPrint would be a good move, too, without limiting it to a few new HP inkjets. Printing on iOS is essentially stuck in beta now.

Thanks for the article--thought provoking. And nice to see webOS getting props; very glad I switched to iPhone, but I do miss the webOS UI and synergy!

You forgot a big one, Safari in Mountain Lion now has search from the address bar! Would love to see this in iOS6!

I wish  would bring Mountain Lion over to the iPad platform. It would be the Air I've been waiting so long for.

"The App Store provides a lot of security" -- no, it provides the illusion of security.
Do you not recall just a few months ago, when Charlie Miller explicitly placed some malware into the App Store? He was only "caught" because, as a white hat, he announced his actions. How many others have done as much, without those public good intentions? Unless you believe Miller is the only smart coder in the world not working for Apple, you have no idea. The App Store provides about as much security as extra TSA screenings at the airport. A good show, but little else.

That's a fair point, and it's arguable that the false sense of security is worse than having no sense of security and carefully, personally vetting apps ourselves.
Overall, however, the perception is that it's safe, and it kills most of the dumb stuff, so users feel secure about buying apps, and so buy more apps. does catch the dumb stuff, which can be good, but the false sense of security does leave people more vulnerable to the smart stuff. It seems to me just a matter of time before some "smart stuff" becomes a public fiasco.

App Store screening and Gatekeeping: Actually, since I sent an email to Steve Jobs asking for this as a option, yes and as a option to protect my computer from having anything that wasn't from the App Store install. I obviously think the crying little Apple hater are the only people that would be complaining about this....or the complete idiots! Yes it might be consquience that they are implementing Gatekeeper, which functions the way I want it too, but thank you Apple. For all those people that want you credit card and identy information stolen by your phone, tablet, and computer....hey the options are still out there for you. Also, don't expect everyone to warranty your stupid actions, and waste hard earn money on you, because you were thinking that you are smarter than everybody else, not using any protection...and catching something! I think that those of us who want our devices protected, and not to have to worry about this have the right to support companies willing to try to offer it! The App Store and are the only distrubtions that that I have spend money for apps in the last two years!

No offense intended, but this is precisely the attitude that will get exploited. It is never a good idea to put absolute security trust in one line of defense, no matter how much you like the company. Apple has some of the best coders in the world, but even they let slip a security hole allowing remote compromising through a simple SMS message. The sad truth is that s**** happens, even to the best company. Apples best coders occasionally let things slip by, and their best coders are not processing App Store submissions. The App Store catches the most obvious malware, but that is also the stuff you least have to worry about.
It has been proven, by one person, that it is possible to sneak malware past Apple's controls. If you think Charlie Miller is the only human on the planet capable of such a feat, and you put absolute trust in a system that has proven defeatable, you will be exploited. It is just a matter of time.

Instead of separate communication apps (messages, FaceTime, voice time, IM intergration ) apple just needs to make an ultimate all-in-one communication app. I want the the ability to make different friends list, chat groups, and share files and photos more easily than the current setup. In a nutshell, some way to organize messages better.

Re: "The ability to run apps not approved by Apple. [...] Unfortunately, I don’t think this would mean much for iOS."
Agree. The vast majority of iPhone / iPad / iPod touch users couldn't be bothered to search for, then do their own background checks on, then manually install 3rd party apps from outside the App Store, then somehow pay for those apps through non-App Store mechanisms.
The only reason why the Gatekeeper will allow non-Mac App Store apps at all is because that's the way it's always been on Macs and PCs in general. To cut that off in 2012 would be too Draconian a move at this point. But it will probably happen within a few years. This was just a warning shot.

I think Apple should "re-invent" the controller for iOS devices & mac. With games becoming so popular in the AppStore, a simple style controller that works well with iOS devices and games would be nice. I'm sure there are a lot of alternatives but its just not the same.

Well the iOS devices are really the controller. If you see Real Racing 2 on Apple TV and now Mac, the iPhone, iPod and iPad are the controllers. I would imagine Apple would further that and use this when they eventually release a tv set with the Apple TV already included. Think about it, instead of starting a new product a new remote, why not something most households already have 3 or 4 of, iOS devices? Remember the Mac remotes? Apple virtually replaced them with the Remote app. With Mac heading towards iOS, iOS devices are "in addition" to Macs, not one or the other.

This further proves my longtime theory that there will not be an OSXI. The fact is that, slowly but surely, the Mac is looking more and more like the iPad/iPhone, and I believe that Mountain Lion will be the final OS version for Mac that will be separate from that of the mobile devices. Between iCloud unifying the two platforms and the constant migration of mobile features to desktop, I am now more sure than ever that succeeding OSX Mountain Lion, will be the one OS to rule them all, and that will be iOS.

Assuming your theory turns out correct, you sure the "ruling" OS would still be called iOS? I don't that would happen. AppleOS has a nice ring to it.

Im a Mac user since system 6. I switch to an iphone 4S from a Palm Pre. Is nice, but i have to admit, i miss WebOS. Is a better experience.

I would love to have AppleScript on the iPad. Doubt it will ever happen. I use it every day.
Print to PDF is required as well.

My iPad 2 is my main device. It's standalone with no Pc or Mac. I will admit the initial thought is not what reality sought it to be but I enjoy the iPad. I hope iOS 6 makes it a LOT more like the Mac. Anyone else like me out there? P.s. buying a 4S soon! iOS world!

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