iOS 8, OS X Yosemite and iCloud Drive: Making Apple devices more than just the sum of their parts

Apple's new operating systems and cloud services will do more together than they can apart

If there is a single message to walk away with from WWDC 2014, it's that Apple plans to make Macs, iPhones and iPads work together even better. Apple has articulated a clear vision of its devices and services working in seamless lockstep with one another in a way we haven't seen before.

In iOS 7, interface deference is a big thing: Just getting out of the way to enable you to get things done with a minimum of muss and fuss. That concept is employed readily across the board in iOS 8 and Yosemite, where the emphasis is on letting users work as seamlessly and easily as possible without getting in their way.

Continuity is the word that Apple used in its presentations to describe interoperability features in iOS 8 and OS X Yosemite. Maybe you've found yourself writing an e-mail on your iPhone when you suddenly realize you could do it faster and more efficiently on your Mac. Now you'll be able to. Your Mac will use your iPhone as a Wi-Fi hotspot without you having to fumble around with settings. You'll be able to send SMS text messages from your Mac (using your iPhone), and you'll even be able to use your Mac to take and make phone calls.

All this speaks to enabling you to simply get things done instead of worrying about which device you need to use to do it. The emphasis is on cooperation, on both environments working together to make things easier for you. All this falls under the new Apple moniker of "Handoff," which enables the devices to work in tandem with each other.

This is a sea change for Apple. Until now, iOS and OS X have largely existed independently, with some limited interoperability facilitated through iCloud syncing. Apple's throwing the doors open to widespread iOS/OS X interoperability, and they're also bringing third-party developers into the fold, providing them with the tools they need to incorporate Handoff into their own products.

iCloud Drive further enhances this idea. The cloud-based file storage system resides on your desktop as simply another folder area. You can drag documents into it, organize them into folders and use OS X's tagging metadata feature to attach meaningful search content revealed when you use Spotlight. What's more, it works on iOS, OS X, even Windows.

Steve Jobs once told the creators of Dropbox that their popular service was a feature, not a product. iCloud Drive is a feature, and it essentially works like Dropbox, providing a simple online repository for files that's integrated right into the core user experience.

There's another huge benefit to iCloud Drive: collaboration between apps in iOS. Up to now, documents created by iOS apps have more or less existed independently within app-specific silos. Without a file system exposed, you couldn't easily work on a document with one application, then make refinements with another. iCloud Drive changes that - now you'll be able to illustrate with one iOS app, color it with another, then embed it in a document created with another application. That kind of interoperability is a simple mechanism we take for granted in OS X, but it's a whole new world for inter-app collaboration on iOS.

Ever since iOS has risen in popularity and significance, there's been a simmering fear among Mac users that our platform was being marginalized — that OS X would be "iOSified" in a way that dumbed down the experience for us. It's clear that Apple has a very different strategy in mind. With iOS 8, OS X Yosemite, and iCloud Drive, Apple is intent on helping us get the very most out of each of our devices. But when they work together, we can do even more.