Thursday, August 07, 2014

Synergy between devices - without apps

WARNING: This is not for the fan boys.

tl;dr summary: just build it into the OS so that I don't need yet another app.

Operating Systems have always been fun. Its just the layer between between the user and hardware, but it makes all the difference. Somehow it can take the same hardware, after upgrading to a new version or even new OS, and make it much more functional. That same piece of hardware, be it a PC, laptop, phone or tablet, is now much more usefull. For the majority of users, who are unaware of the OS, they just buy devices based on vendor, price, and functionality - and I am OK with that. But I want to make a point so let me waffle a bit.

When I first started dabbling with PCs I had MS-DOS. I remember the excitement upgrading to MS-DOS 6.2, which had new features (its a long time ago, so this could be incorrect) like support for bigger RAM and HDD, HDD compression, and a whole bunch of other things. I even tried out IBM's version called PC-DOS, to try out their version of HDD compression to give you more space. Then Windows 95 came out and blue never looked better. But Windows has only had a few releases, so most users got used to the same functionality, even if they upgraded their hardware.

When I eventually started using Linux (Red Hat first), we got used to always upgrading to the latest applications, especially when using repo's like yum and apt. We also enjoyed reading flame wars about the difference between macro and micro kernels. When Ubuntu came out with their bi-annual release plan, we always had to look forward to two 'new' OSs per year.

By and large, the average user mostly used Windows. He did not even know it was an Operating System, he just knew it was 'part of the computer'. Its worth adding that there was some users who used Apple Mac products - but they were always a bit strange. And perhaps the same thing with feature phones: even though certain vendors (Nokia, Motorola, Samsung) used the same OS (Symbian), users just bought phones based on the vendor, and did not even know it ran the same OS.

Then things changed, just after Apple released the first iPhone in 2007. When Samsung and other vendors started making Android phones, then people started buying phones based on Operating System.  Now this seemed quite strange - why would a user choose an expensive piece of hardware based on the OS? The OS is just meant to be the layer on top of the hardware! Its a bunch of drivers and kernels and stuff.

But perhaps this is where the real fun, innovation and features lie. People choose a phone because it has more/better apps that run on it. The majority of people cant tinker and innovate on hardware, but every developer can innovate in the software space.

Things have matured a bit since then. For the most part, people know the difference between an iPhone and an Android. But with-in the Androids, people actually now think of buying a Samsung or an LG. They stop seeing the OS.

So where am I getting at? Finally the point! I think thats why I decided to buy a MacBook Pro for work use rather than a PC/Windows based laptop. OS X has some really awesome features, and a much more integrated environment. I know its the difference between owning the entire chain (like IOS) versus just the OS layer (like Android and Windows) which runs on any hardware. But still, it feels nicer when its all integrated. That is why I am quite excited about the new features of the soon-to-be released version of OS X 10.10.  It is very tightly integrated into the rest of the Apple eco-system. And this is the kicker for me:

You can now answer and make calls from OS X if your iPhone is connected to the same WiFi network. You can send SMS from the Mac, and transfer work between devices, and switch on the iPhone's Hotspot.

Now I know Android is tightly integrated into the Google eco-system, and thats what I love about it. Google Maps, Gmail, G+, all synced, history across devices all synced. Brilliant.  (I'm an Android user since 2008 using a G1, if you want to check my cred). But to enable Android to share links with your PC using Chrome, you have to install Google Chrome to Phone on both PC and Android. I know there are other apps to allow the PC to control and Android, and even to send SMS and make calls from the PC. But they all require separate apps. And maybe thats my point - they should be part of the stock-standard OS.

But I doubt I will get an iPhone. For one,  I cant afford an expensive phone - thats why I use a budget phone.  And I need widgets.
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