What it is: Apple has forked iOS into several other operating systems called tvOS and watchOS.
In the old days, Apple only had one operating system powering the Macintosh called OS X. When Apple was developing the iPhone and iPad, they toyed with two ideas. First was creating an operating system from scratch. Second was modifying OS X to run on touch gesture devices. Ultimately the first idea won out and that’s how iOS was born as a dedicated touch gesture operating system rather than a desktop operating system morphed into a touch gesture one (like Windows 10).
That gave Apple two operating systems: OS X and iOS. Originally iOS was called iPhone OS because it just ran on then iPhone. When Apple introduced the iPad, they changed its name to iOS.
The problem with the iPad was that it was a different size than the iPhone. Initially Apple forced developers to create two user interfaces for the iPhone and iPad. Now with so many different screen sizes, Apple lets developers create a single user interface that can adapt to different screen sizes automatically.
When coming up with an operating system for the Apple Watch and Apple TV, they turned to iOS. If you’re a developer, you definitely want to learn about iOS because that will let you develop for watchOS and tvOS as well. iOs is the future of Apple’s operating systems with OS X a relic of the past kept alive though continual updates, but ultimately iOS is the future despite being partially derived from OS X.
That means Apple now has four operating systems: OS X, iOS, watchOS, and tvOS. By forking iOS for the watch and tv, they don’t have to force one operating system to work on wildly different devices (like Microsoft is trying to do with Windows 10). Instead Apple can optimize each operating system for its specific purpose and device. After all, an app designed for the tiny screen of the Apple Watch would be pointless on the much larger screen of a TV running Apple TV.
So the purpose of so many operating systems is to keep each one optimized for each device. That means features found in tvOS won’t appear in watchOS and vice versa. Yet the developing tools will be the same for all of them (Xcode) and the frameworks will be the same as well so learning to program iOS won’t be much harder than writing watchOS or tvOS apps.
Apple is focusing on optimized and specialized operating systems for all of its devices. Microsoft is trying to cram one operating system into multiple devices (tablets, phones, laptops, Xbox, etc.) Microsoft’s approach guarantees the operating system will have features not needed on certain devices. What a phone needs is far different than what an Xbox needs. Apple may be fragmenting its operating systems, but they’ll remain similar enough so developers can create apps for all of them. Microsoft wants one operating system so developers don’t need to write multiple programs for multiple devices, but the very nature of those multiple devices means they’ll have to do it anyway.
Ultimately Microsoft is chasing a pipe dream of one operating system to work flawlessly and optimally on devices as powerful as desktop PCs and as small as smartphones. That’s like trying to build a vehicle that’s as powerful as a truck for hauling freight across the country, yet nimble enough to squeeze between cars during rush hour like a motorcycle.
For that reason, Windows 10 will need to focus on the lowest common denominator of each device while Apple’s fragmenting operating systems will be optimal for each device but require learning something new to master each operating system. Microsoft’s vision of one operating system is far more compelling, but the reality is that multiple operating systems optimized for specific devices is more practical and realistic. Given a choice between wild dreams or solid and proven procedures, the future of Apple’s multiple operating systems is the fastest and most efficient way to go.