Bridging the Gap

Today’s WWDC was full of news about the future of OS X and iOS, but perhaps the most exciting consumer-facing news is about what takes up the space between the two platforms.

Continuity is a new collection of OS X, iOS and iCloud features that make moving between a Mac and iOS device easier than ever. A Mac can be used to take phone calls, send and receive SMS messages and more.

The Handoff feature is where the real magic is, however:

When your Mac and iOS devices are near each other, they can automatically pass whatever you’re doing from one device to another. Say you start writing a report on your Mac, but you want to continue on your iPad as you head to your meeting. Handoff lets you switch over and pick up instantly where you left off. Or maybe you start writing an email on your iPhone, but you want to finish it on your Mac. You can do that, too. Handoff works with Mail, Safari, Pages, Numbers, Keynote, Maps, Messages, Reminders, Calendar, and Contacts. And app developers can easily build Handoff into their apps.

Apple prides itself on supplying end-to-end solutions: hardware, software and services.

While the company’s hardware continues to be the best in the industry, Apple’s software and services have slipped in recent years. OS X and iOS are still the best two operating systems on the planet, but there are cracks in the hull.

Time will tell if OS X Yosemite and iOS 8 are better than their predecessors, but I think iCloud is finally receiving the type of upgrades it needs to be competitive. The truth is that first-party services that tie Apple devices to the cloud are often brushed aside by those who prefer solutions from Google, Dropbox and others.

By evolving iCloud from a collection of services into the glue that holds devices together, Apple has added a great value to the product.

In a perfect world, Cupertino would have all of its users using an all-Apple solution. Continuity is a big step in that direction. While some may frown at platform lock-in, it has been Apple’s game plan for years now.

In 2010, Joshua Topolosky published an article about what he termed the “Continuous Client,” in which he wrote:

So what is a Continuous Client you ask? Well the premise is simple: when you leave one device, you pick up your session in exactly the same place on the next device you use. Meaning your IM, Twitter, web browsing, applications, even your windows (given the availability of such a thing on the corresponding platform) appear just as they did on the previous device. The situation I describe above would be obviated by this setup, allowing me to move from my laptop to iPad in a seamless manner which would in no way disrupt the activity I was currently engaged in. This solution seems particularly well suited for desktop to laptop transfers, but allowing for a platform which was rich enough for both PC and mobile devices, it could very well be carried out through desktops, laptops, tablets, and even mobile phones. Put simply, you are placeshifting your computing experience from one device to the next with no break in your work, timelines, or conversations.

OS X Yosemite and iOS 8 don’t appear as seamless as Topolosky foresaw, it’s closer than anything we’ve seen to date.