The Future of Interfaces – Why OS X Lion looks like iOS

Get out your tinfoil hats, for a speculative ride into the future of Apple!

No, that is not a rollercoaster.

As you might already know, Mac OS X Lion launched recently with a lot of the new features taken straight from Apple’s mobile operating system, iOS. The Launchpad looks like the iPad, application state-saving, inverted (natural?) scrolling, full-screen apps and an app store amongst other features. There are subtle interface changes that give hints to what Apple are planning.
When you turn on Lion for the first time, you will be faced with inverted scrolling. Scroll up on the trackpad and the scrollbar goes down. Why Apple why? Why break something that is not broken? Let me tell you why. Imagine you have a long piece of paper in front of  you. As you start reading, at some point you need to move the paper to read the bottom part. How do you do it? You do it, by moving the paper… up: think Star Wars intro text. Apple is telling you: forget about the screen, just look at the data: that is what is important. As Rian vd Merwe puts it: “Apple wants us to remove the current abstraction from our data (the file system and the ‘window’), and instead focus on and interact with the data itself”. With iOS, this came naturally, as there was only a touch interface. You directly interacted with your data. On tablets and smartphones, this is how you scroll: you move the data around, not the viewport/window.
Pic from
Snow Leopard vs Lion

An interesting design choice was removing colour on interface elements and going for a monochrome feel. While Lion’s monochrome feel (gone is the aqua bars as well) seems dull, there seems to be a good reason for it. Apple claimed that its goal is to de-emphasize irrelevant (surrounding user interface) parts and through that, emphasise your content which is more important. This makes sense in addition to the change in scrolling: your data is what is important. They are going even a step further and introduced full-screen applications. Gone is the dock and top bar: it doesn’t matter.
What is with the skeuomorphs?
Skeumorphs are designs that aim to look their previous counterparts in order to create a familiar environment for new users. On the iPad, Apple introduced a calendar that looks like it’s real life counterpart.
iPad iCal

Lion iCal

As you can see, Lion’s iCal took tips from iPad‘s iCal. It also has a skeuomorphic design. Why include a skeuomorphic design only now? Everyone who has used iCal on previous OS X versions are familiar with iCal’s design. Why change what does not need to be changed? Is it to further emphasise the idea of working with your ‘content’ instead of a screen and your application? Maybe, but I think there might be another reason, answered by asking:
So, why all the iOS?
Apple is betting on changing the way we look at our computers. With the success of iOS, Apple wants us to think anew; changing the user interface that hasn’t changed for more than a decade. Are they trying to be that bold, or is there another part to the story? There might be some clues in the numbers.
Apple’s best-selling products for 2010 was the iPhone and iPad. This wonderful visualisation gives you the best clue. Almost 50% of Apple’s revenue for 2010 came from the iPhone. This is all very well, except the massive Android gorilla looming above the iPhone. Android is now serving almost 50% of the smartphone market and shows no sign of stopping. Now you know why Apple are suing HTC, they are protecting their most valuable asset.
This seems like an unsustainable strategy (even more so with Google’s recent buyout of Motorola Mobility), which leads to the most speculative conclusion: Apple wants to move iPhone (iOS) users to their other products. An iOS user will be familiar with an app store, resuming of apps, the scrolling, the launchpad look and the skeuomorphic designs of the native apps. This idea is further cemented with the addition of iCloud. This way, when you buy Apple, you buy into the ecosystem. Now that Apple has sold so many iPhones, they want them onto the other platforms before Android does too much damage.
What do you think? Do you think Lion‘s interface changes are justified? Do you think iOS’ movement to OS X (and desktop/laptop operating systems) is revolutionary: a breath of fresh air to the decade old interface?