Apple today announced Mountain Lion, the next major release of Mac OS X (you’ll note, lacking a version number in the publicity bumf.) It follows the trend begun by Lion: feature matching with iOS.
Notice how I said feature matching rather than convergence. iOS and OS X are still clearly distinct operating systems, and the fact that Apple is also moving to a yearly release cycle with OS X (see Gruber’s rundown) clearly indicates that they’re not considering mothballing their Macintosh business any time soon.
I suppose there’s a simple reason for this: there will always be a market for workstations, both fixed and portable, on which unsigned code can be run. That said, Mountain Lion does include a new feature called Gatekeeper.
This, by default, only allows applications from the App Store, or signed with a developer ID attached to Apple’s developer program, to run. Amid the inevitable howls of fascism from the FSF, I think this is a pretty sensible idea: for novices, this sort of thing could be a godsend. It can also be switched off if you do want to run unsigned code, and can be overridden for individual applications. Alternatively, if you want to impose an iron grip on some particularly clueless users, there’s a “Mac App Store only” option.
It’s interesting in this respect to see the differing strategy between Apple and Microsoft. Apple clearly see a lot of remaining potential in the PC market, while Microsoft are betting big on fondle-friendly phone/tablet/desktop convergence.
Either way, it’ll be fascinating to see what the consumer computer landscape looks like in five years.