∞ iPhone, iPad operating systems to unify with OS 4.1

Like many people this afternoon, I read John Gruber’s post — iPhone apps on the iPad — at Daring Fireball with great interest. While I agree with almost everything he said, I disagree with one small point — when the iPad and iPhone OS will become unified. The most current version of the iPhone OS is 3.1.3, but as we all know, the iPad will be released with version 3.2. Many of the changes in the iPad OS are specific changes for that device and were necessary for development.

It’s safe to assume that a new iPhone will be available in June and will probably include redesigned hardware. More importantly, I fully expect to see OS 4.0 on the iPhone at that time.

iPhone OS 4.0 will include lots of new features, just like you would expect to see from Apple. However, It doesn’t make sense for Apple to unify the two operating systems for 4.0 with the timeline they are working with.

Rather, I expect Apple to release OS 4.1 in September or October. It will not only address issues with the 4.0 release, but also unify the operating systems.

Gruber is absolutely right about why we won’t see some apps come to the iPad, from Apple and other developers. It’s not a matter of them not working technically, it’s all about design.

Some developers I’ve talked to said they are starting over with brand new iPad apps. This is a good thing for users — developers are excited about the extra space they have to work with and are coming up with some innovative ideas.

There are some iPhone apps I won’t mind using on the iPad, but if I had my choice, I’d rather use an app designed for the iPad.

  • Dave Camp

    Close. I'd say they will be unified in whatever OS release they preview at WWDC this year, the dates for which have not been announced yet.

    I'm guessing there will be one or more minor iPhone OS updates before WWDC (possibly all 3.1.x), 3.2 for the iPad, and then a preview of the big release at WWDC. The final release of whatever that is (4.0, 4.1?) would ship a few months later so devs have enough time to update/unify their apps.

  • Joseph

    "Gruber is absolutely right about why we won’t see some apps come to the iPad, from Apple and other developers. It’s not a matter of them not working technically, it’s all about design."

    Unfortunately, Brian Chen and many like him will see the last word in that sentence – "design" – and think it means only making the app look pretty.

  • Noah

    There's a lot that can be kept in common between an iPhone app and an iPad app, even if you're completely redesigning it. All the data models, most of the controllers, all network protocol stuff… I'm not suggesting it is (or should be) just a 'reskinning' (those tend to go poorly) but if you've got a twitter app or a web-aware recipe app for the iphone, you're not rewriting the whole thing from the ground up.

  • Moises


  • Looking at the price of iPad, I'm still considering should I go for it or not. But anything coming from Apple is always my 1st choice.

    • I spent some time with the iPad at the event and it is an amazing device. No video or description does it justice. You should plan on buying one xD

  • I wonder about apps that don't need a 1024×768 full screen though. eg a twitter client. They're going to just look silly that big. Surely iPhone OS 4.x has to provide some kind of Dashboard/Widget mode for small apps that don't need a full screen.

    • David Armstrong

      Yes they do. I have an iPad and if you start up an iPhone app it will show it but it will be the size of the iPhone screen. Then at the bottom right there is a button that says x2 and if you click it it will cause the app screen to get larger.

  • @Dave Camp, new iPhone OS is to be previewed now, in March, not at WWDC…that´s what Apple has been doing every year. If not, how can devs beta test it? Iphone 3.0 had 6 or 7 betas…imagine if they only released the SDK in June….

  • I'm not sure I like the idea of even calling ipad vs. iphone vs. OS X different operating systems. It's essentially the same software with slightly different API stacks available. I expect as the processing power, hard drive space, and ram increases on these new devices, the differences in theses stacks will start to fade away.

    The point though is valid; the key question here is design. When designing a Mac app, you're looking to make a collaborative player in a wider desktop environment. When you're looking at ipad / iphone / ipod development, essentially you're transforming the hardware into a single purpose experience. What can we take this device and turn it into? When you look at the form factor of iphone vs ipad, you can get different answers or at least different spins on the same idea.

    • Well, calling them different operating systems is like calling Windows NT 4.0 and Windows NT Embedded different operating systems. Technically they're the same kernel, they had a lot of API calls in common, but the high-level APIs were different enough that applications written for one wouldn't run on the other — so referring to them as two different OSes made sense on a practical level. Between the iPhone OS and OS X, the same is very obviously true.

      Between the iPhone and the iPad the distinction's less obvious, but there are a fair number of new things in the iPhone OS 3.2 API that would make a good iPad app no longer backwards-compatible with 3.1 or previous releases even disregarding the resolution. Right now there's an assumption that they're going to be unified to be essentially the same, that the iPhone will get everything the iPad has in terms of software — but I'm not entirely convinced that's going to be the case. There are some new APIs I could imagine staying as iPad-specific APIs. As people keep saying, the iPad really isn't just a big iPod Touch.

  • Richard Smiley

    Jim's argument is very convincing.

    Apple always puts out a new version of the iPhone OS when introducing new hardware. So far, they have introduced new phones at mid-year (plus or minus a couple of weeks), and new iPods in September. This leads them to put out version X.0 at mid-year, and version X.1 in September. I fully expect exactly that pattern this year – except for two possible problems: If they put out a new version of the OS at mid-year (with a beta SDK initially released in mid-March), everyone will be very, very busy in March through June. And, they may want to differentiate the iPad from the iPods by updating it at a different time. (Besides, will the first adopters like to have their gadgets rendered last year's model only five months after everyone bought them?)

    There is a rumor (based on reservation of the probable venue) that WWDC will be at the end of July. I suggest that the first beta of the SDK for the 4.0 release will come out immediately after the iPad 3G debuts. And I'm not sure the iPad will move up from iPhone OS 3.2 before October or even November – at which point, the code base will probably be unified, though a significant number of APIs may never move to the iPhone and iPod touch.

    All of which is to say that

  • well, i read this site and notice more people are like this site!

  • ipad got so many problems,but still can’t stop people buying. Why? I guess just outlooking attract many,and some Personalize setting make you more comfortable. Specially,it never similar with any others,so if you are conditioned to use Apple stuff,you are in.

  • I also disagree with the point that “when the iPad and iPhone OS will become unified”. As you notice, more and more iPad apps coming out. Some iphone apps might need to redesign in order to fit iPad. Some do not. So, how do you think, should we get iPad or wait for 2nd generation with camera on front?

  • I would actually like to see something different in ipad because its almost like a big iphone/ipod touch.

  • go ipad!

  • Saud

    when is the 4.1 for the ipad is comming out ?