Working together: Apple merges iOS, OS X developer programs into one

Instead of two $99 developer programs Apple now has a single one for iOS, OS X and watch OS. The message? One broad ecosystem across the product line.

App makers don't have to decide whether to spend $99 on either Apple's iOS developer program or the one for OS X. They're now one and the same.

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In an email I received after Monday's WWDC keynote, Apple said it was consolidating the two programs into one, for a single $99 annual subscription. The company is including watchOS support as well since that has direct ties to iOS apps.

The change is a reflection of the keynote's closing thoughts where Tim Cook stood in front of three logos on the same screen: One for each of Apple's device platforms, i.e.: laptops and desktops, mobile devices, and smartwatches.

All of these products work together in a way that's difficult for competitors to duplicate exactly because Apple controls both the hardware and the software.

The company has spent the last few years bringing more common code to the various devices as well, with efforts ranging from Handoff and Continuity to visual similarities of Apple apps on both desktop and mobile screens.

Indeed, if you've visited the Apple Store website recently you've seen the same broader message Cook was conveying on stage.

Above the tagline of "They work beautifully together" is an iPad, MacBook, iPhone and Apple Watch. Missing from the picture is Apple TV, which didn't get an update at the WWDC event. That's sure to change in the future though, particularly since we already know that Apple TV will be a gateway to remotely access HomeKit products.

The change comes at a time where both Microsoft and Google are unifying their platforms to an extent. With Windows 10, software can run across various device screens ranging from phones to tablets to laptops and desktops. Google is taking a different tact, providing back-end services and web tools used in Chrome and Android.

There's a key difference though. The majority of Google and Microsoft users don't use hardware from either of these companies.

Yes, Microsoft has its Surface and Lumia phone line but let's be honest: Most PCs aren't Surfaces and Windows Phone still has a meager market share. Google has Nexus devices and the Chromebook Pixel, yet still relies on hardware partners -- just as Microsoft does -- to create and sell phones, tablets and laptops.

So while all of the "big 3" are making similar moves, Apple appears to have the upper hand for those wanting devices that work together in the best way possible.

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The company knows that, which is why it's making it easier for app makers to take advantage of Apple's entire product line. Or at the very least, it's making it slightly less expensive to do so.

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