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Tim Cook admits Apple may further converge iOS & OS X, Macs could run on ARM CPUs

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While he didn't hint at any definitive future plans, Apple Chief Executive Tim Cook did admit that all options are on the table for the future of the Mac operating system, including further converging iOS and OS X, as well as potentially running Macs on ARM processors like are found in the iPhone and iPad, or switching iOS to Intel.

Cook's comments come from a new interview with The Wall Street Journal, in which he discussed the future of the Mac platform with the forthcoming Mountain Lion operating system update. The CEO said he already views iOS and OS X as "one with incremental functionality," though he expects both to continue to coexist.

As for whether they could converge even more, and further blur the lines between the two operating systems, Cook reportedly didn't rule out that option. And he also admitted that Macs could eventually run the same chips as the iPhone and iPad — whether ARM comes to the Mac, or iOS devices transition to Intel processors.

"We think about everything," Cook said. "We don't close things off."

Mountain Lion, set to be released later this summer, represents an even closer unification of OS X and iOS, as many features found on the iPad will transition over to the Mac. They include Notification Center and iCloud, as well as specific applications like Messages, Reminders and Game Center.

Even existing OS X applications have been renamed to match with their iOS counterparts, as Address Book will become Contacts, and iCal will be known as Calendar. The changes follow a plan set in motion with last year's release of OS X 10.7 Lion, which was heralded for bringing iPad and iOS features "Back to the Mac," as Apple promoted it.

Thursday's report from the Journal also hinted at Apple's rumored upcoming television set when mentioning the AirPlay Mirroring feature that will be included in Mountain Lion, and will allow users to wirelessly broadcast their Mac screen to an Apple TV on the same network. It noted that the addition of AirPlay is "highly strategic for Apple, as it contemplates new technologies for the living room."

Cook also made note of how the Mac is gaining traction in China, where the iPhone has been a resounding success and consumers are now looking to Apple's other products. Enhanced support in Mountain Lion for Chinese-language users was one addition highlighted by Apple in Thursday's announcement, as OS X 10.8 will include Baidu search in Safari, compatibility with e-mail services like QQ, 126 and 163, and Share Sheets connectivity with Youku and Toudou.

Finally, Cook declined to hint at future plans for Mac hardware, though he did praise the MacBook Air as one device that the rest of the PC industry is desperately trying to copy. AppleInsider indicated last week that Apple is planning to radically redesign its MacBook Pro lineup this year with a new lineup that will look much more like the current MacBook Air offerings.