Until recently, I bought each of my devices for a specific purpose and chose which vendor I thought was the best. There were some small things tying smartphones, tablets, and laptops together, but we weren't missing out on much if we had an iPhone and Windows laptop, or Android phone and a Macbook. However, Apple and Google have both made recent announcements aimed at making their devices work better together. It's becoming clear that to get the most out of our gadgets they will all have to be running an operating system from the same company: Apple, Google, or Microsoft.
The case for Apple
Other than accessing iTunes Store content, there aren't any major benefits to owning all Apple devices, but there are a few small ones. For example, I use iMessage, FaceTime, and Podcasts extensively and like having them synced across all of my devices. I also really like being able to AirPlay music and videos from any of my devices to my Apple TV.
This fall with iOS 8 and OS X Yosemite, Apple devices will work better together. We'll be able to answer calls and regular SMS text messages on a Mac or start an email on one device and instantly pick it up on another. I'm really looking forward to this integration.
Of course, Apple devices aren't cheap, especially when comparing MacBooks to Windows laptops or Chromebooks. However, when you consider durability, length of life, and resale value, the gap shrinks quite a bit.
The case for Google
Just like Apple, Google is updating Android and the Chrome OS to work better together. The biggest features announced are automatic laptop unlocking when an Android phone is in proximity, running Android apps on a Chromebook, and viewing Android notifications on a Chromebook (although it's not clear if notifications will be actionable or just viewable). This type of integration could make a Chromebook look a lot more attractive to an Android user that needs an affordable laptop for web browsing, email, and streaming music and video.
Chromebooks aren't going to beat MacBooks on specs, design, or materials, but they're perfectly adequate for many people and significantly less expensive.
Let's not forget about Microsoft
Microsoft also has a (distant third place) horse in this race with Windows Phone 8, Windows 8, and the Surface laptop/tablet hybrid. Microsoft seems to be focused on making the UI of all their devices as similar as possible, with standard cloud syncing of data between devices (just like Apple and Google). I know some Microsoft fans that love their Windows Phone and Surface.
I like the way Apple and Google are evolving their operating systems. However, I feel that Microsoft is trying to cram a round peg in a square hole with its 'one UI for every device' strategy.
It's a great time to be a gadget fan, but to get the most out of them and enjoy the newest features, we'll continually have to rely on one company for all of our devices' operating systems. After several months with an Android phone, I'm back to using all Apple devices and I'm looking forward to more integration between them. Android fans should give Chromebooks a serious look when in the market for a new laptop. This is exactly what Apple and Google want, but if they execute on their promises we shouldn't have much to complain about.