The word on the proverbial streets this week is this: Apple has a plan to converge macOS and iOS applications development so a single app can run on Mac, iPhone, and iPad. Why is that a good for anyone in the Applesphere?
The idea itself– a single app development process that can produce an app that runs on multiple devices– is nothing new. Microsoft tried it with Windows. Google has something similar going on with Android apps and Chrome OS (both based on Linux). Is this a good idea? Or, just an idea?
Apple has a history of doing the unexpected, of taking on major technological challenges and making the end result look as easy as point and click or touch. Apple moved the Mac from PowerPC chips to Intel Inside with few hiccups. Apple put OS X into a smartphone running ARM-powered chips. Apple made Touch ID and Face ID the standards that combine security and convenience.
Apple does hard stuff so well it looks easy. Sometimes.
Mark Gurman, a Bloomberg writer who tends to find out such secrets before they leak elsewhere, says Apple plans a combined iPhone, iPad, and Mac app development platform. One app that just works on every device.
Starting as early as next year, software developers will be able to design a single application that works with a touchscreen or mouse and trackpad depending on whether it’s running on the iPhone and iPad operating system or on Mac hardware
Why would Apple do that? The reasons are many and varied, but suffice it to say the Mac App Store sucks while the iOS App Store is a rich haven for Apple and app developers. What if a developer could write an application that just worked on Mac, iPhone, and iPad.
Easier said than done, folks.
First, the Mac has capabilities that iPhone and iPad with iOS do not have, so any kind of a mashup app development project will produce applications that could very well be watered down apps, or applications with functions that are of the lowest common denominator. What if a developer wants to include a specific function on a Mac in macOS that cannot be implemented at all in iOS? Does the function or feature only run on the Mac? Or, will it not be implemented because the same functionality cannot be put into an iOS app?
Second, we see this problem already at work on applications that run on macOS and on iOS. In many cases where such apps can sync data and have some level of feature parity, the macOS application has, either, 1) more functions and capability than the iOS app, or, 2) to maintain parity between platforms, only the functions and capability available on the iOS version.
Finally, what’s the potential? First, more applications for the Mac. Second, more functions and capability for iOS applications. Despite a similar base, iOS is not macOS. That’s why you don’t see Photoshop or Final Cut or many other professional level applications available for even iPad Pro on iOS. The power and capability just is not there.
If Apple can pull this off, great. Win, win, win. If not, we’ll enter the era of lowest common denominator applications.