The technology gadget industry once had a Holy Grail. It was called Write Once, Run Anywhere (WORA) and it was a pie-in-the-sky platform that made a wholly unfulfilled promise to application developers.
This all had to do with the benefits of Java, which ran on Windows, Mac, Linux, Solaris, HP-HX and other platforms. Write one app and it would run everywhere else. At least, that’s how it was supposed to work. It ended up Write Once, Debug Everywhere. Apple plans something similar.
iOS, Meet macOS
Word on the digital streets tells us Apple plans to ditch Intel Inside on the Mac and go with its own ARM-based, Apple-designed A-Series chips. You know; those power iPhone and iPad. Apple has made such transitions in the past and the company seems to have become better at it and prospered along the way.
Old Mac folks will remember the Motorola chips in the first Mac, circa 1984. A decade later– as Intel was running roughshod across the chip landscape, Apple switched to PowerPC chips to compete (from the Apple-IBM-Motorola AIM alliance). That set off a decade of CISC vs. RISC battles but in the end, Apple lost and switched the Mac to Intel Inside.
Somewhere deep inside Apple is a new project codenamed NO86. As in, “No x86 instruction set.” Clearly, Apple is moving forward in a way to control its own destiny with its own chip designs– not just for iPhone, iPad, Watch, or Apple TV.
The Mac, too.
While it may be unlikely to see the entire Mac line switch from Intel Inside to Apple’s own ARM-based chip designs we could see such a transition one Mac at a time.
That’s not the big news.
If iOS is to meet with macOS– and I believe common ground will come soon– the best place to start is with a Mac that runs Apple’s own chip designs– and on a platform that lets app developers create for Mac, iPhone, and iPad.
Write once, run anywhere (on Apple devices).
Wait. Didn’t the world try that once with Java and Write Once, Run Anywhere? That worked except for the addition of Write Once, Debug Everywhere because running a virtual machine across many different chip platforms was and is and forever shall be fraught with peril. Java remained a cross platform mess from the first day it was launched.
The idea is cool, execution is everything, and Java didn’t execute well in a multi-platform environment. Apple, though, is not Sun Microsystems, not Oracle, not even Microsoft or Google. Apple’s entire platform of devices is OS X-based. Apple designs the chips for iPhone, iPad, Watch, and Apple TV, and likely has an Apple-designed chip for Mac with a version of macOS that runs on ARM. What it seems that Apple wants to do is to create a unified platform whereby apps are apps– write once, deploy everywhere on Apple’s products.
Think Marzipan Project.
That’s the code name for a project that will give developers an easier way to create applications to run on all of Apple’s devices. This is no mean feat. But Apple controls more of the product components than competitors– the whole widget from end to end.
Microsoft has a project called Universal Windows Platform but does not appeal to the same scope of focus and complexity as what Apple may be planning. Java has its own set of problems, too, so Apple has examples of where others have tried and failed.
If anyone can do this, Apple can.