Software, Tech

What do we do with a problem like macOS or that rumoured Apple Universal Apps plan

So Apple are rumoured to be going to a single binary in the future. This means that developers can deliver to MacOS and iOS all at once.

To quote, Mark Gurman, who broke the story:

“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, according to people familiar with the matter.”

I can see Apple’s direction in this.

  • It puts macOS on the same footing as iOS with users.
  • Makes iOS developers consider macOS versions. In a lot of ways, macOS is an untapped market. Mac sales have been and are strong.
  • Potential simplification of programming APIs from both the language, itself, and for developers.

Thing is this isn’t without its problems.

  • Pricing. macOS apps are traditionally pricier then iOS apps. Arguably there is more work involved on macOS. Part of this is the comprehensiveness of features and inter-operability.
  • App Store only ? With the state of the macOS App Store currently, developers have been leaving to sell their apps independently. Would the universal binaries be restricted to the App Store only ? This would come with the guidelines about sandboxing which was the reason for developers leaving to begin with.
  • Half baked macOS versions. The bulk of the App Store market is in iOS. Given customers are use to very cheap or free that puts pressure on developers to assess very carefully what platforms and features they service. The dearth of good iPad apps is a reflection of this. How will macOS fare ?

Its pretty clear that the iPhone is the champion in Apple’s stables. So it has the chief share of development resources and marketing push. Thats not to say that iPad and Macs are slouches. Any company would die to have the sort of market that the iPad or Mac has.

Its just in comparison, the iPhone is the bread winner.

My issue is that even the iPad, which directly shares a lot of the iPhone resources, comes off second best in developer eyes. Its going to be a tough ask of iOS developers to invest in macOS development. Even as a hobby developer, I weigh the time and cost of each “platform”.

For this to succeed Apple will need to provide unified tools and APIs to help with delivering these sorts of apps quicker and easier then they are today.

If theres anyone to do this, Apple are it. The sorts of technical challenges that they’ve managed in the past are proof of that. Its just the road behind is also littered with the proof where their will hasn’t been up to the task as well.

Apple seems to be taking on board a lot of discussion around their product offerings and responding more (for Apple). So I’ll take this as a good sign in that they’re looking into the Mac as a whole.

For a comprehensive discussion of this, head over to the excellent MJTsai’s blog.