Apple Set to Combine iOS and Mac Apps As It Looks to Build a Unified Platform

Posted on December 20, 2017 by Mehedi Hassan in Hardware, iOS, Mobile with 45 Comments

Apple is working on merging its iOS and Mac apps in 2018, Bloomberg reported on Wednesday. The company is working on building a unified platform for apps that work across iPhones, iPads, and Macs — just like Microsoft’s Universal Windows Platform in Windows 10.

Cupertino is currently targetting the release of iOS 12 and macOS 10.14 for the launch of its new unified platform for apps. While it isn’t clear if the company will be merging the App Store for iOS and Mac apps, the company is expected to release tools required for developers to design a single app that works across all of its devices a bit earlier, possibly at WWDC 2018.

Apple has been rumoured to be unifying iOS and macOS for years now, even though the company’s current CEO Tim Cook isn’t a big fan of the unified experience. Back in 2012, Cook criticised the idea, saying “You can converge a toaster and a refrigerator, but those things are probably not going to be pleasing to the user.” But a unified platform was bound to happen, especially now that the company continues to invest in mobile computers like the iPad Pro and the modern Macbook.

Apple’s idea behind merging iOS and Mac apps is almost exactly like Microsoft’s Universal Windows Platform which allows developers to build a single app that can adapt across computers, laptops, tablets, phones, game consoles, AR headsets, headless hardware, and more. Microsoft’s Universal Windows Platform hasn’t been too much of a success, and it fails to attract any of the big names to build UWP apps to this date. iOS developers, on the other hand, are incredibly passionate about Apple and its platforms, so Apple–unlike Microsoft–doesn’t have to worry much about support from third-parties.

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Comments (46)

46 responses to “Apple Set to Combine iOS and Mac Apps As It Looks to Build a Unified Platform”

  1. Avatar

    JaseCutler

    Is this when Apple adds a touchscreen option on their laptops?

    • Avatar

      VancouverNinja

      In reply to JaseCutler:

      Yes, they have no choice. They wouldn't be doing this if they did not see Microsoft's effort as being a real threat to iOS based devices in the future.

    • Avatar

      will

      In reply to JaseCutler:

      The problem is macOS is not currently designed for touch. Menus, touch points, everything is setup for mouse. But I am sure Apple has had dozens of touch enabled Mac's in testing labs, but for some reason they have not done it. I don't think it is just because they don't want to, but because they want to find a better way.


      Just my .02 :)

      • Avatar

        NoFlames

        In reply to will:
        First of all I don't think they have done it yet because they initially thought it was a failed idea. Now that they see it's becoming the norm, they have to do something. It would be really hard to convert MacOS to a touch friendly OS without losing your current fan base, I assume that has added to the delay as well.


    • Avatar

      jimchamplin

      In reply to JaseCutler:

      Nope. You use a multitouch trackpad or mouse, both of which they ship with their computers.

      • Avatar

        NoFlames

        In reply to jimchamplin:

        Interesting, so you think when they converge, they will rely on touch pad and mouse, no touch screen? That's something I wouldn't have thought they would do, but it kind of fit in with their view of how things should work. It would also allow them to get to market quicker.


        • Avatar

          shameermulji

          In reply to NoFlames:

          I don't think this is about bringing iPad apps to the Mac, giving the iPad mouse / trackpad suport or bringing touch to the Mac. Think code convergence at the architectural layer => a single universal app optimized to run on iPad, iPhone, Mac. That's it. Very similar to UWP apps.

          Apple has been telegraphing this move for a couple years => unified language (Swift), unified filesystem (APFS), iOS 11 becoming 64-bit only this year, and macOS becoming 64-bit only next year with 10.14

  2. Avatar

    PincasX

    Isn't this an extension of Continuity and what Apple is already doing with iPhone, iPad and AppleTV? It really doesn't sound like news.

  3. Avatar

    RobertJasiek

    Since the Files app is a total failure, the next hope for a general file manager is the Finder as capable on iOS as on macOS, or a third party file manager. However, I bet Apple manages to screw up again. The open question remains whether my dream mobile device (4:3, matte or low reflectance, general file manager) first will be an iPad with ---working --- general file manager, a Windows tablet / 2-in-1 with such a display or an ebook reader with tablet functionality.

  4. Avatar

    Todd Northrop

    Paul you need to research this more. It is not like UWP apps. It is more like the old Win 8 approach that combined two different apps into one app package. UWP literally uses one binary for every platform. This does not. Very important distinction that will keep it from becoming popular.

    • Avatar

      jimchamplin

      In reply to Speednet:

      Unless Apple adds the Cocoa Touch APIs to macOS.

      • Avatar

        MikeGalos

        In reply to jimchamplin:

        It would take more than that. You need to add in different interaction models and not just make touch act like mouse down to an existing app. You have to remember that Win32 has been touch and pen enabled since the Windows Tablet PC program in 2001.


        Microsoft may tend to get there before the market is ready but that also means they have years of history when they get back into a market they invented but sombody else later popularized.


    • Avatar

      PincasX

      In reply to Speednet:

      Speaking of people that need to do research, Mehedi wrote this not Paul. Paul wrote a premium article about this same subject though. You can tell the difference because in that one he doubles down on all the nonsense he has been peddling for some time like new MacBook Pro's were rejected by customers despite Mac sales having been up ever since they were released.

  5. Avatar

    wshwe

    Some Windows users claim there is no need for touch on laptops. I used to be one of those people. Now I use touch frequently.


    I don't see PWAs replacing heavy-duty software like Photoshop and CAD software.

  6. Avatar

    BigM72

    This software convergence will support the hardware convergence needed for the ultimate portable laptop.


    1) Think a Macbook but with an A-series chip instead of Intel running apps ported over from iOS.

    2) Then think of that Macbook in 1) but running an OS converged between macOS and iOS so you get the benefit of the iOS app library but can still use trackpad instead of touch

    3) Then think of the Macbook in 2) but you can tear off the screen and use it like an iPad Pro with touch and pen.


    It will do 10-12 hours in laptop mode and 4-5 hours in iPad mode.


    Think of a Surface Book aimed at portability instead of power, a Surface Book as thin as a Surface Laptop, with most of the weight in the keyboard base.

  7. Avatar

    skane2600

    It's hard to tell just how "unified" iOS and macOS will become at this point, but it has the potential to be a big mistake. Such schemes (when they work at all) always compromise the user experience. The design of an application on the desktop will always be constrained if it must also run on a small screen device.

    • Avatar

      longhorn

      In reply to skane2600:

      I agree. On Windows you have Win32 apps for desktop/laptop users and Modern apps for touch users. Both have their use cases. This is how it must be. One app for both desktop and touch is just silly. It will never work. Microsoft has actually done a really nice job of integrating touch in a desktop environment but when it comes to apps keyboard/mouse and touch are separate worlds. This is also the reason I would like MS to keep Control Panel for desktop users and continue to evolve Settings app for touch users. If you are serious about a hybrid OS you must cater to both groups by providing two UI paradigms.

    • Avatar

      Jorge Garcia

      In reply to skane2600:

      Fundamentally, of course you are right. However I can see A LOT of younger MacOS users desiring to run some of their favorite mobile apps right on their desktop. Who cares if the apps are touch-optimized and feel a little clunky to use with a mouse/trackpad? The point is they work. I feel like an iOS desktop emulator could accomplish this as an interim step, but could be too laggy and "cheap" for Apple to consider.

    • Avatar

      nbplopes

      In reply to skane2600:


      In my experience the UX to operate an app effcientely with the thumb needs to be quite different . The service later in the client can be fully reused well, but that already is today.


      I see this with more potential for the likes of iPad Apps running on OS X and empowered by Continuity features.


      On another note what if Apple is simply adding mouse/trackpad support to iOS at least on the iPad? This seams to be more a possibility for next year as the touch language is already extremely mature rather than what as been described and speculated beyond reason.


      In fact I am almost sure such a feature is already embedded in iOS but is not enabled. To see it in action just use an emulator on the MacBook.

  8. Avatar

    TEAMSWITCHER

    I highly doubt that iOS apps are coming to existing macs. What is far more likely is that macOS is coming to the iPad Pro platform .. or a new product altogether ... the MacPad Pro. Existing Macs don't have touch screens, which is required to run iOS apps in a natural manner. Marzipan is probably just the interface that allows iOS apps to run on the Mac Desktop. Is this a Surface Pro knock off? You bet your sweet a$$ it is!


    And it couldn't be a smarter move for Apple to make. This single new product would essentially accomplish many new things at once. First it would create an exciting new form factor for the mac, with an Apple Pencil enabled touch screen on a high-refresh rate display. Second it would bring all the great Mac applications Xcode, Final Cut, Logic Pro, etc.. to the iPad Pro. Go spec out a Surface Pro with 512GB of storage and compare that to the 12.9" iPad Pro with 512 GB of storage... Apple would enjoy a very large price advantage.


    Forgot to mention, this would be the vehicle to move the Mac off Intel processors and AMD graphics to Apple's own processors and custom graphics. I can even see this new product becoming the next hot developer platform replacing Apple's venerable MacBook Pro. Apple has always stated there are not afraid to cannibalize their own products. This could be very disruptive.


  9. Avatar

    Jorge Garcia

    Every MacBook user I see in a coffee shop has their iPhone placed right next to their laptop, and they are CONSTANTLY distracted by it whenever messages and notifications come in. I find that situation SO absurd in 2017, as they "should" be able to accomplish 100% of their computing/communication needs right on the LARGER of the two computers they have in front of them. With the melding of iOS/MacOS Apps, that reality might someday become possible, but I think it's noteworthy that that this reality is already 100% possible on Windows :). In my own case, when I am at my Windows PC/Windows Laptop, my smartphone becomes 100% redundant....even my SMS messages are routed to my desktop via the mySMS app.

    • Avatar

      GT Tecolotecreek

      In reply to JG1170:

      What I find so absurd in 2017 is how ill-informed Windows fanboys are of what the competition is doing, especially Apple. For starters, iMessage is integrated across IOS and OSX, so you can send a message or SMS from your phone and it will be synced to all your other devices automatically. And you will see both sides of the conversation, yours and the responses. You can also send directly from OSX as your phone. Works automatically. Same is true of email. You can start an email/message/Word doc/note on one device and if your not finished pick it up on another. So you can start writing an email on your iPhone, but then finish and send it from your Mac. Apps like Notes, Photos and iTunes are synced across all devices. Update your shopping list on your Mac, then it is also updated on you iPad or iPhone. On Macs you can share and sync desktops. You also have Universal Clipboard, with allows you to copy and paste between Mac, iPhone and iPad. Lastly, if your iPhone is logged into the same network, you can start or answer a phone call from your Mac or iPad, even if your phone is not right at hand. Betcha you can't do that with Windows laptop. So you can do all of these activities on Windows and they actually work?

    • Avatar

      nbplopes

      In reply to JG1170:


      You are being sarcastic over Windows users in the coffee shop for sure :)


      Becausein that scenario the users do not even need to pick up the iPhone to answer or make GSM/LTE phone calls. How is that in the Windows space? Paying for another phone service such as Skype on top?


      They mus be distracted by Snapchat or something.

  10. Avatar

    Peter Vassiliou

    Actually this is huge news for those that are in the Apple ecosystem. Microsoft might had the idea first, but the problem is (as always) the implementation. UWP apps in the Windows ecosystem do not matter at all. Microsoft on mobile does not exist (at least from an OS & devices perspective). Apple has what it needs to succeed.

    • Avatar

      siko

      In reply to petvas:

      Matter a big deal to me and many others. UWP is a modern, secure, high performing platform that is slowly but surely maturing and proving itself....

      • Avatar

        jfingas

        In reply to siko:

        But where does the "universal" part help, really? Xbox One apps? Certainly not Windows Mobile, as it's dead. You could point to it helping with Windows tablets, but I don't think vendors needed UWP for that.

    • Avatar

      VancouverNinja

      In reply to petvas:

      All this is going to do for Apple is preserve their 14-15% market share of PCs from eroding. Macs are falling sorely behind PCs at this point. If you are on the insider builds it is really hard to see any justification in a Mac anymore - it just feels like OSX is stuck in the 90s and MS is blitzing forward in UX Design, Cross Platform interoperability, and productivity features - heck it doesn't matter what device you use MS PC's work with them all...Mac's and Android.....? UWP's and PWA's are a great solution to the proliferation of devices; so far it looks like MS is going to win this space easily.

      • Avatar

        skane2600

        In reply to VancouverNinja:

        As you know, MS is primarily a software company and Apple is primarily a hardware company. There's not many popular Apple-made Mac software applications that would be important for cross platform interoperability and providing them would undermine the sale of Mac hardware which is Apple's goal. MS, on the other hand, is a tiny player in the computer hardware business and makes the bulk of its money through software so it makes sense for them to offer their applications on any significant platform.


        As far as UX design is concerned what great improvements have been made since Windows 7?

      • Avatar

        Stooks

        In reply to VancouverNinja:

        "Macs are falling sorely behind PCs at this point. "


        Huh?? How so? Sale of Mac's just hit their highest quarter ever. Specced out the same the price is no different. There are fewer lost cost options for sure on the Mac side but Apple has never cared about that market.


        "it just feels like OSX is stuck in the 90s and MS is blitzing forward in UX Design"


        You have to be kidding right? OSX is perfect in comparison to Windows 10. You get NO ad's in the OS, ever. You can fully control telemetry and updates. Power management on Mac's is second to NONE. Windows 10 is a UI disaster that keeps getting worse with each update. Example is that stupid people thing which just another thing you need to turn off that no one will ever use. You never really un-install all the garbage. Just add a new user to an existing Windows 10 machine and all that krap comes back. It takes a full 15-30min it rid your PC, or should I say just that user, of all the junk that comes pre-installed.



        • Avatar

          MikeGalos

          In reply to Stooks:

          Yes, and if Macs have another good quarter or two they'll be back up to where they were a year and a half ago - which is still less than 10%. But what are the odds of them introducing a "major" new hardware group every quarter for the next year?

          • Avatar

            GT Tecolotecreek

            In reply to MikeGalos:

            But what are the odds of them introducing a "major" new hardware group every quarter for the next year?

            What's your point?

            And ... what are the odds of Microsoft introducing a "major" new hardware group every quarter for the next year? None or less than none?

    • Avatar

      Angusmatheson

      I would love to run iOS apps on my Macbooks at work. There are a lot of medical apps that doesn’t exist as web versions or as x86 programs. My guess is that the UI problem runs only one way 1) a mouse and keyboard GUI is very hard with touch but windows 8 and 10 have shown us that a touch interface is easy to work with keyboard and mouse. I bet an iPhone app would work great in a windows on an app. In reply to petvas:


  11. Avatar

    NoFlames

    Microsoft has had a huge lead in converged platform, but this could change things knowing how passionate Apple fans are about new products and ideas from Apple.

    • Avatar

      Mark from CO

      In reply to NoFlames:
      I agree. Both Google and Apple are moving to converge. Unfortunately, they have the customers to make it work. Microsoft's lack of mobile customers has made their work much harder, but I'd also say they have not come out with compelling unified devices to make it work. We'll see, but this may be another example of Microsoft coming up with a great idea, but had no idea how to market the idea, nor the execution to really make it a success. But as I said, we'll see...
      Mark from CO


  12. Avatar

    cseafous

    I would rather see everyone (Apple, Google, and Microsoft) go all in on PWAs. Google and Microsoft are heading that way. It would be nice if Apple did so as well.

  13. Avatar

    nbplopes

    “Apple’s idea behind merging iOS and Mac apps is almost exactly like Microsoft’s Universal Windows Platform which allows developers to build a single app that can adapt across computers, laptops, tablets, phones, game consoles, AR headsets, headless hardware, and more.“


    Can we have a quote from some Apple senior on this? Was this announced in any shape of form? How does this bread of tech journalists actually know anything about it, starting with the highly speculative master called Paul Thurrot? All I have read is a rumor from a news agency over some “secret” project.


    If the rumor has any grounds the most thing we could say is that Apple looking at running iOS apps on top of OSX side by side with other apps. And for that matter, because Macs do no support touch, the apps need to support the mouse and keyboard for input. I remember Paul talking how emazing it would be if Google Chome ran Android apps. But couldn’t it be just that Apple is adding mouse / trackpad support to iPad Apps? Why not establish that first?


    Anyway, MS never done this. For instance could we run Windows Phone 7 on WIndows PC? No. With no emulators could we run an Windows Phone 8 on a Windows PC? No?. What we can do is develop an app that runs both on a Windows 10 phone and a PC and for that matter decided to build an entirely new platform to the point that it has “rebuild” its entire OS with little impact in mobile computing in the end of the day.. This does not look like the above at all.


    The concept an Universal Platform is not new and was implemented before. The perfect example the evolving Web Plafform that became so ubiquitous that its almost transparent. But before that we had the Java Platform. The same Java App build could run on a smartphone and a PC with JRE installed. So no Microsoft its not the first attempting at all!!! The thing is, if it was highly sucessfull it could have stollen the concept ... but well it has not for some reason or another if not for the Microsoft Press , the likes of Paul.


    Just to say that probably this eschewed Microsofian view of stuff might not be the most informed way to look at whatever it is coming or not from a broader perspective. You know, I remember a world were mobile computing was eschewed in something called UMPC, It seams like the Microsoft Press wants to coin the above again in the same way, but what has the world got from that back than?


    PS: By the the eschewed Apple view of stuff it is as poisonous. Take for instance Samsung that has not managed to get rid of the home button even when it was ahead in the displays tech applied to Android.

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