Apple Confirms it is Bringing iOS Apps to the Mac

Posted on June 4, 2018 by Paul Thurrott in Dev, iOS, Mac and macOS, Mobile with 60 Comments

Apple Confirms it is Bringing iOS Apps to the Mac

Apple today admitted that it will do the obvious and bring iOS apps to the Mac. But not until 2019 at the earliest.

As you may recall, the first rumors that Apple would merge its iOS and macOS platforms appeared late last year. At the time, I opined that this was a great idea and that, if anything, they were moving too slowly given the dearth of Mac-specific apps.

Apple, curiously, denied these rumors in April, with CEO Tim Cook stating that “if you begin to merge the two, you begin to make trade-offs and compromises.” But it turns out he was just pulling a Steve Jobs, that pesky liar.

During the WWDC keynote address today, Apple’s affable Craig Federighi admitted that Apple was indeed bringing iOS apps to the Mac. But he did so after a cute rhetorical question about Apple “merging” iOS and macOS. Which I don’t think anyone ever asked for or expected.

Whatever: The point is, Apple will bring iOS apps to the Mac and it will do so in a way that makes sense: In measured steps, as part of “a multi-year project” where the firm will work to map the Mac’s input methods—keyboard and trackpad—to work well with the mobile apps. It will test this functionality in-house only this year, and then bring it to external developers in 2019. If all goes well, this could appear in macOS as soon as September 2019, I guess.

“There are millions of iOS apps out there,” he said. “And some of them would be great on the Mac.”

Absolutely true. I’m just impressed it took them so long.

 

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Comments (62)

62 responses to “Apple Confirms it is Bringing iOS Apps to the Mac”

  1. Stooks

    The big difference.....Apple will probably succeed where others have failed. Just the few apps announced today are great examples of how it should be done (news, Home etc.) PWA's are not needed, native FTW!


    Google tried with the Chrome/Android stuff and it has largely been a fizzle/failure. Microsoft, with no mobile platform and...well....Windows 10S.....Windows 10 on ARM....no wait PWA's......Xbox One X!!!!! GitHub Baby!!!!!!!

    • Mikhul

      I wouldn't assume Google is done "trying" -- Android apps will eventually end up on the desktop, they're already working on ChromeOS and they'll be even more prevalent in whatever form ChromeOS's successor takes.


      But you're right with Wmobile. The main diff between iOS apps on MacOS and Wmobile crapps on Windows 10, is Apple makes apps people actually want to use and that add value.

      • Stooks

        In reply to Mikhul:

        Message.


        Microsoft has a very bad message and it is impacting consumers and more importantly developers. For certain Microsoft is all in with the cloud for Enterprise and that really means subscription based models for the recurring revenue stream. After that cloud/sub message Microsoft is a complete mess and rapidly losing the faith of anyone outside of their cloud/enterprise customers.


        Google is not far behind in terms of a un-focused message. Chrome and Android were going to merge into a new OS but maybe not. Google abandons projects more than any other company. What is the messaging platform that Google wants to use....Android messenger, Hangouts, Alo, Duo, this new super SMS they just announced? Is it Gmail or Inbox or wait the new Gmail? Is Chrome going to actually block ads or video from automatically playing at some point? What are they doing for media? Youtube, Youtube Red, Youtube Gaming, Youtube TV, Google Play music, Google Play video. As a consumer can you please make it more confusing?


        In the meantime over in the Apple world/ecosystem, all of their components keep working better and better together and they are focused on the consumer and consumer privacy.

    • skane2600

      In reply to Stooks:

      Given the long (and complete) history of failure of WORE, I doubt Apple will achieve it either.

    • F4IL

      In reply to Stooks:

      I'm sorry but...

      Not too long ago, msft demoted the Windows OS and fired the head of the Windows and Devices Group. The Store and ancillary technologies like Metro, UWP etc, have been completely disregarded by the entire developer community, while activity around legacy applications (Win32) revolves mostly around maintenance.


      BUILD's main event was 4hrs of Azure therapy and today msft formally announced the acquisition of GitHub as part of their cloud initiative.


      Does any of the above make you think that msft's focus lies on apps?

      • skane2600

        In reply to F4IL:

        Bringing iOS apps to the MacOS is a form of maintenance too.

        • F4IL

          In reply to skane2600:

          Most will view it as a form of upgrade. It brings added value to the platform since it extends the gamut and inter-op of available applications.

          • skane2600

            In reply to F4IL:

            It seems you have different definitions of "maintenance" for Apple and Microsoft.

            • F4IL

              In reply to skane2600:

              Oh, i'm not talking about me. I'm talking about the way in which it will be perceived by the target audience. It wasn't me cheering and clapping when the feature got announced, it was the thousands of viewers and attendees.

              • skane2600

                In reply to F4IL:

                I was referring to your claim that activity regarding Win32 "revolves mostly around maintenance" as if that somehow didn't apply to Apple and others as well.

              • Jorge Garcia

                In reply to F4IL:

                100% correct. If they can get just the "top 10" mobile apps running natively (or what appears to be natively to the end user) on the Mac, that will be HUGE and increase Mac's laptop share for sure. Not much, due to cost, but definitely an increase. Skane2600 doesn't get that people under 30 use computers too, and Micro-Soft has 0% mind-share with them, unless they have a desk job and are forced to use Windows/Outlook/Office. They are looking for very basic things from their non-work personal computers, and a few of those things are inexplicably still missing. Running some key iOS apps on the Mac is one of those.

                • skane2600

                  In reply to JG1170:

                  You just make up whatever "facts" you like to bolster your opinion. I have kids well under 30 who use their Windows PCs every day at home despite the fact that they own smartphones. Why? Because it's a superior experience for those activities that are not specifically mobile-oriented. Now, I'm not going to make a broad statement about what people under 30 do or think, because I'm not interested in BS, but in facts.

                • Stooks

                  In reply to JG1170:

                  The only mind share Microsoft has for those under 30 is gaming. Honestly I bet a good 30-60% of Xbox gamers do not know that the Xbox is a Microsoft product. On the Windows side their strongest group of under 30 users are PC gamers. Even then it is just the OS on the box they built and every other piece of software on it it non-Microsoft. If PC game dev's fully supported Linux, Windows to consumer would quickly die.

                • skane2600

                  In reply to Stooks:

                  You and JG are in the same category: projecting your opinions on people the vast majority of which you don't know and have never met.

                • maethorechannen

                  In reply to Stooks:


                  On the Windows side their strongest group of under 30 users are PC gamers


                  I bet there are more people under 30 who are stuck in boring office jobs that have to use Windows PCs because that's what they were given when they turned up than there are PC Gamers.

      • Stooks

        In reply to F4IL:

        Nope, Nada, Zero.


        Microsoft is going to soon be a cloud/subscription/enterprise only, focused company.


        The question I really have at this point is when are they going to either shutdown or sell the Xbox? It sticks out, way out in their portfolio, as in does not fit in. Add to that it is dead last behind Sony, Nintendo and PC gaming.

  2. rameshthanikodi

    Long overdue move by Apple and i'm sure iOS app developers will be looking to jump on this as soon as they can.

  3. glenn8878

    Great news. It makes possible MacBook Air as a transitional device to bridge both worlds with a built-in keyboard and attachable mouse. With Microsoft's failure in creating mobile devices, I suppose Apple and Google will have the next big fight.

  4. IanYates82

    Reminds me of the bridge MS developed to port iOS code to WinRT. Did anyone end up using that for anything high profile? Or even low profile?


    Curious if it's even still supported. IIRC Apple came out with Swift shortly after which meant MS would have to do a bunch of work to properly handle that too. Being a Windows dev already I took an interest in reading about it but had no need to dig deep.

  5. Jeffsters

    Paul Wrote: "Apple, curiously, denied these rumors in April, with CEO Tim Cook stating that “if you begin to merge the two, you begin to make trade-offs and compromises.” But it turns out he was just pulling a Steve Jobs, that pesky liar" I think there may be some confusion here as to what has been announced. Apple DID NOT announce the merger of Mac OS and iOS into one unified OS, as Paul suggested above, instead they decided to make it easy, though Xcode, to compile an iOS app to Mac OS using a new framework that does the cross API work for you resulting in full native Mac OS versions of these apps. As has been previously posted this strategy hasn't worked particularly well for others so we'll see how adoption goes and what apps developers and users feel belong or add real value by being on and going to the Mac. A problem I think has plagued other similar efforts.


    For more info go to Apple's developer page.


    • nbplopes

      In reply to Jeffsters:


      A quick recap of facts (not rewriting them as Paul tried to do)...


      Are they looking to merge OSs/Platforns? No


      Are they looking to make it much easier to port iOS apps to the Mac and potentially vice versa? Oh Yes, i


      Are they aiming an unified platform to build apps? No, because they already have one. They have had it for some time now across multiple technologies. They even have a unified development environment since ever, called XCode. Its just improving ...


      Where is the lie?


      Here is a more technical metaphore: Is Xamarin trying to merge Android, iOS and Windows 10 OSs/Platforms? Of course not!!!!!!!! It would be impossible and if possible would even be more complex to deal with it. Got it?


      Merging is what MS is trying to do with Windows on ARM. It is what MS tried to do with UWP and Windows 10 across mobile phones and PCs, it even tried a enterprise merger with a big smartphone company, Nokia!!!! .... It all totally failed!!!! Nothing of that changed a dime in tech. How many times it has to fail for Paul to get it!??? Geez.


      PS: This is not to say the one day, sometime in the future, as hardware evolves, the need for two OSs will always be, but there is still a long way to go.

      • skane2600

        In reply to nbplopes:

        I think both in the case of UWP and XCode as platforms, the "unification" argument is rather weak. If using the same tools to create applications on different systems is the only requirement for unification, than the C language with the C standard library is the king of unified platforms since that combination can run on more platforms than any other set of tools.

        • nbplopes

          In reply to skane2600:


          Cross platform APIs is something that is as old as computing. So are cross platform frameworks. But they where always very specific. Xamarin is one for instance ... and many others. Java took it deeper with a JVMs.


          MS took it a step further I think with UWP. They tried to provide an API/Framework aiming a cross device with 100% coverage over the entire computing framework. Not only that but merged, UI concepts specific to each device and developed a framework on top for polymorphic/responsive UI. Microsoft assumed humans would use smartphones, tablets and PCs in very similar ways (heck even consoles), they assumed a lot of patterns with little evidence (pre-conceptions). Even more, they aimed One Core across the board. This is not a coincidence, MS is all about software. As a company it never saw much value in hardware as a way to change the world. For them, software hold the key to change the world.


          Neither Apple or Google are approaching computing challenges this way.


          Apple is taking a more traditional approach to software engineering, yet its a company unlike others, they see software and hardware as the same thing, both fields have the same purpose. They see each kind of device as COMPUTING COMPONENTS to be used together, not merged!


          Here is an example from this in this WWDC. At one point Fred makes a demo of Mac woking in Tandem with an iPhone to make a document scan or creating a asset to be used on a presentation. Today, if you want to do this with, say a Surface, you need to undock it, folded it the other way around, take your scan, put it back on the table, unfold it .... (of course you can also take Windows Phone make scan and store it in one drive, go to the PC, load the file ...., but there are several cognitive steps here).


          One can see this being extended in the near future for tasks such as Markup! For instance, you are in Safari, you want to markup a page with a pen, click markup on the iPad and bag you are doing it, much like a paper notebook. No need to rotate the screen so on and so forth.


          From a design perspective the end game of porting apps from iOS to OSX, seams more to be towards facilitating these kinds of scenarios in the future. By facilitating the developments of apps that mirror each other on each device, that may communicate in real time with each other. This is something that don't explicitly say in this WWDC, but one needs to read between the lines I guess. You see, OSX is not really lacking in apps.


          • skane2600

            In reply to nbplopes:

            "They tried to provide an API/Framework aiming a cross device with 100% coverage over the entire computing framework"


            Except that they didn't actually accomplish that. What they did instead was carve out a limited subset of all the functionality the different platforms could support. Then they made available device-specific APIs to fill in the gaps. They also made it possible to program a family of device-specific UIs imperatively or declaratively as a kind of modern version of #ifdef.


            The truly useful feature would enable one to design a single UI on one device without regard to any of the others and have it run identically on all the supported systems without any device-specific tweaks. In the general case, this isn't possible.


            I don't fault Microsoft for failing, just for pursing an unachievable goal.

    • rameshthanikodi

      In reply to Jeffsters:

      "instead they decided to make it easy, though Xcode, to compile an iOS app to Mac OS"


      so they are bringing iOS apps to the Mac.

      • shameermulji

        In reply to FalseAgent:

        Yes.


        https://appleinsider.com/articles/18/06/04/apple-to-let-developers-port-ios-apps-to-mac-starts-with-own-apps-in-macos-mojave

      • nbplopes

        In reply to FalseAgent:


        Yes. But the point of the article is that Tim/Apple has been telling lies about it.


        Have a look at the original article from which Tim Cook quote was taken from.


        https://www.smh.com.au/technology/users-don-t-want-ios-to-merge-with-macos-apple-chief-says-20180416-p4z9t9.html


        Maybe this clarify some pesky lies floating around. One of them, pretending that the iOS/OSX merge was not in the news agenda.


        Just because users may want some apps that only exist on iOS on the Mac, it does not mean that they want an OS merge like MS did. These would be different engineering problems to solve, and the later is not the focus of Apple.


        The later is what MS tried to do from top to bottom, from an engineering, marketing and sales perspective with Windows 10. It has failed until now and Windows 10 PC users are being hit with the underlying problems/brickwalls every time. For instance, do you see Windows 10 being successful today in anything but a PC? No. So what was the MS point to do it really? If that was what users wanted they would be extremely successful across multiple devices by now!!!!!


        No, sorry Paul, Apple is not validating MS approach :) I know it requires the validation that you so much want, but this is not yet the time. I even understand why some Windows users feel the need for validation after so much suffering :). But such validation need to come from MS not others. For instance, why UWP is not extended to Android? That at least would give UWP a greater device surface to "talk about". Maybe PWA will do the thing. who knows.

      • GT Tecolotecreek

        In reply to FalseAgent:

        so they are bringing iOS apps to the Mac.

        No, they are providing an easier way to port and recompile IOS apps to run as native OS X apps.

      • Jeffsters

        In reply to FalseAgent:

        They’ve given developers an easier path to bring their apps to the Mac if it makes business sense.

  6. Dick O'Rosary

    Contrary to the general tone that "Microsoft failed", I will opine that Microsoft Windows is the "winner" here. For a long time developers and users have been going "who uses apps on a desktop?..." Now, Apple has got them all thinking, that maybe people would be very happy to. How long do you think it will take for the developer of a successful iOS to Mac port to make a Windows version? Not very. I find it very hard to believe they won't be considering it before long.

    • Jorge Garcia

      In reply to Dick_O_Rosary:

      I wish you were right, but I don't see that happening. Not unless MS makes an iOS to PC bridge that is so "easy" to convert from the Mac Version that they say, heck, why not? I just don't see it. MS has no mind-share remaining at all with the much younger App-using crowd that spends real money on Apps...and for the gamers among that group of people...there is already Steam.

    • curtisspendlove

      In reply to Dick_O_Rosary:

      How long do you think it will take for the developer of a successful iOS to Mac port to make a Windows version? Not very. I find it very hard to believe they won't be considering it before long.


      Apple did this because even they are having issues getting iOS developers interested in making Mac versions of their apps. Almost none of those developers are considering Windows apps.


      The the only ones that might be tempted are the big players, but most of those companies have been spinning up Windows applications anyway. (1Password, TripMode, Tower, a few that come to mind.)


      I think this bridge will have nearly no influence on the Windows ecosystem. Windows consumers aren’t known to spend a lot of app money, outside of games. And most game devs would be using tech that is platform agnostic to begin with (primarily Unity 3d).

      • Dick O'Rosary

        In reply to curtisspendlove:

        Windows consumers may not be known to spend a lot of apps, but you don't know for sure. A lot of those Windows users are also iPhone and iPad users who would love to see those same apps on the big screen.

      • skane2600

        In reply to curtisspendlove:

        The question is what percentage of iOS apps are non-mobile specific in their function, don't already have a web equivalent or don't have a more powerful alternative already available on MacOS? Only those apps that don't have those characteristics make sense to port to MacOS. It's fundamentally the same problem UWP has on Windows except that are lot more iOS apps.

    • roastedwookie

      In reply to Dick_O_Rosary:

      The problem and funny thing is that no devloper will bother with Windows :)) Stop being delusional! Devs do not care about MS's junk app store. Their entire UWP concept FAILED. The difference here is that Apple takes time to deliver something working right, something that won't be a pain the *** for developers to do, not half baked junk like MS delivers.

  7. RobertJasiek

    No macOS apps for iOS, no Finder for iOS, only the totally buggy and dysfunctional Files app. All my hopes for a working, general file manager disappear at least until iOS 13 autumn next year with its rumoured focus on tablets and speculated Files redesign. Not to mention replacing iTunes by one and only one system driver without any GUI crap and without any Windows system services.

  8. PincasX

    While it’s easy to nit pick and point out that this isn’t merge the two operating systems or even allowing iOS apps to run on macOS I think we should stop and applaud Paul for gettIng a story about Apple kinda right. This kinda of thing should be supported or he may go back to reporting made up crap like how iPhone sales were tanking.

    • curtisspendlove

      In reply to PincasX:

      Well, except this story really isn’t right. I guess it is kinda right.


      I appreciate Paul’s snark. Always makes me chuckle. But there is a lot of potential misinformation in this post. (When you toss out “liar” it’s bound to be dissected in a much more detailed manner.)


      I think part of the problem was that the original Bloomberg article also stretched expectations and was misreported like crazy.


      Note: I read the “liar” comment as snark, mostly due to the “pesky” modifier, but I’m thinking a lot of people will take it seriously.

  9. curtisspendlove

    I’ll just leave this here for anyone interested:


    www.wired.com/story/wwdc-2018-federighi-ios-apps-on-macos/


    For app makers, some aspects of app porting will be automated and others will require extra coding. Using Xcode, Apple's app-making software that runs on Macs, a developer will be able to indicate they want to write a variant of their iOS app for macOS. Certain interaction UIs will happen automatically, like turning a long press on iOS into a two-finger click on a Mac. App makers may have to do some extra coding, though, around things like menus and sidebars in apps, such as making a Mac app sidebar translucent or making share buttons a part of the toolbar.

  10. Bill Strong

    You're impressed? Or speechless?

  11. BlackForestHam

    Providing tools to ease porting of apps from one OS and framework to another is not the same as "merging" those platforms, Paul. You know this.

  12. Harrymyhre

    you And Leo can now duke it out over this

  13. James Wilson

    I read it as some of the iOS API would be made available to the Mac and that developers would still need to 'compile' a Mac specific version for the Mac - but with very little code changes. Bit like desktop bridge on Windows.

    • curtisspendlove

      In reply to James_Wilson:

      Bit like desktop bridge on Windows.


      This is my understanding as well. There’s some sort of bridge library that interprets UIKit to work with the Mac build targets. There are UI differences in the iOS and Mac versions of the four apps they demoed today.


      I take this this more as “reuse the core of your app” get a basic “Mac-like” UI for free. Which is good enough for most apps. And add conditional code to tweak or replace the UI if you wish.


      Overall still very cool.


      I’m hoping on some clarifying sessions this week, but we may not get much of the developer story this year.

  14. CaedenV

    There goes Apple with all their MS envy. On the Windows side we have had this for years... granted, very few apps worth opening on the desktop... but its a thing we can do lol

  15. dontbe evil

    but but apps on pc sucks (windows)

    wow apps on pc, apple is the best

  16. NoFlames

    Is this when Mac's will get touch screens?

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