MacOS Catalina’s Best New Feature is Off to a Rough Start

Posted on October 8, 2019 by Paul Thurrott in Mac and macOS, iPadOS with 28 Comments

Apple began delivering macOS Catalina to all compatible Macs yesterday, but upgraders are already noticing a major problem: That Catalyst functionality that was supposed to bring iPad apps to the Mac hasn’t delivered a single compelling app yet. Worse, it appears that paid apps will need to be purchased again on the Mac, angering some users.

I noticed the problems with Catalyst last night when I booted up the initial shipping version of macOS Catalina last night and headed into the Mac App Store to see what was new. The answer is, not much.

Apple is highlighting the first wave of Catalyst apps right at the top of the Mac App Store’s main view, called Discover, in a section called “Apps You Love, Now on Mac.” But I recognized just one app in this collection, for the Rosetta Stone language learning service. And there are fewer than 25 apps in the collection so far.

According to a Bloomberg report this morning, the issue is that Catalyst is “frustrating to developers” because of the amount of work it requires to actually port an app from iPad to Mac. Apple has claimed earlier that this was an incredibly easy process, and could be as simple as checking a box in Xcode, Apple’s developer environment. It’s not.

Apple has declined to comment on the problems. But it says that more iPad apps are coming to Mac in the near future.

That said, some heavy hitters have already publicly denounced the technology. Netflix, for example, says that it will not bring its iPad app to the Mac. And two games, DC Universe and Asphalt 9, had previously been promised on Catalyst but are now no longer featured on Apple’s website.

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Comments (28)

28 responses to “MacOS Catalina’s Best New Feature is Off to a Rough Start”

  1. will

    Apple said this is a multi year journey, just forgot to mention it would have some rough roads.

    I like the idea of the iPadOS apps running on a macOS platform as long as they are easily supported by the developer. What I am not sure of is how the pricing should be. I agree dev's should get their payment for the work done, but I do not want to pay for something twice if it is the same thing just in a different wrapper.

    I believe Apple will get this figured out, it just may be the next major OS release before it is better alined with ease of development and the features people expect on the Mac.

  2. nbplopes

    Here is a different perspective. In the 100 million Mac users most users don’t care if more and better apps came to the Mac from this approach or something else.

    So this is hardly the most important feature for Mac users. People seam more interested in the iPad getting some Mac apps than the other way around. That is the main thing.

    I repeat, 100 million users. That is hardly a huge market in comparison to any other. Windows 10 with 800 million, iOS with 1.5 billion, Android with 2.5 billion ...

    Will see how this evolves. Yet o honestly never expected this would double the number of apps on the Mac App Store which counts around 25.000.

    • shameermulji

      In reply to nbplopes:

      While you make a good point, the whole point of Catalyst is to re-energize the Mac market. Just like there are hardly any new Win32 apps on Windows, the same situation exists on the Mac with respect to AppKit apps. If Apple lets that be, there may not be much of a Mac market in the future if the vast majority of users are shifting towards devices built on mobile platforms (ie: ARM + iOS / Android / Win 10X)

      • nbplopes

        In reply to shameermulji:

        The only way to seriousley re-energize the Mac App Store market is to match the Apple share on the sale to the size of the market in terms of customers or grow the Mac market (more users). This could be done in several ways, such as a share of 0 if the app was ported from iOS, for instance.

        Added to this we have that users such as me, do not expect to pay more than once for some iOS based app to be used across devices. The iPhone / iPad already set that expectation for most apps. They seam to have the same functionality on Mac anyway. Things could be different if these apps were more powerful on the Mac, that does not seam to be the case. All it would probably be needed is to get a bunch of well known developer and apps to extend the cross device sale practice to the Mac like it happened with iPhone to the iPad. If Apple solved this, it could be disruptive.

        Unlike Microsoft, that year after year promises one device to rule them all ... Apple approach seams to be each device acts as an extension of the others, augmenting the other in functionality. So having the same app across systems would help establishing new practices such as the handoffs, local synching (without the Cloud) ...

        Don't think the Mac App ecosystem is or was in danger. But if ever become focused on software development and scientific purposes or any other hard core need if it happens in favor of the iPad, and iPad Pro for general purpose computing don't think Apple would worry that much.

        Or why not both? I mean, I'm planning to ditch the laptop, my choice for over 18 years, for a combination of desktop "workstation" (Mac mini) ... for well workstation work, and an iPad Pro for mobile computing (using Remote Desktop when needed). Laptop computing was always a compromise int terms of price per power unit when compared to desktops. I think Apple should bet on this combination more and more, deepening Continuity features while empowering a price model for apps that follow this vision. What better way than they, themselves, doing it already all the way.

  3. igor engelen

    It's sad to read this. I didn't really have an idea how this would work but when I heard about Catalyst a while ago I thought a developer would upload 1 application package with one price tag to the Apple servers and that Apple then would list it in both stores when the necessary code was available. They would then just check the purchase history of your account to determine if you already paid for the app in the other store.

  4. mike2thel73

    If I wanted iPad or iPhone apps I'd by those respective devices.

    I was never a fan of the windows store or Mac stores. They are just money grabs for Microsoft and Apple respectively. Let the web be our gateway for applications like it's been done for decades

    The iOS app and google play stores are money grabs too but they serve a purpose on the mobile devices because they are not regular computers; its easier thru an App Store then trying to navigate web on a smaller screen for applications.

    Tim Cook should be having nightmares of Steve Jobs at this juncture. There is no way he'd allow this. I know I know, he wouldn't allow a big iPhone either.

  5. chaad_losan

    Catalyst: a solution looking for a problem.

  6. Stooks

    Write once......

    Where have I heard that before? iOS 13 has been a massive train wreck. I am no rush to jack up my Macbook. I hardly use it anymore because my T580 is just so much everything.

  7. truerock2

    So, I can see some overlap between my Apple Watch, iPhone and iPad. Regardless, Apple has decided to support 3 different (but related) OS solutions on those 3 devices.

    I think the idea of looking for overlap between a touch-GUI and a keyboard-mouse-GUI is limited and really just an academic thought experiment.

    Looking through the apps on my iPhone, I don't really see anything I really would want to run on a PC. For example, I have VLC media player on both my iPhone and PC - but, the 2 versions of VLC are really very different. I guess the only reason I use VLC on my iPhone is because of its reputation as a really good provider of high-quality software - not because the 2 versions overlap in anyway.

  8. Big_Swifty

    There is also a problem with the new OS and all the DJ's out there that have depended on iTunes to make their living organizing their sets now that Catalina has a new music app. So far only the Traktor Pro 3 from Native Insturments supports things in their beta release. I remember when Apple purchased Logic and took it away from 70,000 Windows users including me and I had to repurchase a new DAW and attempt to redo all my studio setups in the new software. I was using Logic 5.5.0 and had everything configured over MIDI to select patches on a number of sound modules. And Logic provide the ability to write code in the software to control whatever I hooked up. My studio has never been the same since.

  9. jimchamplin

    This is the first year since 2014 that I didn’t jump into the macOS beta. The last couple of releases have had awful beta cycles, and I haven’t been too fond of the OS itself since Sierra.

    Windows 10 runs better on my 2012 Mac mini than macOS has in several years. It’s been laggy and slow since High Sierra and APFS were introduced.

  10. dontbeevil

    "just works"

  11. Pbike908

    Once again, a promised "We finally mastered the ability to run to platforms on a single device" promise falls flat...

    If Apple baked in touch pad support into Ipads, that would be a real winner -- not the half baked "accessibility" support they have now.

    Then, apple could come out with a proper Ipad 2 in 1 with a detachable keyboard that one could use on their lap!

  12. shameermulji

    From all the reviews I've read, macOS Catalina is a major release and a big break from the past on many levels. One comment I read made a good point in mentioning that maybe Apple should have branded it macOS 11.

  13. curtisspendlove

    Surprising ... well ... really ... very few.

    There is a pretty good Catalyst app in there though; Podcasts.

    It isn't my preferred podcast player; but I do think it is an interesting case study in Catalyst apps.

    But yes, the main problem is that it isn't easy to make a *good* Mac app from an iOS one. Sure, you can check a box, compile, and run; but there's still a lot of stuff you really should add to call it a decent Mac App.

  14. dcdevito

    SwiftUI is the best route anyway

  15. Chris_Kez

    My guess is that many developers were held up by the buggy iOS/iPad OS releases this summer. If you’re putting out fires and making fixes to your iOS app, that Catalyst app becomes a tertiary priority. This is day one of a very long process. Let’s see how things look in six months.

  16. Brockman

    Denounce: verb publicly declare to be wrong or evil

    Where did Netflix "denounce" Mac Catalyst?

  17. shmuelie

    Netflix has a UWP app...