Linked by Thom Holwerda on Wed 20th Dec 2017 23:04 UTC

Mark Gurman:

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.

Developers currently must design two different apps - one for iOS, the operating system of Apple's mobile devices, and one for macOS, the system that runs Macs. That's a lot more work. What's more, Apple customers have long complained that some Mac apps get short shrift. For example, while the iPhone and iPad Twitter app is regularly updated with the social network's latest features, the Mac version hasn't been refreshed recently and is widely considered substandard. With a single app for all machines, Mac, iPad and iPhone users will get new features and updates at the same time.

Apple currently plans to begin rolling out the change as part of next fall's major iOS and macOS updates, said the people, who requested anonymity to discuss an internal matter. The secret project, codenamed "Marzipan", is one of the tentpole additions for next year's Apple software road map. Theoretically, the plan could be announced as early as the summer at the company's annual developers conference if the late 2018 release plan remains on track. Apple's plans are still fluid, the people said, so the implementation could change or the project could still be canceled.

This is a massive change in Apple's direction. The company and its supporters have always held fast to the concept that there should be two distinct and different operating systems with two distinct and different user interfaces, very much the opposite of what Microsoft is still trying to do with Windows Metro applications and their Surface line-up. This change is basically a complete embrace of Microsoft's vision for the future of computing.

This will have tremendous consequences for both iOS and macOS. For iOS, it probably means we get more advanced, fuller-featured applications, and I think this also pretty much confirms we're going to see a mouse pointer and trackpad/mouse support on iOS in the very near future - just as I predicted earlier this year. For macOS, it might mean a broader base of applications to choose from, but also possibly a dumbing-down of existing applications. A number of Apple applications already work very much like the article states, and they certainly lost functionality on the macOS side of things.

On the more speculative side, this could be the next step in deprecating macOS, which is, in my unfounded opinion, still Apple's ultimate goal here. Note how Apple isn't bringing macOS applications to iOS, but vice versa. Make of that what you will, but I wouldn't have too much faith in the long term viability of macOS as a platform distinct and separate from iOS.

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Let's not jump to obvious conclusions
by PlunderBunny on Thu 21st Dec 2017 01:13 UTC
Member since:

It seems to me that people are assuming this means that iOS apps would be ported to the macOS with a re-compile or via a tool, or would run in an emulator. That's not what the article author says (" developers will be able to design a single application that works with a touchscreen or mouse and trackpad." - emphasis mine).
For example (off the top of my head), what if Apple was to make a very high level application designer where the programmer describes the 'flow' of the application, and various tools then translate this to a code skeleton that works for both iOS and macOS, with the programmer then filling in the UI gaps in a way that's appropriate for each OS?
This also would be a more sustainable strategy for the macOS going forward.

Edited 2017-12-21 01:17 UTC

Reply Score: 3

wigry Member since:

I guess that Apple simply allows embedding also the layout for the desktop application in the same project and developer then can decide if one builds a desktop or mobile flavor of the app and the XCode will pick the appropriate layout. It is just an XML file afterall (although heavily propriatary undocumented schema). Its the same as app developer can have wildly different layouts for phones and iPads because they are actually two independent layouts. Therefore it will not be a problem for Apple to allow inclusion of the third option and also allow desktop project to be coupled up with mobile project (they still use different API-s UIKit vs APPKit)

Edited 2017-12-21 11:46 UTC

Reply Parent Score: 3

HereIsAThought Member since:

Exactly - you could also imagine the idea of something similar to the look and feel stuff that Java had - when your app ran on windows it had a windows look and feel, when on the mac a different one.

As the form factor and screen res of their phones and tablets diversifies, as they support split screen coupled with different orientations then you need something more flexible anyway.

Not easy to do well, but unlike Java at least they are only targeting devices they have control of.

In terms of Arm or Intel - obviously fat binaries are something they have done before - but in this case the xcode could automatically compile twice and the app store send you the right version.

Or they could even ship you the LLVM intermediate code and as part of the installation it's compiled to your specific device!

No need to run emulators.

Reply Parent Score: 3

leech Member since:

Isn't this basically what Nokia was going to do before Elop with the whole Qt/QML Qt Designer? It basically creates various layouts for various device type interfaces to make it easier to code your same app for different devices/layouts.

At least it sounded like that was supposed to be the idea behind it.

Reply Parent Score: 1