With MacOS 10.12 "Mojave," Apple begin the process of porting iOS apps to Mac. Mac users will get a glimpse of the first set of iOS apps on Mac on September 24, when Apple said it will release MacOS Mojave with four of its own apps: News, Stocks, Voice Memos, and Home. Then in 2019, third-party developers will be able to start moving their own apps to the Mac App Store.
The iOS platform is such a dynamic developer ecosystem, with over 2 million apps in the App Store. That dwarfs the number of Mac apps. With so many developer resources going into building great apps on iOS -- including many larger versions of apps for iPad -- it makes sense that Apple would want to bring some of that mojo to the desktop.
iOS apps come to MacOS 10.14 Mojave
The first four iOS apps to make the jump from the iOS app store to the Mac should be familiar to iPhone and iPad users.
HOME. Manage all your HomeKit-enabled "smart home" accessories with the Home app on MacOS. The app lets you organize accessories by room and manage multiple HomeKit accessories at once. You can also automate common actions to save you from performing the same steps everyday. You can control and monitor everything with the Home app, Siri, and your Apple Watch and give access to trusted friends and family.
APPLE NEWS. Mojave's News app provides a personalized feed of news stories from trusted sources. You can view news of the day, editor's picks, top stories, items Apple is highlighting, and specific topics such as fashion and science. You can also add publications you subscribe to in News -- to keep your subscriptions in one place -- and because News automatically syncs your reading progress across your Apple devices, you can start reading an article on your iPhone and pick up where you left off on your Mac. And you can refresh the app to make sure you're seeing the latest news.
STOCKS. Follow stocks, indexes, and currencies throughout the day with the Stocks app on MacOS. You can build your own custom watch list; follow stocks and market indices by price change, percentage change, and market cap; and then sync everything across Apple devices. The app also incorporates business news curated by Apple News editors, and you can see articles about the specific companies you follow in your watch list.
VOICE MEMOS. The Voice Memos app lets you record voice notes, lectures, and interviews on Macs. It includes editing tools for trimming and inserts clips and even re-recording part of memos. And you sync audio files via iCloud across Apple devices.
The promise of a richer collection of Mac apps
Of course, a handful of Apple-built apps already exist on both mobile and desktop platforms, including Safari, Maps, and Notes. What's different with Mojave is, the universal framework will make it easier for third-party iOS developers to port their mobile apps over.
While some worry that bringing iOS apps to the Mac may signal the end of the Mac platform, many others see it as a sign of Apple's support for the Mac.
"It seems a lot of folks have been engaging in wishful thinking around the iOS and Mac platforms merging into a single OS," said Jonathan Lehr, co-founder and vice president of training for About Objects, a development and consulting firm based in Reston, Virginia. "That's clearly not Apple's strategy, though. Its strategy is to maintain separate operating systems, each carefully tuned to a specific hardware platform, which is why there are currently four Apple OSes: watchOS, tvOS, macOS, and iOS."
Lehr, who has a background as a Mac and iOS developer, feels bringing iOS apps to the Mac will only help Mac users: "It's a significant move by Apple to bolster the Mac App Store, which has seen extremely modest growth in terms of the number of new apps being added. So Mac users will soon have a huge influx of new apps to choose from."
Ken Case, CEO of The Omni Group, maker of OmniOutliner and other productivity apps for the Mac and iOS, agrees the universal framework is a positive sign. "Anything Apple can do to reduce the barriers to creating Mac apps is a great move for the platform and for the ecosystem as a whole," Case said.
"I think this technology will be incredibly useful at making Mac development much more accessible to the millions of iOS developers that are out there -- all of whom happen to already use Macs," Case added. "I look forward to seeing a lot more apps in the Mac App Store in a few years!"
To aid in the move across platforms, Apple is building a development framework that will be shared between iOS and MacOS and let iOS developers easily bring their apps over. The development framework will, in part, help iOS developers adjust their apps to the Mac user interface, and handle trackpad and mouse input, app window buttons, scroll bars, copy and paste, and drag and drop, for example.
Keeping the Mac vital
The move may also expand the Mac's capabilities.
"I'm fine with it," said Gus Mueller, founder and programmer at Flying Meat, maker of the popular Acorn image editor and Retrobatch image processor. "I really do hope we see things from iOS move to the Mac, touch and Pencil support in particular."
And Mueller notes that Apple's helping iOS developers move their apps to the Mac may benefit the company in the long term as well.
If the rumors from earlier this year are true that Apple intends to move the Mac off Intel architecture and onto the Apple-designed processors the company already uses in its iOS devices, having a shared development framework between iOS and MacOS would ease the transition.
"Nimble indie shops and apps like Acorn and Retrobatch would most certainly be there on day one of a hypothetical transition," Mueller said. "But with Apple helping iOS developers bring their apps to the Mac, you have a billion other developers that have a codebase nearly ready to be compiled on any new Mac architecture."
Another Mac processor transplant?
The Mac -- built with Intel processors -- is the only Apple device that doesn't use Apple-designed chips. Apple's "A" series of chips power the company's iPhones, iPads, iPods, and Apple TV; Apple's "S" series of chips drive the Apple Watch.
If Apple does swap out Intel processors, it wouldn't be the Mac's first CPU transplant. In 1994, Macs moved from Motorola's 680x0 chips to the PowerPC platform, designed by Apple, IBM, and Motorola. And then in 2006, Apple replaced the PowerPC with Intel CPUs. Both times, the transition was aided by an emulator, allowing users to run their older Mac software till developers could update their apps for the new architecture.
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1. With MacOS Mojave shipping on September 24, Mac users will get access to four popular Apple-created iOS apps, with third-party iOS apps coming in 2019.
2. By helping iOS developers bring their apps to the Mac, Apple may be laying the groundwork for a rumored Mac transition from Intel chips to Apple-designed processors.
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