Universal Apps: Is the Mac in danger?

“There have been published reports that, beginning with macOS 10.14 and iOS 12, you’ll be able to run an iPhone or iPad app on a Mac,” Gene Steinberg writes for The Tech Night Owl. “And vice versa, although I can see some complexities that are being overlooked in the simplistic coverage about so-called Universal apps.”

“Now this wouldn’t be the first time that Apple made it possible to develop apps running on two different processors. Besides, the Unix core of iOS and macOS were designed to be portable, capable of running on multiple processors. There was even an Intel version of NeXTSTEP, precursor to the original Mac OS X,” Steinberg writes. “In the early days, it was possible to build apps that would run on Intel and PowerPC, which surely eased the transition. And iOS is basically a slimmed down version of macOS designed to run efficiently on mobile gear.”

“One article I read, however, suggests this might be a way to begin a wide scale transition from Mac to iPhone and iPad. Remember when Steve Jobs referred to Macs as trucks? So are they planning on building crossovers?” Steinberg writes. “But don’t assume a merger is imminent or in the cards. It may very well be that Apple wanted to improve the ability to use productivity apps on the iPad, and taking some cues from the Mac was simply the logical thing to do. There may be more of that in future iOS updates, but that, again, doesn’t mean the Mac is due to be supplanted. It may simply be a matter of providing the best tools for the tasks at hand.”

Read more in the full article here.

MacDailyNews Take: Betteridge’s law holds yet again.

Think code convergence (more so than today) with UI modifications per device. A unified underlying codebase for Intel, Apple A-series, and, in Apple’s labs, likely other chips, too (just in case). This would allow for a single App Store for Mac, iPhone, and iPad users that features a mix of apps: Some that are touch-only, some that are Mac-only, and some that are universal (can run on both traditional notebooks and desktops as well as on multi-touch computers like iPhone, iPad, iPod touch, and – pretty please, Apple – Apple TV). Don’t be surprised to see Apple A-series-powered Macs, either.MacDailyNews Take, January 9, 2014

Apple is working to unite iOS and macOS; will they standardize their chip platform next? – December 21, 2017
Why Apple would want to unify iOS and Mac apps in 2018 – December 20, 2017
Apple to provide tool for developers build cross-platform apps that run on iOS and macOS in 2018 – December 20, 2017
The once and future OS for Apple – December 8, 2017
On the future of Apple’s Macintosh – February 6, 2017
Tim Bajarin: I see Apple moving many users to an iOS-based mobile device over the next 3-4 years – November 7, 2016
What comes after OS X? – January 9, 2014


  1. This article speaks form both sides of its mouth. Schools, universities, photo and video editors and the like are not going to replace their iMacs and Mac Pros for an iPhone or iPad.

    In fact the last three years gong on four of the trash can Mac Pro have caused many people to move to the PC. Apple better watch it.

    1. And the iPad far outsells both the MacPro AND the similarly equipped PC’s that would replace them.

      Very very few people need a truck, some do, yes, and for them, they don’t need a yearly update. They don’t even need an every two year update. Actually it’s more like if you NEEDING a faster update and OWNING a Mac are becoming mutually exclusive.

      1. “far outsells”?

        Might this once again be the fallacy of where unit sales are compared directly under the assumption that each product generates the same amount of net profit?

  2. Idea of Mac/iOS convergence has been floating around even since Jobs’ ear. Now ™ Cook being such an IOS-centric person that is (he may not understand the whole pros and cons of the convergence, but he loves the current success of the iPhone).
    So, they may forcibly do it. If they are going to do it anyway, then, start from refining iWork suite first please?

  3. Still waiting on the iTunes App store replacement software.
    There is nothing I enjoy more than researching 20 or 30 iPhone apps and no longer being able to use my laptop display and external display to compare, copy and paste info and put together a Word or Excel summary of the research. /s

    I guess Apple expects us to do that on an iPhone.

    1. It’s easy, if an app doesn’t have a website, it’s not with your time. If it DOES have a website, the info there is FAAAAR more useful than the snippets in the store. They may also have forums you can use to talk to other actual users.

    1. “what are “producers/truck” OS people going to use to create the consumer content?”

      Any supported Mac? They will still make SOME trucks, but not a whole heck of a lot of them.

  4. Same codebase, separate UI classes for each platform. That way, you don’t need to unnecessarily dumb down a Mac app to have it work on both macOS and iOS*.

    * Yes I know Apple themselves are guilty of just that with many apps including iWork in particular.

  5. What iOS apps do users really want or need on the iMac? I cannot think of that many. Why would Apple go through this coding exercise (and the ensuing headache of maintaining compatibility between platforms) when it should devote its Mac resources to ensuring better quality and performance of the Mac OS. Using the truck analogy, however flawed, makes the point. Most people who own a truck also own a car. Different design, different purposes even though they have a few components in common.

    1. Would have thought a small truck, utility, SUV, 4by4 et al have about 80% compatibility/commonality to an average car, surely it’s only towards either end that the commonality between them becomes marginal. But those extremes don’t represent the mainstream and increasingly in computing those extremes are even less an important a factor in the market place as the power of the low end product becomes increasingly capable of doing more in the mainstream.

      1. Yes, this “80% commonality” is the part that concerns me, particularly since Tim Cook is notorious for his supply chain minimization – – there’s a lot of stuff in Macs that can’t go into mobile iOS devices, so it represents a huge risk of _decreased_ hardware capability for Macs.

        That’s how we would end up with Macs that have zero I/O ports (because the iPad/iPhone only use wireless).

        That’s how we would end up with Macs that have only 2GB of RAM (because that’s what’s in an iPhone/iPad).

        That’s how we end up with the most powerful Mac running on only an A12 CPU.

        1. I strongly suspected that removal of the Expresscard slot in 2009 on the 15” MBP, which was also the introduction of Unibody was to minimize the stocking of components. TOTALLY self serving! Apple’s excuse at the time was that fewer than 10% used it. A lame excuse for a $2K+ machine with less that 10% market share. A cynic was born!

      1. Yes, SJ said that, and Apple gave us iPad. Eight years later iPad and iOS still can’t do a fraction of the work one can accomplish on a Mac or Windows PC. The simplest tasks like reading a PDF file from a thumb drive are beyond the capabilities of the “iPad Pro” (Error message: The attached device needs too much power).

    1. No. A ‘universal’ app will have code for BOTH platforms.

      In this case, running RISC apps on CISC CPUs is the easiest move because the apps do NOT rely on the CPU’s CISC APIs (which are vast on x86 Intel chips). The RISC code has to be recompiled and somewhat rewritten to work with the CISC CPUs, but the effort is minuscule compared to having to almost entirely rewrite, including creating a great deal of new code, to move a CISC app to RISC.

      The end result with a ‘universal’ app is that it contains TWO versions of the program, sometimes with shared libraries, each of which is specific to either (but not both) RISC (as in iOS apps) or CISC (as in the macOS version of the app). In this case, the RISC CPUs are Apple’s A-Series ARM based CPUs and CISC CPUs are Intel’s x86 series.

      If you don’t understand the technobabble above, then all I can offer you are these starting points as well as advice that you take Computing 101:

      Complex instruction set computer

      Reduced instruction set computer

      There is actually MORE involved that just the CPU oriented code. There is also GPU oriented code and even more. It’s entirely likely there are iOS apps that depend on other iOS device hardware that can’t run on macOS or require workaround code to deal with macOS device hardware. I’ll skip that lecture.

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