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the future of iOS and macOS

This year Apple solved one of the recurring questions that have been asked most of the company since iOS became a successful operating system thanks to the popularization of devices such as the iPhone or iPad. ” We are often asked if we are going to combine macOS and iOS. I will try to be clear and direct with the answer: NO “. Craig Federighi’s refusal may seem to be a rash decision or a step in the right direction, but nothing could be further from the truth. Apple knows how to mark the times very well and now was the perfect moment – taking advantage of the Mojave MacOS release – to advance a technology that will allow certain iOS apps to work on Mac .

There was much speculation about this ( in December 2017 Mark Gurman himself previewed the news ), although interpretations were then very open. We didn’t know clearly if Apple would completely open the iOS App Store on Macs , if it would filter by versions ( iPhone or iPad ) and above all, if this would be automatic in some way or the developers had to take some previous steps.

the future of iOS and macOSthe future of iOS and macOS

The arrival of Mojave macOS brings with it a new framework – a set of libraries and utilities – with which you can port iOS apps to macOS. In principle it seems that the iPad versions are the most suitable – because of the screen size – although Apple has not put any restrictions on them yet. This set of migration utilities from apps to the Mac will be available in 2019 for developers . However, this story begins much earlier.

The “baby software” and path changes

It’s 2007 and a jubilant Steve Jobs has just told the world that his new smartphone is called the iPhone. That they’re going to reinvent telephony. And that he hates the ” baby software “, those applications without any design and made practically to fit in the ridiculous screens of the badly called then “smartphones”, without thinking about the interaction with the user or his productivity . Like someone who bets everything on a card, the following slide showed a giant X and that became a moment for history: ” The iPhone uses OS X “. That phrase and the following applause surprised the audience… and the industry.

The iPhone would use the base of the all-powerful OS X, but was going to redesign the user interface taking full advantage of the new device

There were already smartphones with desktop operating systems. There were those versions of Windows, which were just toy interpretations of the desktop metaphor . On “bigger” devices, even Windows itself with hardly any modifications for the touchscreen – which by the way was rudimentary for the time, forget about today’s multi-touch devices – make those devices to be used only in case of need . There was no natural shift towards that technology because it did the same things better – mobile devices were considered only incidental to desktop computing.

Jobs was clear that he needed something different from what he had on the Mac, but he didn’t have to start completely from scratch. In the legendary iPhone presentation, he’s the one who tells us that OS X has everything you need in a mobile device : multitasking, network management, audio and security, advanced video drivers ( Core Animation… ), was energy efficient software ( was used on portable Macs, improving every year ) and allowed the counterpoint to the baby software : the so-called “Desktop Class apps”, software with “desktop” quality referring to power, productivity and quality of results.

Therefore, from day 0 the Apple smartphone had iPhone OS – later renamed to iOS, with the emergence of the iPad – and was basically a back-end OS X-based operating system but with a completely new showcase for the user: a new interface and a new way of user-machine interaction ( the multi-touch screen operated directly with the fingers ) which completely redefined how even competing mobile applications would look for the next few years.

iOS and the need for lifelong learning

During the first years, I would say that little more than the arrival of the App Store and the landing of the developers in the ecosystem, the basis for learning and taking ideas came from macOS . In this early phase of feedback into the mobility scenario, ideas that worked on the desktop had to be taken and tried to be transferred with the power provided by the solid foundation of OS X . However, as the devices began to become more independent, new ideas began to emerge that would not have been possible to discover at the desktop – not in the natural way that they did.

The feedback changed direction: it was iOS that had more possibilities because of the new hardware of the devices and that served to enrich certain aspects of macOS

One of them was geolocation, and all the advantages that a device with a GPS chip could bring to our pockets. Now it may sound incredible, but people were questioning the appearance of the iPhone 3GS and its usefulness beyond navigation systems – which on the other hand, were rather scarce at the time. Today it is used to complete information with photographs, share locations, maps, extended reality… The uses that were derived there gave rise to new apps and ideas, but this is just one example. The need for a centralized and comfortable place like the App Store – with its ease of installation and uninstallation – came later to the Mac with a lot of iOS bouquet.

The feedback was so important – and impressive – that already in these last years many have wondered about the need to have two operating systems, when one of them is clearly more used within the ecosystem today. Hence the recurring question to Apple that led to that giant NO last Monday. And although it sounds radical, the answer was in a way expected : Apple cannot combine both operating systems because the user experience of the devices where they are installed is radically different . That’s why, for example, Macs won’t have a touch screen for the time being: macOS and their interface are not set up to be used comfortably in this way.

On the Mac, applications have different objectives because they are contextualized differently from the devices we all carry in our pockets: but even so, there are many ideas that can be used

The Mac apps are also designed with the ergonomics of these machines , the keyboard, the use of trackpad or mouse, the flexibility in using various displays or types of storage and accessories in mind. But what Apple tells us now is that the way we will do it is the opposite of how the competition did it: it is not about bringing Windows to pocket devices and expecting it to work, it is about creating a system like iOS based on a strong and powerful foundation and designing it from scratch for the mobile world . And all those ideas, all that learning, can eventually come to the Mac – and enrich it. That’s what the Marzipan project is all about, though perhaps not in the way we imagined.

Macs are truly multi-platform machines

Federighi said a great phase in his speech during the keynote: “Macs really are multi-platform machines”, and putting this sentence into context he is absolutely right. They have powerful apps that use all the power of the Mac and its features, but they also have others that use the webkit engine (Safari) to load web apps like Netflix, or even games that use multi-platform engines because they are based on Metal (shared by iOS and macOS). All this enriches the Mac experience. ” And we thought there was one more we could add. It’s called iOS, does it ring a bell? “.

The migration kit will make it very easy for developers to port apps from iOS to macOS, even giving them new possibilities

However, we are not talking here about combining the two operating systems to the brave ones , but – again – to use a natural transition for applications that can run well on the Mac with minimal modifications. ” It’s a huge opportunity for the Mac to take advantage of the world’s best app ecosystem ” – so this “migration kit” planned by Apple for 2019 will give developers the tools they need to make their app work on the Mac. And with Mojave MacOS , Apple wants to do the first tests: the new apps included in the new operating system are migrations of its iOS versions: Home, Apple News, Stock Market and Voice Notes.

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It is the iPad versions chosen in this case, to which mouse support, screen theme changes and access to system services have of course been added. They are easily identifiable because in the app service menu, there are hardly any options specific to the app – since these apps have their own preferences menu accessible from the app interface itself. It is possible that with the final release of the migration kit, developers will be able to add more features – even new ones specific to Mac – to their apps. All of this would result in a more professional version of these applications on desktop systems that would take advantage of the power and accessory benefits, while the “iOS” versions would become stronger in user comfort, accessibility and productivity.

The future of mixed, non-shaken apps

The new possibilities opened to developers make both platforms into channels where an app can work in a specialized way

Who would have thought that we would ever apply the famous James Bond phrase to software, but yes: mixing apps between operating systems is an excellent idea to power up macOS. At the moment this migration is only thought of in the direction iOS -> macOS , as the opposite direction would give problems with user interface design and the – so far – inferior performance of iOS devices on a high-end Mac, for example. The ease of porting applications to the Mac however will result in excellent software momentum and even understanding : these multi-platform apps will no longer use the various machines as a filter for software, but as specialized channels where the software is powered by the specific technology of each device – and without all that being a headache for the developer, without having to duplicate effort to achieve it, using this migration kit that is coming.

At the moment, in the first beta of Mojave macOS we already have access to “Phase 1” – as Apple has called it – with these own apps that we can use, as we use any other in our Mac. From this new phase of interaction , new ideas will surely arise: perhaps a homogenization of the use between systems ( the modal windows within an iOS app in macOS cannot be resized with the mouse nowadays, for example ) or even a normalization of the appearance of the user interface between both , without losing at any time the identity of each one, nor the strengths that differentiate them. It is a fantastic roadmap, and a new success for that Jobs bet on a direction that today’s Apple continues – projecting its ideas.

A demonstration of strength** and how the company continues to evolve its legacy, its understanding of technology and its vision of the future: perhaps mixed, but never shaken .

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