iOS app on Macs: here’s how it will go down

JC Torres - Jun 5, 2018, 9:21pm CDT
iOS app on Macs: here’s how it will go down

iOS and macOS are not going to merge. Apple CEO Tim Cook already set his foot down on that matter. That’s just the TL;DR version, though. The fine print, however, does mention something about a more “unified” experience. At WWDC 2018 earlier this week, SVP Craig Federighi made a not so surprising and still surprising revelation: iOS apps will, in the near future, run on Macs. Not so surprising because it is what rumors and leaks have been leading up to but also surprising because Apple has admitted as much.

Speaking to WIRED, Federighi shed more light on both the technical and practical aspects of this move. There won’t be a simulator or emulator that will automatically make iOS apps works on macOS. Instead, Apple will leverage the fact that the two operating systems share a lot of things in common already, from the kernel at the lowest level up to the graphics and audio frameworks.

What Apple will do, instead, is to update iOS-specific frameworks like UIKit to work on Macs. Depending on how the iOS app works, developers won’t need to change much to make them run on macOS. Some things will be done automatically for them, like turning “right-clicks” (two-finger taps) into long press gestures. They would still, however, need to make some adjustments when it comes to making the iOS UI conform to macOS rules in terms of design and functionality.

What Apple is doing, in essence, is to try to give iOS app developers a chance to widen their audience without having to dive into macOS software development. It is not, Federighi would insist, an attempt to unify the two operating systems. This is in stark contrast to Microsoft’s new approach with Windows 10, making the OS available on different devices and providing developers with a Universal Windows Platform (UWP) framework.

And before anyone gets any ideas, Federighi also shoots down the possibility of a touch-enabled MacBook. For Apple, there’s just no market for those, despite what Microsoft and PC makers and, soon, Google might say. Which also means that Macs are unlikely to get hardware such as motion sensors, making some types of iOS apps useless on Macs.

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