On Marzipan – Bad Focus ? macOS Revival ?

At the WWDC 2018 conference, in the last 10 minutes of the keynote, Apple introduced something unexpected, a project to include portion of UIKit into macOS, side by side with AppKit in order to be able to more easily port iPad applications to macOS. The code name of this new technology is “Marzipan“. To me, the announcement is an example of Apple losing focus. Here is why.

If you go back and listen to the keynote, you’ll notice that the basic reasoning for introducing this technology is the fact that “millions” of applications are being written for the iPad (oops, the iOS ecosystem, a fraction of those are really designed, developed and put together with the iPad in mind). In comparison, the macOS ecosystem looks like a desert lacking new applications that are fun and powerful. Would this be cool if we could allow these apps to be ported on the Mac ? According to Apple, yes.

I’m not saying that making it easier for the developers to “port” their apps on macOS isn’t needed. Quite the contrary. But the way Apple presents this is like “here is a brand new platform, macOS, so, in order to help kickstart the application development for it, we will allow iPad apps to be easily be ported on it”. The problem here is simple: macOS has been left in the cold by Apple itself since the iPhone came out. Plain and simple. All they did is make sure some of the iOS features also works (well mostly) on the Mac too. Case in point? AirDrop, Continuity, iCloud Clipboard, etc. Also, they rewrote a few stuff and drop other things too. So if Apple doesn’t really care, why would iOS developers care too?

But the most fundamental problem with this initiative is the rebuttal of reality: the world is moving away from computers, I mean, traditional computers in exchange of hyper transportability and convenience. In other words, the Mac is a dead end in the long run for 80% of the population if not more. Why so many iOS developers would love to see Xcode being built on iPad then? They want to remove friction in the process of building apps. Having to write, compile and test an iOS application on the Mac is a process that will be eliminated eventually. And what does Apple do, they create a technology to do the reverse. More than that, they re-inforce the need to to use the Mac to write macOS apps but with iOS UIKit in the middle.

Here is what I expect will happen. First, the technology won’t be ready in 2019 like Apple told everybody. Second, apps won’t come in masses to the macOS because they is less than 10% of active users on this platform compared to iOS and this pourcentage is probably decreasing over time. This is not economically viable. Third, they won’t be able to charge more for their apps because it is available on macOS. Fourth, applications will look weird on macOS and this is not an easy thing to fix has this would need re-designing part of the user experience on macOS. Fifth, applications will not be has powerful as if they were built only for macOS because the vast majority of iPad in the wild are not of the latest generations, so apps will have to either require only latest generations (which is not good for potential revenues) or they will be less capable in order to run on both platforms. Multi-plaform developments has never been great and I don’t see this changing because of Apple and “Marzipan”.

If you want another point of view on the matter, please read this excellente article: “On Marzipan” by . This article was part of my own desire to express myself on the subject.

Finally, we are witnessing a company, Apple, that is now shipping unfinished stuff. Shipping macOS Mojave with four apps (News, Stocks, Home, Voice Memos) that looks weird and built on moving grounds is a unprecedented and is disturbing. They don’t even pretend they are beta versions of apps. Troubling.

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