Craig Federighi Talks about Bringing iOS Apps to the Mac

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iOS apps are coming to the Mac. Apple’s Craig Federighi sat down with Wired to offer some specifics about how that will work.

Rather than putting iOS apps on to MacOS, they should work on making MacOS run on iOS devices and get away from having two operating systems. It made more sense 15 years ago to use part of the MacOS as the basis for the limited iOS due to hardware limitations. However, the iOS hardware is almost as fast and capable as a basic MacBook hardware. Get rid of iOS and it’s limitations and let us full MacOS on the Phone, Pad, etc.

Are you suggesting some sort of pointer-based system with menus, etc? I don’t see how that would work with a touch based interface (look for an old Windows CE PDA if you want to experience the limitations of this approach!).

In terms of the OS, the issue is not whether iPhones and iPads are powerful enough. Technically, I think they are essentially running the full ‘Mac OS’. The differentiation with the two platforms is really at the upper layers: the windowing and interaction systems. And the reason they are different is not due to the iOS hardware being somehow too slow or incapable, it’s because they require a different interaction model. You could have multiple windows on iOS (and to an extent, the iPad now does), but managing and interacting with them is the challenge.

As I understand it, part of the attraction of the iOS APIs (aside from the many more developers who are familiar with them) is that they are more ‘modern’ having been developed without needing legacy compatibility with previous versions of the API dating back to the early 90s. So they can be easier to program with. Whether they have the flexibility to provide the complexity that the Mac’s interface can accommodate remains to be seen.

Of course the iOS hardware is inadequate for a full macOS experience. 16 GB RAM vs. 2 GB. Huge mem bandwidth vs. limited mem BW that comes with low-power envelope. Anybody who’s ever switched apps (as in actual multitasking) knows why iOS doesn’t hold a candle to macOS.

IMHO all this iOS is the future stuff is just blather fueled by its novelty. When you need to get actual work done there is no doubt that macOS is far more capable. People might like poking and tapping, but KB & mouse are far more productive in general. And for once, Apple seems to have understood this when they acknowledged that for actual work, macOS will never be merged with or make way for iOS.

There is no reason things have to be unified (toaster and fridge). Different approaches cater to different types of use. Different hardware excels at different tasks. Specialization is good. Variety is valuable. Unification for the sake of unification is for bozos. iOS can be pushed all it wants, when it comes to scientific or engineering work a tap interface a la iOS has nothing on a “conventional” computer with macOS. Likewise, why force somebody who likes watching movies on an iPad or reading books on an iPhone to use a full-fledged macOS? As long as Apple can make good money with both there is zero reason to force one community to morph into using the other’s tools.

The iPad Pro screens are the same sizes as the MacBook Air screens, so just by connecting a keyboard you have a ersatz “MacBook Air” staring you in the face. Boost the RAM, add Magic Mouse and it would be even closer to the MBA.

iOS has always been a crippled OS compared to MacOS, and Timmy, et al at Apple seemed determined to cripple the latter by changing MacOS features to work like iOS; they even said the goal was to merge the two. Fortunately that asinine idea seems to be out the Window.

BTW, running WinCE on a 1 - 2 inch PDA screen is a lot different that on an 11 or 13 inch tablet. Maybe if they had used a tablet sized screen, there would not have been as many limitations.

People on here keep repeating this, but as far as I can remember, Apple has always denied any merging of iOS and macOS. But that’s not to say a new OS couldn’t appear that draws from both…

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I agree, I don’t recall Apple stating this. But I do remember their actions speaking a rather strong language. Recall things like dumbing down Keynote et al. on macOS in an effort to be able to claim feature parity and full compatibility with the iOS counterparts. Or telling prosumer photographers that Aperture on macOS is dead and that they would have to switch to something that was from the start tailored to simplified use and interoperability with iCloud/iOS.

Although I don’t believe Apple has ever gone on the record saying macOS and iOS should be unified, they have 1) put substantially more resources behind software dev on iOS compared to macOS and 2) have repeatedly dumbed down macOS in an effort to make it more like iOS rather than use macOS as the gold standard for the level of productivity iOS should one day achieve.

Jean-Louis Gasse’s Monday Note from yesterday has a chart that shows that iOS device revenue is about 10 times Mac revenue, iOS device units sold are about 17 times Mac device units sold.

You say that Apple has been putting substantially more resources toward iOS app development over macOS without any facts, but let’s say that it’s true. (I agree that it seems to be, but, like “Apple always wanted to combine the two platforms, now they have changed their mind”, maybe we should avoid conjecture in order to avoid straw man arguments?) Anyway, shouldn’t Apple be concentrating more on iOS software development over macOS development given those figures?

And one of Gasse’s points is that by giving developers tools that allow quicker porting of iOS apps to the Mac, that should strengthen, not hurt, the Mac. The question is, of course, how much will it strengthen Mac app development.

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Steve Jobs said Apple would never make an iPhone with a bigger screen. Then Androids with bigger screens started damaging iPhone and iPad sales. And what sized premium high-end phones are the most profitable in the industry? Large screened iPhones.

iOS and Mac OS are in separate ball parks today, and are most likely to stay that way for the immediate future. But who knows what Apple and competitive brands have up their sleeve for the next 5-10 years? Desktop and laptop sales have been tanking for years because professionals and consumers are using them less and less across the board, while mobile device sales and upgrades are exploding.

My niece, a pediatric ICU physician and published researcher, has been using an MS Surface laptop in the hospital for over a year, as has my family doctor, who uses one in the examining rooms in his practice, when they are not at their desks. My nephew, who manages an accounting team for a large financial services company, uses a Surface when he’s not at his desk, My cousin, an astrophysicist and professor, uses an iPad Pro for work when he’s untethered. I work with a lot of people in online, broadcast and print production, other than the ones who do fine detail work in visuals and sound, are also moving more and more to iOS devices whenever possible. All the salespeople in the field that I know are using mobile devices more and more, some of them edging close to 100%.

And I can’t help remember how Adobe and Avid tried to squeeze Apple out of the picture when they announced they were developing for Windows but never for a Mac. About a year later, Steve Jobs released Final Cut Pro that cost about $1,000 and could run on Anything OS X, including MacBooks. Apple literally made editing mobile. The competition could only run on big iron and the software alone cost in the $20,000+ range, and it was impossible to work with on set. FCP’s price was not only attractive to established US production companies, it caught on even faster with indies, universities and companies worldwide.

And there’s a global shift in how information is consumed and shared across industries and across the globe. Film is no longer delivered in canisters to movie theaters, and attendance in movie theaters has fallen. Television is no longer broadcast to home antennas and DVD sales are tanking. Music is increasingly being streamed as CD sales continue to nosedive. This is happening in the business and scientific worlds as well. X-rays, robo surgery, records, calculations, results, communications, etc., etc. have revolutionized everything.

Apple has thrived because it delivers high quality, often revolutionary user experience, devices, software and services to people before they even know they will want it. And the devices always work well with one another. Microsoft no longer has a phone system, Alphabet has Android, but the devices it runs on are fragmented and don’t usually play nice together. Amazon and Facebook don’t have an OS, at least not yet. Having iOS and OS that work together will be a tremendous competitive advantage.

I’m not sure this is really true. Apple has introduced features to macOS to make it more like iOS, like Launchpad, but you can generally ignore those. And while Apple has rewritten apps like Pages to enable them to run in both iOS and iCloud, and in the process lost features, those features have largely come back over time.

I certainly don’t feel that I’m any less productive in High Sierra than in any previous version of macOS.

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Except you can’t because they get in the way and break stuff that previously worked just fine. To take your Launchpad example, now that silly “feature” has been mapped onto a fct key instead of the actually useful Dashboard. So now either you get into third-party hacks to remap your keys (since none of the tech boards–including this one–have so far been able to provide a reliable built-in path to remapping) or you put up with losing a simple and versatile KB shortcut. Either way, you either lose time, functionality, or both.

Yes, and in that time we waited (years, not weeks) productivity did suffer. My point exactly. Alternatively, you could hold off on updating, but then you’re no longer getting any security or other updates, because like with iOS (and unlike macOS) it’s either you take the latest and greatest or screw you.

The question is also not if we’re as productive as we used to be. The real question is how much better things could be if Apple devoted some serious effort to macOS. And sure, since they make $10 off of phones for every $1 spent on Macs it’s easy to justify that as being a rational business decision. Just like back in the day it would have made sense for Apple to close shop, give the shareholders their money back, and we all migrate to Windows. Of course that’s baloney. For starters it neglects to distinguish between cause and effect. Worse yet, that simplistic argument of course assumes the iPhone will always be this uber-cash cow and iOS will always retain sizable market share. Big ifs for a fashion item with appeal to teenagers. As we know they’ll jump ship faster than you can say and-what-was-with-that-Mac-thing-again. Quite unlike professional computer users.

Can’t you just remap that key in System Prefs?

I’ve never accidentally triggered Launchpad that I remember. I forgot that it exists.

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Haha, that’s what you’d think. As did I. Bottom line, nope. It’s not as easy as you’d think it should/could be. But now we’re really straying off topic.

Maybe for certain things, but if he does computational astrophysics at all, an iPad Pro just won’t cut it. You can’t run your own code on an iPad, you can’t really attach peripherals, and it’s hard to access the file system even now. Even if the processor could handle the load for a little while, it won’t be able to shed the heat for long and it will throttle back to save itself. Macs (Mac Pro level) are still needed for computational physics and dealing with large data sets. If the forthcoming Mac Pro is a disappointment again, I may well buy a Linux box as my next work level machine. I’d never consider an iPad of any sort except for the simplest things. (Love my iPad Mini, but I don’t use it for work.) Even if I’m just going to use it as a remote interface for a remote machine hefty enough to do the job, I’d rather have a MacBook.

Couldn’t have it said it any better myself. As a physicist I need basic tools like gcc, make, autoconf, etc. None of that runs on an iPad. In my field, if there’d be no more pro Macs basically everybody would simply go Linux. In fact, that’s where many of my colleagues came from when they switched to MBPs and MPs in the mid to late 2000s.

Aperture was originally created to be a pro app that was a cheaper, less featured version of Photoshop for pros that didn’t need all the super sophisticated features. But pros hated it. Apple stopped its development because prosumers and consumers weren’t buying it and there were better options available for free or less money, like Lightroom and Photoshop Elements. Its sales were always disappointing and user base small, so they allowed it to die a slow but painless death. Aperture owners could still use it as long as the OS supported it; no photographs on Mac or iOS were left behind.

Camera usage on mobile phones was growing exponentially years before Aperture was discontinued, and more and more consumers and prosumers continue to move away from stand alone cameras. This is still true, and especially true with iPhone users whether they use Mac or Windows OS. At the time, Google/Android had been coming out with highly competitive, intuitive, simple to use free photo editing and sharing tools that many considered even better than what was available forAperture - especially cloud syncing with Macs and iPad and advanced photo sharing and library features, which were selling points for Android and Google stuff.

Pros and prosumers were already using Photoshop, Lightroom, Google photo stuff, and there were plenty of other options out there if Mac OS wold no longer support Aperture. And cloud services are critical to these markets as well. But they did need to support something that worked better or at least as good as Google freebie stuff did on iOS and Mac. It still does.

I mentioned in another thread that I still miss HyperCard. But even at the time development for it ceased, I realized it didn’t meet the needs of the big majority of Mac consumer and business users.

I didn’t say he did or it would, just that it used it when he was untethered to his desk. And he does wish it could do more so he could use it more.

And I should have mention that my ICU doctor niece, her ER doctor fiancée and my financial wiz nephew, along with many of their coworkers much prefer Surface Pros they’ve been given at work to iPads. My niece, nephew and some of their friends have already traded in iPads for Surfaces, which play nice with Windows. Apple does need to address this.

Why? iPads are outselling Surfaces what? 10:1?

I don’t know how they can make it easier. I went to Keyboard in System Prefs, selected Launchpad on the left pane, clicked on the keyboard shortcut on the right pane, and typed in a new shortcut. It’s changed.

Nope, other way around. That remaps Launchpad to another key. But that’s not what we were talking about. The issue is that you cannot remap the Launchpad key (f4) to open Dashboard for example.