SAN JOSE, Calif.—The next major operating system update for Apple’s Mac computers will bring new apps, and a handful of quality life improvements, and most importantly, a far-reaching initiative to (at least partially) unify the app-development process across devices running iOS and macOS. This new initiative is at the heart of Apple’s future macOS strategy and is a cornerstone of the newly announced macOS 10.15 Catalina update.
Here’s what we learned at the company’s Worldwide Developers Conference today.
Apple hopes the initiative will rejuvenate a slow-moving Mac app store and native software ecosystem. The initiative will do so by making it easier for developers for the iPhone and iPad App Store—one of the most robust software platforms in the world—to release their iOS applications on the Mac with minimal additional development time. Currently, developers have to put valuable resources into developing their successful applications for the Mac, which has a much smaller install base than iOS. It doesn’t help that they then must support two completely different codebases for the entire lifespan of both applications.
At the heart of the project is what Apple calls Project Catalyst, a framework that helps iPad developers more easily create macOS apps from their existing iPad apps. This is the project that informed the development of Apple’s new Stocks and News apps, which already debuted in Mojave (We found these apps to be functional but not optimal.) Apple is making Project Catalyst available today for developers in macOS Catalina, so they can get started producing new macOS apps in a more efficient manner.
A lot of Catalyst work is done in Xcode, and Apple claims translating an iPad app into a macOS app is as simple as checking a box. Now, doing so doesn’t do of the work, but it will introduce macOS-specific controls like cursor and window controls into an iPad app’s framework. From there, developers can add additional desktop features and fine-tuned details to make their existing iPad app macOS-ready. This means that, for the first time, developers can make one app that can quickly be customized for iPhone, iPad, and macOS.