Monday, June 3, 2019

Final Marzipan Thoughts Before WWDC 2019

Neil Sardesai:

“AppKit is our primary native framework and it takes full advantage of all the Mac has to offer. And in no way are we de-emphasizing that.” —WWDC 2018, Platforms State of the Union

Craig Hockenberry:

Cross-platform frameworks have a long history of sucking. If you ever used a Java app during the early days of Mac OS X, you know immediately what I’m talking about: the interactions were from a different universe. The design of the system was a “least common denominator” where only a limited set of capabilities was exposed. It just felt wrong.


Apple’s been down this road before and I don’t see them making the journey again. Instead, I see them taking a new and forward thinking direction. A bold and pragmatic change that Apple is famous for: they’d be setting themselves up for the next decade of user interaction.


I’m not going to predict how this would be accomplished. Yes, it could draw inspiration from React or other similar technologies. The only thing I’m confident of at this point is that Apple knows it has a problem and is working actively to solve it in a platform-independent fashion.

Marzipan is our first step. And what I’ve described above is Amber, the next step.

Brent Simmons:

I’m kind of unsure that leadership at Apple understands what’s great and important about Macs that we should not lose.

Evolve, change, yes — but not become a supercomputer with its arms tied behinds its back. That’s what I worry about it.

Riccardo Mori:

Also, as a consequence, I fear that the Mac App Store is going to become more like iOS’s App Store in every way — with thousands of crappy apps, and terrible pricing trends. Where by ‘terrible pricing trends’ I mean the race to the bottom on the one hand, and on the other hand an increase in subscriptions as the only payment method even for simple utilities and single‐purpose apps. (I hope more people realise how subscriptions aren’t sustainable on a large scale for customers).

I fear that iOS is going to become the new model that dictates how the Mac user interface has to behave. That Macs are going to be considered just as ‘big iPads’, and that paradigms and behaviours that are tailored for iOS and belong to iOS come to replace those paradigms, principles, and behaviours that made the Mac’s user interface great.


I’m all for change if it brings unequivocal progress. But I’m afraid that Mac OS is getting repurposed and repackaged more to fit inside an agenda than to keep thriving as a platform with its history, characteristics, and unique features.

I’ve experienced firsthand all the transitions the Mac platform has gone through, and this is the one that’s leaving me the most apprehensive. Because all past transitions brought clear advantages to the Mac, either from a hardware or software standpoint. The signals were of progress for the Mac platform; or, at the very least, of having to take a step sideways to then take two steps forward. This time it feels that things have to change simply to benefit the advancement of another platform.

Dieter Bohn:

The apps are not good. I think Apple should make more of them.

In fact, I think Apple should do more than double down on these iPad-style apps on the Mac. I think Apple should go all in and make nearly all of its consumer Mac apps with the new UIKit / Marzipan frameworks, including Mail, Notes, Messages, FaceTime, Photos, Reminders, and Calendar. Apple should just go for it, sooner rather than later, and ideally right now.

My reasoning is pretty simple: whether you think these apps should be the future of macOS development, they’re absolutely coming either way, and Apple should want to ensure that they’re great.


I worry that Apple could find itself facing an analogous (though not parallel) quandary to what Microsoft has faced with its own next-generation Windows app framework. Called the “Universal Windows Platform,” it has been fraught with changes in direction and complaints that it was too limiting. It took the company nearly half a decade just to decide what to call them. Worst of all, UWP saw very little adoption as developers stuck with the old way of making apps. Now, even Microsoft might not be very committed to them anymore. The best way to avoid that kind of confusion is to be clear and decisive from the start.

I’m also hopeful (perhaps naively so) that this new Mac framework will be powerful and flexible enough for many different kinds of apps.

Jason Snell:

Sort of like jumping into a cold swimming pool. I’m not sure Apple’s really that kind of company, but I hope that behind the scenes, Apple is ceasing development on the Mac-only versions of all of its consumer apps and instead pushing all future development to be done with Marzipan in mind. We might not get a Marzipan version of Mail or iMovie or Pages this year, but those need to be in the works.

Like it or not, Marzipan apps are the future of macOS—and they need to be good, or macOS won’t be.

If that’s in fact the future, it’s only because of Apple’s choosing. I simply don’t see the situation without Marzipan as dire. Mac are selling well. And what problems there are could be fixed in other ways—they’re not that the apps aren’t iOSy enough, more the opposite. Part of my pessimism is with the general idea of write-once-run-anywhere. But also, at the present time, I have low confidence in Apple’s ability to implement good rewrites of Mac software. What in theory may seem like an OK unification strategy, is actually quite risky because if they don’t do it well we’ll end up much worse off than if they’d just kept the Mac in maintenance mode for a while.

Damien Petrilli:

I see some tweets about electron Apps and marzipan.

But Apple is mainly responsible for it:

- driving quality of App down (and leading the way since iOS 7)
- making the app market unsustainable
- bad dev tools / documentation making it costly to do native dev

Marzipan is seen as one way to tackle this, but unless all the points above are addressed today, this isn’t going to change and could even get worst.

Steve Troughton-Smith (tweet):

I have been very vocal about why I think UIKit coming to the Mac is something to be excited about. There is so much potential in unifying the software ecosystem across Apple’s platforms, but to do it right you can’t stay on the fence like Microsoft did. For this to work, you need to own it, and you need to make it so good that it’s hard to imagine wanting to use or write any other kind of software. That is how iOS makes me feel, and that is how the Mac should make iOS users feel.


I really don’t think there will be a viable future for the Mac if Marzipan falls flat on its face. Apple’s dominant ecosystem is iOS — that ship has sailed. No new UI framework or declarative layer on top is going to change the arithmetic; any new app framework for the Mac will by definition have to be shared across iOS and Mac, or we’ll be right back where we started. By the time we’ve got to that point, there may not be any native desktop apps left, and iOS will still be accelerating into the future with new form-factors, augmented reality or whatever comes next. Even native app development titans like Adobe have a version of Photoshop in development for WebAssembly, and it’s hard to not see the appeal for developers. The web is amazing; WebGL and WebAssembly will enable all kinds of powerful new platforms.

Tanner Bennett:

Geez, I don’t know what planet Steve TS lives on, but just because one platform is more “dominant” than another (iOS vs macOS) doesn’t mean one is or should be totally left behind.

That’s like saying cars are the dominant form of transportation and we should just abandon boats.

Rob Griffiths:

I honestly wish Apple were bringing the Mac and iPad closer together by bringing more of the Mac to the iPad than by bringing more of the iPad to the Mac.


Apple is supposed to complete the curveball it threw all of us for in last year’s WWDC, when it started to say that iOS apps are not coming to Mac, and following it up by saying that instead, UIKit is coming to the Mac, presenting four new apps that looked like straight-up ports from their new iOS incarnations that had in fact not even been ports.


The reason I’m not wild about Marzipan is because wanting to use a Mac in the first place has always been about liking the way things are subtly different and subtly better. The Marzipan apps so far have been completely bled of this quality. They make the same mistake “Universal” Windows applications did, which is to believe that taking a touch interface and sprinkling keyboard-and-mouse adaptiveness on top of it is “enough”. It is “enough” for a dropdown menu to be one of those scrollable list pickers - the ones designed for a finger to swipe through on a constrained display, with haptic feedback guiding you. (This was UI that Apple actually shipped in an app that wasn’t just a major feature of an OS update but a flagship app of a new framework.) At least the UWP applications can more readily expect the screen on a laptop to respond to touch.

The thought of Marzipan being capable of delivering something Mac users will recognize and praise as Mac-like is laughable; the thought of it subsuming Cocoa to become the recommended default is offensive. Cocoa eclipsed Carbon because it was better at providing a Mac-like experience. For all the recent iOSsification of macOS, I still don’t see this being the case without extensive surgery. If anything, the way forward should have been a “Cocoa X”, designed from scratch with the learnings of both UIKit and AppKit/Cocoa in mind.

See also: The Talk Show.

Colin Cornaby:

Ok, final pre-Keynote Marzipan hot take: I find it funny when it’s put in terms of some emotional fight over legacy vs modern and looking down on people. I just want a tool that’s able to get the work done I need it to get done. Mac, iPad, whatever.

When there is a possibility or an actuality of the platform preventing you from getting your work done, or making it a lot more difficult, that’s a problem.

People who use their Macs to get a job done that they couldn’t do with another tool don’t care about opinions about legacy or whatever. A hammer is a legacy tool but people get important things done with them every day.


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