Thursday, November 19, 2020

iPhone and iPad Apps in the Mac App Store

Federico Viticci:

Here are more details on how iPhone and iPad apps will be installed on M1 Macs:

  • Managed by the Mac App Store
  • Toggle in search
  • ‘Designed for iPhone/iPad’ badge
  • Included in "curated selections"

Steve Troughton-Smith:

With everything in macOS 11, it’s getting harder to define what Catalyst is. There are 3 forms:

  • Unmodified iOS apps (Apple Silicon-only)
  • Traditional Catalyst apps (more Mac like, but blurry scaling)
  • Optimized for Mac/Mac Idiom Catalyst apps (pixel perfect, Mac controls)

Steve Troughton-Smith:

Another component in Apple’s unified app platform is SwiftUI, which is a bit messier to explain. There are several forms:

  • A SwiftUI multiplatform app
  • SwiftUI inside AppKit app
  • SwiftUI inside Catalyst (more iOS-y)
  • SwiftUI inside Mac-idiom Catalyst (more Mac-like)

Steve Troughton-Smith:

I think a lot of people overemphasize the fact that you need to do a lot of work and recreate system behaviors in a Catalyst app if you want a great Mac app — you need to do the exact same things if you want a great AppKit Mac app, too, as you can see

Colin Cornaby:

I’m still not a big fan of Catalyst, but I’m even more bummed that a lot of developers seem to be deciding to skip Catalyst and just ship bare iOS apps on Apple Silicon. Even if you’re just targeting new Apple Silicon Macs, this is not the way.

Marco Arment:

Never have I earned so much good press for doing absolutely nothing.

Coming to previous Macs via Catalyst is a longer-term goal that, unfortunately, I don’t have time to complete yet.

John Gruber:

MacOS 11 “Big Sur” introduces one major new feature exclusive to Apple Silicon Macs: the ability to run iPhone and iPad apps from the App Store.

This sounds fine on paper, but in practice I don’t understand who thought this was a good idea to ship. My experience has ranged from terrible to OK, at best.


It’s possible HBO will fix some of this. Just making the window resizable and enabling full-screen video playback would make the app at least useful. But even at best, like Overcast, iOS apps running in a window on a Mac feel foreign. They feel like what they are: apps from another platform. I can see how some people might think this is a good idea, but I don’t see how anyone thinks it’s a very Apple-y idea. Sure, it works, which is why most companies would just ship it. More apps are better, right?

But they’re such a crummy experience, these iOS apps. This feature exemplifies a spirit of “better than nothing, ship it”. The Apple way, typically, is “insanely great”. It’s like someone said, “Oh, you thought lazy Catalyst ports were a bad experience on MacOS? Hold my beer…”

Steve Troughton-Smith:

In some sense, the Mac App Store has been a failed experiment; 9 years on, few of the top Mac developers are prepared to accept its terms and requirements, including sandboxing. Apple has a large chunk of its Mac developerbase thus ill-prepared to follow them into the future

Arguably, this is one of the driving elements between merging the iOS and macOS software ecosystems; Apple wants/needs a core base of developers on board with the App Store and its unified, Universal model, and iOS provides it

I’ve always argued that the Mac App Store should have done everything in its power to accommodate and entice the Mac’s existing developer base (they’re the ones that make all the high-quality apps we love, after all). This entire strategy, UIKit on up, drives them away instead

Ian Carroll:

There appears to be no DRM on iOS app binaries running on macOS.


Update (2020-11-25): Marco Arment:

iOS devs, FYI: unmodified iOS apps running on M1 Macs appear to report themselves via hw.machine as model identifier “iPad8,6” (iPad Pro 12.9-inch, 3rd-gen, 1TB model).

So if you see a very recent spike in your analytics in iPad 12.9 users, that’s probably why.

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I’ve always argued that the Mac App Store should have done everything in its power to accommodate and entice the Mac’s existing developer base (they’re the ones that make all the high-quality apps we love, after all). This entire strategy, UIKit on up, drives them away instead.

Yes. Apple clearly thinks Mac developers can easily be replaced by iOS devs, and is pushing hard for this. As Steve says:

What is very clear is that Apple is positioning a whole bunch of pieces on the board at once; we have motion vectors each for hardware, software, UI, interaction, developer platform — and I think for the first time in a while on the Mac, they're all pointing in the same direction.

One part of why developers think of leaving is this technical aspect. The other is that many indies became indies not to be at the mercy of the crazyness of the self-interested decisions of large corporations. But Apple doesn't like indpendence. They want control, be it by "encouraging" you to wed yourself to their APIs and languages, be it by forcing you to notarize your software with them (so they can pull your software if they wish), or be it by "encouraging" you to use the AppStore and to pay for "search" so that users can find your software, thereby reaping profit, even if your business model does not conform to this (e.g. software sold to businesses).

The iOS AppStore was particularly pernicious: it led very quickly to a collapse in prices. I see no reason an influx of iOS apps won't cause the same effect on the Mac. Once people think software should cost $1 they won't pay $60 for it. You might wonder why there's still a lot of iOS software? One dirty secret is that a lot of the software developed in the US for iOS is paid for either with the customer's data, or by Venture Capitalists hoping to score the next Facebook. Many of these businesses won't see the need to write Mac apps (it's a smaller market, it's less addictive and a different type of customer uses it) when the iOS version will do. So Apple's hope that iOS devs will move over to the Mac if the Mac devs leave might end up backfiring on them. A more likely scenario is that less Mac software is produced, and that it is sold and at lower prices. This will make it more difficult for the remaining Mac devs to make ends meet. Historically, when software stops being developed for a platform, the platform dies.

It's a shame. The M1 hardware looks very interesting, but the overall environment for Mac developers does not seem to have improved significantly.

They killed the AppStore with pernicious “hate speech” “content moderation” guidelines, and finished it off with confusing bureaucracy.

If I pay for a developer license and then a 15-30% “commission” I expect first class service and accommodation for anything I’d make for Tim Cook’s “store.” Instead developers get anything but and there’s no escape from Apple’s control outside their mediocre “store” on Silicon.

Sorry, I’ll stick with older intel iron and Catalina. M1 is just another jailed iPad—that’s fine foe screenreading or Tim Cook style “consumption” but I have work to do.

Most US companies that employ a more than 1 or 2 people need a revenue above $500K/year. Only 4% of developers make that kind of revenue on Apple's stores. Hence the use of alternative revenue streams (data / VCs).

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