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Gurman: Marzipan roll-out a three-year process

Bloomberg’s Mark Gurman, who has been reporting on Apple’s “Marzipan” project to unify the application platforms of the Mac and iOS for years, has a new report today detailing the planned timeline of the effort:

Later this year, Apple plans to let developers port their iPad apps to Mac computers via a new software development kit that the company will release as early as June at its annual developer conference. Developers will still need to submit separate versions of the app to Apple’s iOS and Mac App Stores, but the new kit will mean they don’t have to write the underlying software code twice, said the people familiar with the plan.

In 2020, Apple plans to expand the kit so iPhone applications can be converted into Mac apps in the same way. Apple engineers have found this challenging because iPhone screens are so much smaller than Mac computer displays.

By 2021, developers will be able to merge iPhone, iPad, and Mac applications into one app or what is known as a “single binary.” This means developers won’t have to submit their work to different Apple App Stores, allowing iOS apps to be downloaded directly from Mac computers — effectively combining the stores.

This all makes perfect sense—that iPad apps are the easiest to convert to the Mac, that iPhone apps would follow, and that ultimately the goal is to allow developers to generate a single binary that would run on any device Apple makes.

Apple has said repeatedly that the Mac and iOS aren’t going to merge together, but since last year’s WWDC it’s been clear that the overall goal is to provide a common app platform across the operating systems. (What will make Macs different, presumably, will be their ability to also run traditional Mac applications that have more capabilities than iOS apps do.)