By Jason Snell
May 31, 2019 9:20 AM PT
See you on the other side…
It’s hard to believe that next week I’ll be in San Jose for WWDC, the annual Apple developer conference and get-together week for the entire Apple-related community. It’s a fantastic week to be there in person, not just for the conference but for everything that surrounds it. Every Apple writer and podcaster and analyst and app developer you know will be there. It’s fun!
But it’s also a lot of work. Because for those of us who write and talk about Apple, this is the biggest week of the year in terms of volume. (In terms of public interest, the release of the iPhone comes first—but the sheer amount of new information Apple unloads at WWDC can’t be matched.) This is the start of Apple’s calendar year, the moment when the ball drops in the middle of the McEnery Convention Center and we get an idea about what the next year in iOS, macOS, watchOS, and tvOS will be like.
I am usually quite restrained when it comes to discussing expectations for WWDC, mostly because it’s so easy to get caught up in wishcasting and lose sight of the reality: Apple’s software development capabilities have limits, and it has to make hard decisions about what can be built and released to its customers this year.
But this year feels different. Apple’s been working up to this moment for a while now, including the announcement last year that it would be allowing iOS developers to move their apps to the Mac beginning this year. This is the year that the very definition of what makes a Mac app will be redefined.
Last year’s proof-of-concept apps—Voice Memos, Home, News, and Stocks—were not great. But Apple has had a year to refine the technology that brought them to the Mac, and the company knows it needs to be solid before letting iOS developers use it. I’d imagine that during the last year, many app-development teams inside Apple have abandoned their Mac version and spent the year adding and tweaking code so that it will run equally well on Mac and iOS.
The proof is in the pudding, though. How good a job have they done? How good will iOS App Store apps be on macOS? Let’s keep in mind that this will be a starting point, with a lot of room for improvement over the next few years, but it will still be an incredibly important first look at what the future of the Mac will be.
And make no mistake: This is the future of the Mac. iOS is enormous, with a huge base of software developers, most of whom aren’t inclined to build both Mac and iOS versions. Even among “loyal” Mac developers, so many of them are forced to build two versions of their apps, slowing the pace of development. If Apple can do this right, macOS will inherit a fantastic, thriving community of software developers—and those developers will gain access to a whole new platform full of potential customers.
This is ultimately why I think this new shared app platform will benefit the Mac: Because Apple knows that it has to. This is the way forward for the Mac. If Apple fails to execute, the Mac is doomed to be a niche platform with a set of aging apps and a bunch of weak imports from the iOS side. That’s not good for anyone—not Apple, not Mac users, and (I’d argue) not iPad users. As someone who uses an iPad Pro to get a lot of work done, I expect the ability to target both iPad and Mac with a single app will enrich the iPad software ecosystem as well.
So, no pressure, just the entire future of the Mac on the line. I started using the Mac in 1989 so I’ve been through these changes before—to System 7, to PowerPC, to Mac OS X, to Cocoa, and to Intel. They are scary to anticipate, and frustrating to be inside—but you come through them, and that scary changed world just becomes your new world. It’s happening again, and it all begins Monday. See you on the other side.