Following Apple’s confirmation at WWDC yesterday that the 2019 release of macOS will support ports of third-party iOS apps — a process that’s already underway in macOS Mojave with a handful of first-party apps — Apple software chief Craig Federighi offered early details to Wired on how the porting process to Macs will work. On a positive note, it should be largely automated, but less positively, Apple’s still saying no to touchscreen Macs.
Confirming a December 2017 report that Mac support for iOS apps was underway, Federighi said that Apple has been working on the porting frameworks for two years, internally beta-testing the developer tools by converting the new iPad apps Home, Stocks, News, and Voice Memos to run on macOS Mojave. The originally iOS-exclusive user interface framework UIKit is being updated to support the Mac as a target device, so an app designed for iPhone and Apple TV use will be able to run on Macs as well.
While the target devices will continue to be on separate iOS and macOS operating systems, Apple’s Xcode development software will automate much of the conversion process, enabling certain UI paradigms to be shifted — iOS long screen-press will become a macOS two-finger click, for example. But manual coding tweaks may need to be made for the macOS port, including different placement of buttons or menus. And of course, some iOS apps such as games will make plenty of sense on macOS, while most fitness trackers and camera apps won’t.
During yesterday’s keynote, Federighi suggested that the timeline for third-party access to the iOS-to-macOS porting feature would be “next year.” He clarified to Wired that it would be reasonable to think that Apple will be ready to discuss it more at WWDC 2019.
Unfortunately, Federighi continues to downplay the concept of a touchscreen Mac with the natural ability to handle an iOS app’s original UI. According to the report, Apple still believes “that the ergonomics of using a Mac are that your hands are rested on a surface, and that lifting your arm up to poke a screen is a pretty fatiguing thing to do.” He suggested that current touchscreen laptops aren’t compelling, and said that he is “not into touchscreens” on PCs and doesn’t anticipate that changing.
Hopefully the company’s perspective on arm fatigue evolves as much as its view on smartphones, which it originally treated as one-size-fits-all — until being dragged kicking and screaming into offering larger iPhones. Today’s iPhone models are considerably taller and in some cases wider than their predecessors, yet unlike current MacBooks, users are happier than ever with their input solutions.