Apple Inc said it will combine the different software systems underpinning iPhone and Mac apps, creating a larger, more-attractive ecosystem for millions of developers. During its annual developer conference, the Cupertino, California-based company said the two app platforms will merge next year, allowing apps built for its iOS mobile operating system to also run on Mac computers. Bloomberg reported the planned change in December, but Apple hasn’t talked about it publicly until Monday when it gave a preview.
The largest technology companies thrive by balancing the needs of consumers with those of outside developers who create many of the compelling applications that run on the world’s most popular devices and operating systems. iPhones depend on the App Store, but Apple developers had to make different apps if they wanted their offerings to work on Mac computers, too. Merging the two systems will reduce work and the company’s confirmation was greeted by cheers from the audience on Monday.
“Finally, Apple is acknowledging that iOS and macOS have been competing unfairly for resources, and that iOS is the dominant platform,” Steven Troughton-Smith, a developer and longtime voice in the Apple community, wrote in a message. “Hybrid applications will be possible, bringing the strengths of iOS to the Mac, and the strengths of Mac developers to iOS.”
Google’s Android is a must for most non-Apple smartphones because it offers so many useful apps. In 2016, Google said its Android mobile app store would run on the company’s Chrome OS for personal computers, getting a similar thumbs-up from developers. The Mac App Store is a ghost town of limited selection and Apple customers have long complained that some Mac apps get short shrift. For example, while the iPhone and iPad Twitter app is regularly updated with the social network’s latest features, the Mac version gets few updates and is widely considered substandard. With a single app for all machines, Mac, iPad and iPhone users will get new features at the same time.
MacOS had 9 percent of the market for computer operating systems, versus 89 percent for Microsoft Corp’s Windows and 2 percent for Linux, according to NetMarketShare. Despite that, the system is the origin of Apple’s other operating systems that run on the iPhone, iPad, Apple Watch, and Apple TV. The first examples of iOS and macOS converging will come in this year’s update to the Mac operating system, called Mojave. Four Apple-built iOS apps — Home, Apple News, Stocks, Voice Memos — will now work on Mac computers, the company said.
To more cheers from developers, Apple also announced a redesigned Mac App Store for the Mojave update, expanding a new look the company introduced to iPhones and iPads last year. The new Mac App Store includes editorials about the latest app updates. Apple executive Craig Federighi said new security and privacy tools are coming to the macOS upgrade to better protect emails, text messages, and data backups. There will also be additional privacy tools in the Safari web browser, he said.
The update will also help users de-clutter their Mac computer home screens, which can become crowded with icons and files. A tool called Stacks groups files of the same type into stacks on the desktop. There’s also deeper integration with iPhones, allowing Macs to use the iPhone’s camera for tasks like scanning documents.