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iPhone apps are finally coming to your MacBook. Eventually. Sorta.

Image used with permission by copyright holder

SVP of Software Engineering Craig Federighi said Apple is absolutely not merging iOS and MacOS with a large NO! displayed in the background during the WWDC opening keynote. Instead, Apple is bringing UIKit to MacOS so that developers can better “port” their iOS apps over to Macs with minimal code alterations. 

Porting an app from the iPhone and iPad over to MacOS takes additional time and money. But with support for UIKit in the next release of MacOS, Federighi says only a minimal amount of code will be needed, such as adding trackpad support, window resizing, higher resolutions, and so on. Unfortunately, you won’t see an immediate flood of converted apps in the MacOS App Store given Apple’s initiative is a multi-year project. 

For starters, Apple began testing UIKit for MacOS by converting its in-house apps such as Home, News, Stocks, and Voice Memos. At their heart, these apps are carbon copies of their iOS counterparts, only retooled to work in a desktop environment. Apple’s in-house mission appears to be ongoing as well, as developers won’t even have access to this feature until 2019. 

Image used with permission by copyright holder

For a while, rumors surfaced that Apple may eventually merge iOS and MacOS — or at least create a scenario like Chrome OS and Google Play where Chromebooks can now natively run Android apps. More recent Apple-related rumors are based on leaks indicating that Apple is working on unifying the platforms, describing a possible UWP-like platform codenamed “Marzipan” where one app runs on all Apple-based devices. 

CEO Tim Cook said in April that he didn’t feel his customers actually wanted the two platforms to merge, as both serve a specific purpose. “One of the reasons that both of them are incredible is because we pushed them to do what they do well. And if you begin to merge the two … you begin to make trade-offs and compromises,” he said. 

Although MacOS Mojave will introduce a completely revamped App Store, whether developers jump on the UIKit MacOS conversion bandwagon is a wait-and-see scenario. Many popular app developers are currently sticking with web-based versions, such as Twitter who pulled its MacOS app in February in favor of its “full” web experience. Twitter’s app still resides on the App Store for iOS, Google Play, and the Microsoft Store. 

With MacOS support for UIKit, Federighi’s humorous denial, and Cook’s desire to keep the two platforms separate, hopefully rumors of a possible merge are now put to rest. Perhaps this announcement is a positive sign that apps from Facebook, Netflix, and so on will finally stock the somewhat lackluster MacOS App Store shelves. 

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Kevin Parrish
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