Project Catalyst aims to bring apps to the Mac, enhance titles for iPad

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in Mac Software
Project Catalyst is designed to enable many of the existing one million iPad apps to also work natively on the Mac in a way that's effectively indistinguishable from existing Mac software and transparent to users. At the same time, it's also expected to help fuel the supply of iPad optimized apps. Here's how.


At its Worldwide Developer Conference this week, Apple showed the results of its last year of work to bring UIKit iOS apps to the Mac via Project Catalyst

The Catalytic Converter

As the name suggests, Catalyst is a way to make something new happen with less effort or cost. Coincidentally or not, the name also plays against macOS Catalina, which will be required to use new Mac titles created using it.

Last summer, Apple initially introduced the concept of Catalyst-- without any formal name-- as an internal experiment to bring four titles created for iOS to macOS Mojave: News, Stocks, Home, and Voice Memos.

At the time, we described the new apps in the Public Beta release as "definitely still a work in progress," but also clearly showing "the potential for iOS-only apps to transition to the Mac with less work for developers while offering a far better experience for users than simply being offered a web app interface."


Mojave's Home app was initially stuck firmly in iOS land, but it showed off the potential for UIKit apps on Macs


Others were far more critical, focusing on specific rough edges in the ported apps rather than seeing any potential for where the puck might go. Some concluded that it would be impossible for iPad apps to ever feel at home on the Mac. Excessive cynicism was also a common mistake 20 years ago when Apple first began showing off the original Mac OS X, which initially felt far less optimized and "snappy" compared to Mac OS Classic. It took time to reveal that Apple's new software would eventually deliver a vastly better experience.

We're already seeing vast progress in Catalyst. Apple has now taken everything it's learned over the last year to take its formerly internal tools and open them up to third-party developers, so they can convert their own apps built for iOS into native UIKit apps capable of running on macOS Catalina.

Apple's chief software architect Craig Federighi described the strategy as a "no brainer." And Apple is confident enough in Catalyst to be using it to power key apps in Catalina, including the new Find My and Podcasts apps.

Step one: make a great iPad app

Catalyst isn't intended to run iPhone-sized apps as floating desk accessories on the Mac desktop. Rather, it's designed to build full-blown Mac titles that can take advantage of virtually all of the features of Apple's desktop platform. For that reason, Apple refers to Catalyst as porting iPad apps to the Mac, specifically noting that the first step in the conversion is to "build a great iPad app."

Ever since the iPad was first unveiled by Steve Jobs back in 2010, Apple has stridently maintained that the iPad was intended to be a distinct, new experience rather than just a "big iPod touch." It's consistently pointed to the large library of apps specifically optimized for iPad as a major differentiator from other tablets serving as stretched out phone apps, or PC "hybrids" that aimed at layering touch or tablet concepts on top of a conventional Windows PC desktop.

After a decade of iterations on their different approaches, it's impossible to argue that Apple was wrong. Google's many years of efforts to make it easy to run scalable Android phone apps across an infinite spectrum of various sizes of Android devices has resulted in a tablet experience so terrible for users that even the Verge admits there's a problem.

And while there are fervent proponents of PC laptops with touch screens, or detachable hybrid PC-tablets that support conventional windowing and a mouse-style pointer, none of those products are actually selling in meaningful numbers, nor are they inducing any exceptional library of optimized software that makes very effective use of touch or a slate form factor.

Apple's intentionally separate silos of iPhone, iPad, and Mac apps have not only resulted in an unparalleled, vast library of tablet-optimized apps but has also resulted in Apple selling by far the most tablets, without crushing its sales of conventional Macs. In fact, Apple continues to maintain a growing installed base of Mac users even as it has created an even larger base of iPad users. Rather than being a temporary fad like netbooks, Apple's iPad has established a sustainable platform of users with specific needs served by a streamlined tablet experience. And for many, iPad is complementary to using a Mac while being a distinct experience.

Last year, Apple's chief of software Craig Federighi made it clear that "NO," Apple wasn't seeking to undo this or "converge" its iOS and Mac platforms. Instead, the Catalyst experiment aimed to leverage the fact that there were many iOS apps that would be great to have on the Mac, if only there were a way to port them over and convert them into distinctly different, desktop-optimized experience that would feel familiar to Mac users and not like a hosted, awkwardly foreign compatibility shim.

Why a Catalyst was needed

While iOS and macOS have always shared much of their core OS software and offer very similar approaches in how their apps are built, there are significant differences in the details of the API frameworks that developers use to write AppKit apps for Mac or UIKit apps for iPhone and iPad. In some cases, that's due to hardware differences or related to the very distinct nature of the Mac's pixel-precise mouse pointer compared to the much larger touch shadow of an iOS finger gesture. In other areas, Apple simply wrote elements of iOS APIs differently because it had the opportunity to start fresh and break from legacy compatibility constraints.

As a result, to be proficient in both Mac and iOS coding, a developer would have to understand all of these different implementations and approaches. Beyond that, the code written for each would need to be maintained separately, so every change, feature addition, and bug fix would not only need to be made twice, but also in slightly different ways. There are obviously companies that do maintain both Mac and iOS versions of their software, but in many cases, these are handled by entirely different groups.

By doing a tremendous amount of work to handle many of these differences itself with Catalyst, Apple is now enabling iOS developers to only make a limited set of implementation-specific changes to deliver their existing UIKit code to run on macOS Catalina. The source code for both can now be maintained in the same Xcode project, enabling most changes to only be made once, dramatically simplifying the work required to maintain and optimize evolving code.

Building a better mouse trope

Moving an iPad app to the Mac using Catalyst involves checking a platform target box in Xcode that compiles the code for the Mac. The work behind the scenes is largely handled by Apple, both leveraging its compiler work to generate code portable across its hardware architectures, and the new frameworks in macOS Catalina written to support UIKit as a native Mac framework.

Apple states that when developers add "Mac" as a target in their iPad Xcode projects, "fundamental Mac desktop and windowing features are added, and touch controls are adapted to the keyboard and mouse. Custom UI elements that you created with your code come across as-is. You can then continue to implement features in Xcode with UIKit APIs to make sure your app looks great and works seamlessly."

The company has also detailed that Catalyst automatically adds Mac support for System Preferences, Touch Bar input, contextual menus for editing text, and file management. And OS-specific changes are also made for features such as Activity view, Split View, File browser, and Form sheet. Developers do have to understand how to lay out interfaces that make sense on the Mac. Apple notes that "iOS conventions such as swipe to delete, action sheet commands, and controls at the bottom of the screen are optimized for touch interactions on a handheld device," in contrast to "macOS conventions such as dedicated keys and keyboard shortcuts, menu commands, and controls at the top of the window are optimized for keyboard, mouse, and trackpad interactions and a separate display."


Catalyst is designed to deliver apps with platform-specific features


Apple's Human Interface Guidelines detail a variety of ways where Mac conventions are fundamentally different from iOS, including the app layout and navigation conventions, which can be specific to the type and purpose of the app being delivered. So there is more work involved for developers than just clicking a button, but it's far less than starting from scratch on the Mac, or working to transfer a mobile app into a generic web service accessed through a browser.

Some of the work that developers will do to tailor their iPad apps for the Mac will also help them to deliver better iPad apps that take full advantage of the more sophisticated environment offered by iPadOS. That includes support for a larger working area enabling multiple concurrent apps using Split View, Slide Over, and Picture in Picture, with drag-and-drop interactions between them. Apple also recommends that developers add support for keyboard shortcuts, which are expected by Mac users and also an enhancement for any iPad users who opt to use a keyboard.

ARM and a lag?

Catalyst isn't positioned as the singular future of building all Mac apps, however. Today's AppKit developers don't have to worry about being obsolesced anytime soon. In fact, Apple is continuing to enhance AppKit with various features, including the new SwiftUI. Instead, Catalyst simply aims to enable the broader world of iOS UIKit developers to bring their work to the Mac without learning much of the unique APIs that have historically been used to build Mac software.

That's critical for small teams working on an iOS project that can't quite justify writing a Mac version of their app from scratch. It's also important for internal corporate developers who build a series of custom apps for iPads, and would like an efficient way to make those products available to Mac users as well. In general, Apple's Catalyst strategy promises to make developers more productive in a way that will result in a larger spectrum of more consistent software titles across Apple's platforms.

Catalyst isn't "emulation," which would involve running ARM code on a Mac CPU pretending to be an iPad chip. It's also not a required step for Apple to eventually deliver ARM-based Macs in the future. In fact, it's sort of the opposite, as it enables UIKit code to be compiled to run natively on the Mac's Intel processors.

It's also not pursuing the universal "write once, run anywhere" concept of Java VMs or Android, which host translated bytecode on a Virtual Machine across different hardware. Catalyst Mac apps are native code; it's simply developed with a different set of tools more familiar to coders experienced with working on iOS projects.

A fundamental misunderstanding

Writing for Digital Trends, Tyler Lacoma wrote "the goal of Catalyst is to make apps on both operating systems universal, which means that Mac apps will also be able to cross over to iOS." He also suggested that it may be part of plans to "officially merge the iPadOS and MacOS at some point," but neither of those ideas are accurate.

Owen Williams put together a far more bizarre take on Medium that imagined Catalyst was Apple's effort to destroy Electron, a cross-platform tool for building web apps that try to look native on various platforms. He cynically described Apple's Catalyst as a "hail Mary move designed to bring developers back to the company's platform," using paragraphs of dramatic language that desperately tried to portray the most successful tech company on the planet as a has-been dinosaur coughing up its last gasps at relevance while the really important players in the world, like Spotify and Slack, move to web apps.

He scoffed at the partners Apple demonstrated on stage at WWDC using Catalyst to deliver their iPad apps on the Mac as being "a racing game nobody's heard of, and a handful of other forgettable products," while wondering aloud why "big names like Netflix or Amazon Prime Video" were not there, without even mentioning Twitter.

Williams also cited what he called "a better example of this idea" in Google's efforts to bring Android apps to Chromebooks. The entire article dripped with contempt and derision, but it failed to comprehend what the point of Catalyst even was.

Catalyst isn't a ploy to get web services to build native Mac apps. It's simply a way to leverage the fact that there are tons of native iPad apps, driven by the reality that there are around 400 million iPads in use. There are "only" 100 million Macs in the active installed base, and similarly proportional fewer developers who are fluent in building AppKit Mac software.

iPad development is bolstered by the fact that there are even vastly more iPhones in use. The potential for leveraging the existing base of developers with experience in UIKit coding to rapidly produce new Mac titles will be substantial. Last summer, Upwork cited UIKIt as one of the top twenty fastest growing skills among freelancers.


Catalyst will bring iPad games to the Mac with native Metal graphics


Games are one area in particular where existing iPad titles can be expected to make a splash on the Mac. Apple highlighted the work of Gameloft to bring its popular Asphalt 9 racing game to the Mac using Catalyst, stating that the team was able to make the initial transition in a day. Because modern iPad games make calls to Metal to draw their graphics, Catalyst can leverage Metal on the Mac to render scaled up graphics using their more powerful GPUs.

Williams scoffed at a game he wasn't aware of, but gaming on iOS is huge because iOS itself is huge. Making it very easy to port the vast library of iPad games to the Mac will be blockbuster.
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Comments

  • Reply 1 of 22
    lkrupplkrupp Posts: 7,311member
    Well, Catalyst apparently is a means to move from Arm->X86. What about the move from X86->Arm? If the Mac moves from Intel to A series Apple needs to come up with a Rosetta style framework that will allow existing X86 Mac software to run on A series chips during a transition period like Rosetta allowed PPC software to run on Intel Macs.

    If the rumors are true about a coming switch from Intel to Arm for Macs then I hope such a framework is already up and running in an Apple lab somewhere.
    bigpicsjony0
  • Reply 2 of 22
    Catalyst Is huge, or will become so, soon. I like the idea that an app can be made for iOS and be easily ported to the Mac if it catches on or if conditions warrant it. Separating out iPod iOS from iOS for the iPhone makes it more possible for the iPad to surge forward, and I’d expect an increase in interest in designing for the iPad as a result. The future for Apple looks bright as a result.
    bigpicsalexonline
  • Reply 3 of 22
    correctionscorrections Posts: 1,386member
    lkrupp said:
    Well, Catalyst apparently is a means to move from Arm->X86. What about the move from X86->Arm? If the Mac moves from Intel to A series Apple needs to come up with a Rosetta style framework that will allow existing X86 Mac software to run on A series chips during a transition period like Rosetta allowed PPC software to run on Intel Macs.

    If the rumors are true about a coming switch from Intel to Arm for Macs then I hope such a framework is already up and running in an Apple lab somewhere.
    May not be necessary. With the App Store and its frequent automatic updates, users can get bytecode appropriate to their architecture delivered directly. It’s not like we have software on optical media that is compiled to a specific architecture that we need to run. 

    You could own two Macs, each with its own silicon architecture, buy an app and get it delivered to work on both entirely via the App Store without even thinking about ARM/x86, 32/64, or any other variables. Boom! 
    bigpicstmayalexonlineRayz2016jony0
  • Reply 4 of 22
    hmurchisonhmurchison Posts: 12,278member

    My iPad apps that I'd love to have Mac versions of 


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    edited June 8
  • Reply 5 of 22
    redhotfuzzredhotfuzz Posts: 298member
    iPad to Mac is great. But how about Mac to iPad? There are some Mac apps I desperately want to see on iPad (Fusion 360, Guitar Pro). Will Catalyst help move apps in the reverse direction?
  • Reply 6 of 22
    bigpicsbigpics Posts: 1,379member
    "....even the Verge admits there's a problem."

    That moment when you realize you're reading a DED article without having to look at the author, lol.....

    ********

    I guess one of the questions, if not the key question, is whether or not this is more going to reinvigorate Mac app sales or over time attract more people to the the iPad Pro as their primary platform.  I prefer to think it's going to be good for both. And I'm increasingly feeling (after a few years of waxing more and more critical) that in general Apple is starting to really get their Mac game (NTM their overall game) back in gear on most levels - and I'll say all levels if they ever deliver a new notebook I can feel both confident (keyboard) and happy (keyboard) in putting down a few thousand bucks for. 

    I might even become less cross platform and buy further into the ecosystem.  Sidecar making an iPad both a second screen and a stand-in for a Cintiq is pretty dang appealing!  It even gives all the development work on the touch bar a place to survive....!!
    uniscape
  • Reply 7 of 22
    MacProMacPro Posts: 18,368member
    bigpics said:
    "....even the Verge admits there's a problem."

    That moment when you realize you're reading a DED article without having to look at the author, lol.....

    ********
    Well DED has a valid point.  Did you read the Verge's Mac Pro so-called review? 
    edited June 8 bigpicsfotoformatalexonline
  • Reply 8 of 22
    MplsPMplsP Posts: 1,669member
    lkrupp said:
    Well, Catalyst apparently is a means to move from Arm->X86. What about the move from X86->Arm? If the Mac moves from Intel to A series Apple needs to come up with a Rosetta style framework that will allow existing X86 Mac software to run on A series chips during a transition period like Rosetta allowed PPC software to run on Intel Macs.

    If the rumors are true about a coming switch from Intel to Arm for Macs then I hope such a framework is already up and running in an Apple lab somewhere.
    iPad to Mac is great. But how about Mac to iPad? There are some Mac apps I desperately want to see on iPad (Fusion 360, Guitar Pro). Will Catalyst help move apps in the reverse direction?
    I’m guessing that would be a much harder port to do automatically. If for no other reason than mouse support.
  • Reply 9 of 22
    mwebermweber Posts: 4member
    If all these changes get more developers with iPhone only Apps to build an iPad version, then it will be a huge success for that reason alone.

    The MAC apps will just be a Bonus.
  • Reply 10 of 22
    LatkoLatko Posts: 398member
    iPad to Mac is great ...
    Maybe in terms of appstore volume - at cost of quality. iOS apps are fundamentally different from what Mac users expect (UI-elements, gestures, handling, interface, precision) as Apple concedes itself: “Apple notes that "iOS conventions such as swipe to delete, action sheet commands, and controls at the bottom of the screen are optimized for touch interactions on a handheld device," in contrast to "macOS conventions such as dedicated keys and keyboard shortcuts, menu commands, and controls at the top of the window are optimized for keyboard, mouse, and trackpad interactions and a separate display." This will lead to a slew of apps that feel alienated on the Mac, unless redesigned from the ground up (this message itself proves what happens to readability when linefeeds can’t be inserted from an iPad while from a Mac it can...)
    edited June 9 williamlondon
  • Reply 11 of 22
    sirozhasirozha Posts: 584member
    Project Catalyst is another deliberate step toward the new hybrid device, which I call macPad. This device will be a fusion of the iPad Pro and the MacBook. Below are the bullet points why I've believed for several years now that the macPad is on the Apple's roadmap even though initially Apple vehemently denied that such device would ever be released.  
    • iPad's touch interface is not suited for a professional use in the upright position regardless of how powerful the CPU and the GPU of the device is. Apple tried to mitigate the lack of a pointing device by releasing the Apple Pencil, but that didn't change the fact that in the upright position, using touch (with a finger or a stylus-like device) is inconvenient. Steve Jobs himself justified the absence of touch screen on the Macs by the same reasoning - it's unergonomic to extend your arm to touch a vertical screen, it's imprecise, and it strains one's arm after prolonged use. It's no accident that Apple has finally announced support of desktop pointing devices (mouse and trackpad) in the first release of the iPadOS. 
    • Apple's A-Series CPU and GPUs designed in house provide excellent power-efficiency-to-performance ratio and outperform Intel lower-end CPUs and GPUs. However, the CPUs and GPUs designed by Apple cannot rival higher-end x86_64 CPUs. Those higher-end Intel CPUs are also much more power hungry with excessive heat dissipation requirements that makes them impossible to be used in a tablet-size device or in a very portable and thin laptop. Therefore, Apple has been able to create the CPUs/GPUs that outperform the ones made by Intel only in the very portable niche of the personal computer spectrum. This means that Apple cannot completely eliminate x86_64-based Macs by transitioning to its own CPU/GPU platform across the entire Mac line of computers. Yet, it's possible to transition lower-end Macs, such as the MacBook, perhaps the MacBook Air, and perhaps the lower-end MacBook Pros to the ARM architecture utilizing the A-Series CPUs and GPUs designed by Apple in house. 
    • Project Catalyst is finally released in the wild so that iOS developers for the iPad can now quickly port their iPad apps to macOS. This decision will make it possible to cross-compile millions of iOS apps that currently work on the iPad. What will it achieve? Within a year, there will literally be millions of cross-compiled iPadOS/macOS apps available on the App Store. Thousands or even tens of thousands of them will be enterprise-level apps that will have two UIs: touch-based UI for iPadOS and pointing-device based UI for MacOS. 
    • The detractors of the hypothesis that Apple is planning a transition from x86_64 to ARM have been saying for a while that the lack of Mac applications supported on the ARM architecture will prevent Apple from making such a move. Additionally, they criticize the idea of the "Rosetta-in-Reverse" emulation framework due to the performance hit that it would take on the Apple's A-Series CPUs, rendering the performance of the x86-based Mac apps on the ARM-based architecture dismal and killing the entire project as a result. It's the old "chicken-or-the-egg" dilemma: how do you transition the hardware platform without having the content built for that platform ahead of the transition? Guess what? With Project Catalyst, the apps will be ready for the new platform before the transition to the new platform commences. The millions of iPadOS apps that will have been already cross-compiled for x86_64-based macOS will be able to quickly recompile for the ARM-based macOS by simply selecting a different macOS architecture in the new version of Xcode. All the UI work required for those apps will already have been done when the developers initially compiled the iPadOS apps for the x86_64-based macOS. 
    • In the past few years. many customers and financial analysts have been extremely critical of Apple for increasing the prices of high-end Macs. What many of us do not realize (and what the Apple's marketing fails to explain to the customers) is that the majority of people who bought Macs in 2018 (when 6-core MacBook Pros were introduced) and in 2019 (when 8-core MacBook Pros were introduced) no longer had to buy Pro-level Macs at those sky-high prices. The type of performance that 6-core and 8-core Macs provide is an overkill for 90% of Mac users, who would be well served by cheaper Macs with lower, yet sufficient, performance available in the lower-end MacBook Pros, the 2018 MacBook Air, and even in the MacBook. Therefore, in the future, Apple will likely draw a line in the Mac offerings between the computers geared to the consumer (priced under $2,000), which can serve 90% of Mac users, and the computers priced well above $2,000, which are geared toward the real "Pro" users, who require extreme levels of performance from their Macs. 

    I believe that Apple is going to announce a hybrid macPad device during the next WWDC in 2020. By that time, there will have been millions of cross-compiled iPadOS/macOS apps available on the App Store. Apple will use the next generation of A-Series CPUs and GPUs developed in house to combine the functionalities of the iPad Pro and the MacBook in the same macPad device. In my opinion, Apple will continue to support iPadOS-only devices in the non-Pro iPad line; additionally, Apple will continue to carry higher-end x86_64-based Pro-level Macs that will remain macOS-only devices. There will probably be an additional framework released for Xcode that would allow x86_64-based macOS applications to be cross-compiled for the ARM-based macOS platform, which would allow macOS-only applications to be easily ported to the new ARM-based macOS. The new macPad device will look like the iPad Pro but will come with a docking solution - a keyboard/trackpad stand or case combination that will plug in the docking connector on the macPad. When the macPad is undocked, only the touch (iPadOS) UI will be exposed in the apps. When the macPad is docked, only the pointing-device-based (macOS) UI will be exposed in the apps. The look and feel of the cross-compiled iPadOS/macOS app will change based on whether the macPad is docked or undocked. 

    The following product lines will result from the Apple's transition to the ARM architecture:
    • iPhone: ARM
    • iPad (non-Pro): ARM
    • macPad (hybrid of iPad Pro and MacBook and perhaps MacBook Air): ARM
    • MaBook Air (may not survive the transition): ARM or killed off 
    • iMac: ARM or x86_64 (4-core)
    • MacBook Pro (6-core and 8-core): x86_64
    • iMac Pro: x86_64 (6-core and 8-core): x86_64
    • Mac Pro: x86_64 (8-core and up): x86_64

    Finally, the new hybrid macPad device will cost between $999 and $1999, based on the specs. There will be several configurations of the macPad with different amounts of RAM, perhaps two screen sizes, different amounts of storage, perhaps presence of absence of 5G, etc. The higher-end macPad device will cost $1999 and will include a larger screen size (perhaps 13"), 16 GB RAM, 1TB SSD, Wi-Fi 6, and perhaps even 5G cellular card, although the larger screen and the 1TB SSD may take the price above $1999. I expect the macPad to be announced during WWDC 2020, and the release of the macPad to occur in the fall of 2020 for the 2020 winter holiday shopping season. 


    edited June 9 joeblackalexonlineFileMakerFeller
  • Reply 12 of 22
    Catalyst is an advanced abstraction layer. 
  • Reply 13 of 22
    k2kwk2kw Posts: 1,804member
    sirozha said:
    Project Catalyst is another deliberate step toward the new hybrid device, which I call macPad. This device will be a fusion of the iPad Pro and the MacBook. Below are the bullet points why I've believed for several years now that the macPad is on the Apple's roadmap even though initially Apple vehemently denied that such device would ever be released.  
    • iPad's touch interface is not suited for a professional use in the upright position regardless of how powerful the CPU and the GPU of the device is. Apple tried to mitigate the lack of a pointing device by releasing the Apple Pencil, but that didn't change the fact that in the upright position, using touch (with a finger or a stylus-like device) is inconvenient. Steve Jobs himself justified the absence of touch screen on the Macs by the same reasoning - it's unergonomic to extend your arm to touch a vertical screen, it's imprecise, and it strains one's arm after prolonged use. It's no accident that Apple has finally announced support of desktop pointing devices (mouse and trackpad) in the first release of the iPadOS. 
    • Apple's A-Series CPU and GPUs designed in house provide excellent power-efficiency-to-performance ratio and outperform Intel lower-end CPUs and GPUs. However, the CPUs and GPUs designed by Apple cannot rival higher-end x86_64 CPUs. Those higher-end Intel CPUs are also much more power hungry with excessive heat dissipation requirements that makes them impossible to be used in a tablet-size device or in a very portable and thin laptop. Therefore, Apple has been able to create the CPUs/GPUs that outperform the ones made by Intel only in the very portable niche of the personal computer spectrum. This means that Apple cannot completely eliminate x86_64-based Macs by transitioning to its own CPU/GPU platform across the entire Mac line of computers. Yet, it's possible to transition lower-end Macs, such as the MacBook, perhaps the MacBook Air, and perhaps the lower-end MacBook Pros to the ARM architecture utilizing the A-Series CPUs and GPUs designed by Apple in house. 
    • Project Catalyst is finally released in the wild so that iOS developers for the iPad can now quickly port their iPad apps to macOS. This decision will make it possible to cross-compile millions of iOS apps that currently work on the iPad. What will it achieve? Within a year, there will literally be millions of cross-compiled iPadOS/macOS apps available on the App Store. Thousands or even tens of thousands of them will be enterprise-level apps that will have two UIs: touch-based UI for iPadOS and pointing-device based UI for MacOS. 
    • The detractors of the hypothesis that Apple is planning a transition from x86_64 to ARM have been saying for a while that the lack of Mac applications supported on the ARM architecture will prevent Apple from making such a move. Additionally, they criticize the idea of the "Rosetta-in-Reverse" emulation framework due to the performance hit that it would take on the Apple's A-Series CPUs, rendering the performance of the x86-based Mac apps on the ARM-based architecture dismal and killing the entire project as a result. It's the old "chicken-or-the-egg" dilemma: how do you transition the hardware platform without having the content built for that platform ahead of the transition? Guess what? With Project Catalyst, the apps will be ready for the new platform before the transition to the new platform commences. The millions of iPadOS apps that will have been already cross-compiled for x86_64-based macOS will be able to quickly recompile for the ARM-based macOS by simply selecting a different macOS architecture in the new version of Xcode. All the UI work required for those apps will already have been done when the developers initially compiled the iPadOS apps for the x86_64-based macOS. 
    • In the past few years. many customers and financial analysts have been extremely critical of Apple for increasing the prices of high-end Macs. What many of us do not realize (and what the Apple's marketing fails to explain to the customers) is that the majority of people who bought Macs in 2018 (when 6-core MacBook Pros were introduced) and in 2019 (when 8-core MacBook Pros were introduced) no longer had to buy Pro-level Macs at those sky-high prices. The type of performance that 6-core and 8-core Macs provide is an overkill for 90% of Mac users, who would be well served by cheaper Macs with lower, yet sufficient, performance available in the lower-end MacBook Pros, the 2018 MacBook Air, and even in the MacBook. Therefore, in the future, Apple will likely draw a line in the Mac offerings between the computers geared to the consumer (priced under $2,000), which can serve 90% of Mac users, and the computers priced well above $2,000, which are geared toward the real "Pro" users, who require extreme levels of performance from their Macs. 

    I believe that Apple is going to announce a hybrid macPad device during the next WWDC in 2020. By that time, there will have been millions of cross-compiled iPadOS/macOS apps available on the App Store. Apple will use the next generation of A-Series CPUs and GPUs developed in house to combine the functionalities of the iPad Pro and the MacBook in the same macPad device. In my opinion, Apple will continue to support iPadOS-only devices in the non-Pro iPad line; additionally, Apple will continue to carry higher-end x86_64-based Pro-level Macs that will remain macOS-only devices. There will probably be an additional framework released for Xcode that would allow x86_64-based macOS applications to be cross-compiled for the ARM-based macOS platform, which would allow macOS-only applications to be easily ported to the new ARM-based macOS. The new macPad device will look like the iPad Pro but will come with a docking solution - a keyboard/trackpad stand or case combination that will plug in the docking connector on the macPad. When the macPad is undocked, only the touch (iPadOS) UI will be exposed in the apps. When the macPad is docked, only the pointing-device-based (macOS) UI will be exposed in the apps. The look and feel of the cross-compiled iPadOS/macOS app will change based on whether the macPad is docked or undocked. 

    The following product lines will result from the Apple's transition to the ARM architecture:
    • iPhone: ARM
    • iPad (non-Pro): ARM
    • macPad (hybrid of iPad Pro and MacBook and perhaps MacBook Air): ARM
    • MaBook Air (may not survive the transition): ARM or killed off 
    • iMac: ARM or x86_64 (4-core)
    • MacBook Pro (6-core and 8-core): x86_64
    • iMac Pro: x86_64 (6-core and 8-core): x86_64
    • Mac Pro: x86_64 (8-core and up): x86_64

    Finally, the new hybrid macPad device will cost between $999 and $1999, based on the specs. There will be several configurations of the macPad with different amounts of RAM, perhaps two screen sizes, different amounts of storage, perhaps presence of absence of 5G, etc. The higher-end macPad device will cost $1999 and will include a larger screen size (perhaps 13"), 16 GB RAM, 1TB SSD, Wi-Fi 6, and perhaps even 5G cellular card, although the larger screen and the 1TB SSD may take the price above $1999. I expect the macPad to be announced during WWDC 2020, and the release of the macPad to occur in the fall of 2020 for the 2020 winter holiday shopping season. 


    Great Post.  I generally tend to agree with what you are saying.   macPad will be a Surface Book that actually works for touch (as an analogy).   Although I tend to think that it may take till 2021 for the macPad to come out.   There will be a cheaper $300 - $400 version for the educational market in a few years as they have needed that to compete with chrome books.   The writing was on the wall when Marzipan came out last year.   Anyone who was against this just have to realize that even Apple employees don't want carry two devices (MBP and iPadPro) when they go on vacation.   Now they will only need to take on.
  • Reply 14 of 22
    macplusplusmacplusplus Posts: 1,907member
    sirozha said:
    Project Catalyst is another deliberate step toward the new hybrid device, which I call macPad. This device will be a fusion of the iPad Pro and the MacBook. Below are the bullet points why I've believed for several years now that the macPad is on the Apple's roadmap even though initially Apple vehemently denied that such device would ever be released.  
    • iPad's touch interface is not suited for a professional use in the upright position regardless of how powerful the CPU and the GPU of the device is. Apple tried to mitigate the lack of a pointing device by releasing the Apple Pencil, but that didn't change the fact that in the upright position, using touch (with a finger or a stylus-like device) is inconvenient. Steve Jobs himself justified the absence of touch screen on the Macs by the same reasoning - it's unergonomic to extend your arm to touch a vertical screen, it's imprecise, and it strains one's arm after prolonged use. It's no accident that Apple has finally announced support of desktop pointing devices (mouse and trackpad) in the first release of the iPadOS. 
    You’re holding it wrong, literally. If you need to use an iPad in upright position All the time then you need a laptop, not iPad. Mobile computing is not moving your devices from one desk onto another desk. If you need a desk all the time to use your iPad then you purchased a wrong device. This is why “it is no accident that Apple has finally never announced support of desktop pointing devices (mouse and trackpad) in the first release of the iPadOS”, it has just announced an Accessibility accessory as the mouse, reproducing not the PC mouse pointer but the iOS touch shape on screen. That is in the beta version and may change of course.

    You’re not wrong in thinking like that. The blame (if any) goes to Apple’s Marketing, imitating Microsoft Surface in all marketing materials showing the iPad in upright position and with a keyboard. The image Marketing tries to establish in people’s mind with that iPad presentation is totally wrong and contradictory to the iPad concept. Here is how that created so much confusion, also preventing people from investing to Mac or iPad dreaming of legendary devices like macPad or MacARM...

    edited June 9 joeblackRayz2016
  • Reply 15 of 22
    gbdocgbdoc Posts: 67member

    My read on this leads me to finally understand Apple’s neglect of most of their computer - laptops, at least - products. While surely a real computer, the MacPro is merely a showcase for what Apple can do, but it was never meant to generate high-volume sales or huge income for Apple. And it seems obvious that Apple’s no longer interested in making state-of-the-art, better-than-the-competition laptops.

    They’re trying to make the iPad into a real computer which people who need real computers will want and use, but most will want for all the services sold. They hope the desire for MacBooks will wane, and Mac users will switch. So far, that’s resulted in some dumbing-down of Macs and Mac software, like the non-support of 32-bit apps in the future, which many developers are apparently having a hard time with, or have given up completely. The switch to APFS was probably necessary to make all this work. Project Catalyst and the Catalina OS are no great improvements over what we now have, or even earlier had, but it opens the door wider for the switch to this new world. Perverse that a new OS would be developed with the aim of planned obsolescence. Thus, many of the apps we use will become useless, until/unless developers make an iPadOS version, or others fill the gap. On the other hand, iPads will be able to use mice/trackballs and “real” keyboards (hope they’re reliable).

    So far, I’m pretty sad and disappointed with what Macs have become. Maybe I can get used to the new world, and maybe even someday come to love an iPad. We’ll see.

  • Reply 16 of 22
    joeblackjoeblack Posts: 3member
    sirozha said:
    ...
    I believe that Apple is going to announce a hybrid macPad device during the next WWDC in 2020. By that time, there will have been millions of cross-compiled iPadOS/macOS apps available on the App Store. Apple will use the next generation of A-Series CPUs and GPUs developed in house to combine the functionalities of the iPad Pro and the MacBook in the same macPad device.
    ...

    You’re holding it wrong, literally. If you need to use an iPad in upright position
    All the time then you need a laptop, not iPad. Mobile computing is not moving your devices from one desk onto another desk. If you need a desk all the time to use your iPad then you purchased a wrong device. This is why “it is no accident that Apple has finally never announced support of desktop pointing devices (mouse and trackpad) in the first release of the iPadOS”, it has just announced an Accessibility accessory as the mouse, reproducing not the PC mouse pointer but the iOS touch shape on screen. That is in the beta version and may change of course.

    You’re not wrong in thinking like that. The blame (if any) goes to Apple’s Marketing, imitating Microsoft Surface in all marketing materials showing the iPad in upright position and with a keyboard. The image Marketing tries to establish in people’s mind with that iPad presentation is totally wrong and contradictory to the iPad concept. Here is how that created so much confusion, also preventing people from investing to Mac or iPad dreaming of legendary devices like macPad or MacARM...

    Both compelling arguments. I think before any of that happens (if ever), one thing is for sure: either Apple makes a keyboard case with trackpad integration or 3rd parties will! And just maybe such a case would also expand the iPad Pro's USB C port.
    edited June 9
  • Reply 17 of 22
    ericthehalfbeeericthehalfbee Posts: 4,095member
    A better example of this idea can be found in Chromebooks, where Google allows almost any Android app to be used without modification. Want to run Instagram or stream with Spotify’s mobile app? It works as you’d expect, with all of the benefits from the mobile app in tow.


    Williams is truly a world class idiot posting this nonsense. I doubt he's ever tried Android Apps on Chrome if he can make the claim "works as you'd expect", unless, of course, you're expecting to work like crap.

    correctionsStrangeDaysRayz2016
  • Reply 18 of 22
    I would rather Apple integrate Face ID into MacBooks before this happens, or at least at the same time. 
  • Reply 19 of 22
    asdasdasdasd Posts: 5,323member
    lkrupp said:
    Well, Catalyst apparently is a means to move from Arm->X86. What about the move from X86->Arm? If the Mac moves from Intel to A series Apple needs to come up with a Rosetta style framework that will allow existing X86 Mac software to run on A series chips during a transition period like Rosetta allowed PPC software to run on Intel Macs.

    If the rumors are true about a coming switch from Intel to Arm for Macs then I hope such a framework is already up and running in an Apple lab somewhere.
    There’s a framework running uikit on X86 uikit on every developers Mac already and has been for years. This is done already. An arm mac would look the same as an intel Mac. Far too many people are confusing high level frameworks with the compiler. 
  • Reply 20 of 22
    asdasdasdasd Posts: 5,323member
    k2kw said:
    sirozha said:
    Project Catalyst is another deliberate step toward the new hybrid device, which I call macPad. This device will be a fusion of the iPad Pro and the MacBook. Below are the bullet points why I've believed for several years now that the macPad is on the Apple's roadmap even though initially Apple vehemently denied that such device would ever be released.  
    • iPad's touch interface is not suited for a professional use in the upright position regardless of how powerful the CPU and the GPU of the device is. Apple tried to mitigate the lack of a pointing device by releasing the Apple Pencil, but that didn't change the fact that in the upright position, using touch (with a finger or a stylus-like device) is inconvenient. Steve Jobs himself justified the absence of touch screen on the Macs by the same reasoning - it's unergonomic to extend your arm to touch a vertical screen, it's imprecise, and it strains one's arm after prolonged use. It's no accident that Apple has finally announced support of desktop pointing devices (mouse and trackpad) in the first release of the iPadOS. 
    • Apple's A-Series CPU and GPUs designed in house provide excellent power-efficiency-to-performance ratio and outperform Intel lower-end CPUs and GPUs. However, the CPUs and GPUs designed by Apple cannot rival higher-end x86_64 CPUs. Those higher-end Intel CPUs are also much more power hungry with excessive heat dissipation requirements that makes them impossible to be used in a tablet-size device or in a very portable and thin laptop. Therefore, Apple has been able to create the CPUs/GPUs that outperform the ones made by Intel only in the very portable niche of the personal computer spectrum. This means that Apple cannot completely eliminate x86_64-based Macs by transitioning to its own CPU/GPU platform across the entire Mac line of computers. Yet, it's possible to transition lower-end Macs, such as the MacBook, perhaps the MacBook Air, and perhaps the lower-end MacBook Pros to the ARM architecture utilizing the A-Series CPUs and GPUs designed by Apple in house. 
    • Project Catalyst is finally released in the wild so that iOS developers for the iPad can now quickly port their iPad apps to macOS. This decision will make it possible to cross-compile millions of iOS apps that currently work on the iPad. What will it achieve? Within a year, there will literally be millions of cross-compiled iPadOS/macOS apps available on the App Store. Thousands or even tens of thousands of them will be enterprise-level apps that will have two UIs: touch-based UI for iPadOS and pointing-device based UI for MacOS. 
    • The detractors of the hypothesis that Apple is planning a transition from x86_64 to ARM have been saying for a while that the lack of Mac applications supported on the ARM architecture will prevent Apple from making such a move. Additionally, they criticize the idea of the "Rosetta-in-Reverse" emulation framework due to the performance hit that it would take on the Apple's A-Series CPUs, rendering the performance of the x86-based Mac apps on the ARM-based architecture dismal and killing the entire project as a result. It's the old "chicken-or-the-egg" dilemma: how do you transition the hardware platform without having the content built for that platform ahead of the transition? Guess what? With Project Catalyst, the apps will be ready for the new platform before the transition to the new platform commences. The millions of iPadOS apps that will have been already cross-compiled for x86_64-based macOS will be able to quickly recompile for the ARM-based macOS by simply selecting a different macOS architecture in the new version of Xcode. All the UI work required for those apps will already have been done when the developers initially compiled the iPadOS apps for the x86_64-based macOS. 
    • In the past few years. many customers and financial analysts have been extremely critical of Apple for increasing the prices of high-end Macs. What many of us do not realize (and what the Apple's marketing fails to explain to the customers) is that the majority of people who bought Macs in 2018 (when 6-core MacBook Pros were introduced) and in 2019 (when 8-core MacBook Pros were introduced) no longer had to buy Pro-level Macs at those sky-high prices. The type of performance that 6-core and 8-core Macs provide is an overkill for 90% of Mac users, who would be well served by cheaper Macs with lower, yet sufficient, performance available in the lower-end MacBook Pros, the 2018 MacBook Air, and even in the MacBook. Therefore, in the future, Apple will likely draw a line in the Mac offerings between the computers geared to the consumer (priced under $2,000), which can serve 90% of Mac users, and the computers priced well above $2,000, which are geared toward the real "Pro" users, who require extreme levels of performance from their Macs. 

    I believe that Apple is going to announce a hybrid macPad device during the next WWDC in 2020. By that time, there will have been millions of cross-compiled iPadOS/macOS apps available on the App Store. Apple will use the next generation of A-Series CPUs and GPUs developed in house to combine the functionalities of the iPad Pro and the MacBook in the same macPad device. In my opinion, Apple will continue to support iPadOS-only devices in the non-Pro iPad line; additionally, Apple will continue to carry higher-end x86_64-based Pro-level Macs that will remain macOS-only devices. There will probably be an additional framework released for Xcode that would allow x86_64-based macOS applications to be cross-compiled for the ARM-based macOS platform, which would allow macOS-only applications to be easily ported to the new ARM-based macOS. The new macPad device will look like the iPad Pro but will come with a docking solution - a keyboard/trackpad stand or case combination that will plug in the docking connector on the macPad. When the macPad is undocked, only the touch (iPadOS) UI will be exposed in the apps. When the macPad is docked, only the pointing-device-based (macOS) UI will be exposed in the apps. The look and feel of the cross-compiled iPadOS/macOS app will change based on whether the macPad is docked or undocked. 

    The following product lines will result from the Apple's transition to the ARM architecture:
    • iPhone: ARM
    • iPad (non-Pro): ARM
    • macPad (hybrid of iPad Pro and MacBook and perhaps MacBook Air): ARM
    • MaBook Air (may not survive the transition): ARM or killed off 
    • iMac: ARM or x86_64 (4-core)
    • MacBook Pro (6-core and 8-core): x86_64
    • iMac Pro: x86_64 (6-core and 8-core): x86_64
    • Mac Pro: x86_64 (8-core and up): x86_64

    Finally, the new hybrid macPad device will cost between $999 and $1999, based on the specs. There will be several configurations of the macPad with different amounts of RAM, perhaps two screen sizes, different amounts of storage, perhaps presence of absence of 5G, etc. The higher-end macPad device will cost $1999 and will include a larger screen size (perhaps 13"), 16 GB RAM, 1TB SSD, Wi-Fi 6, and perhaps even 5G cellular card, although the larger screen and the 1TB SSD may take the price above $1999. I expect the macPad to be announced during WWDC 2020, and the release of the macPad to occur in the fall of 2020 for the 2020 winter holiday shopping season. 


    Great Post.  I generally tend to agree with what you are saying.   macPad will be a Surface Book that actually works for touch (as an analogy).   Although I tend to think that it may take till 2021 for the macPad to come out.   There will be a cheaper $300 - $400 version for the educational market in a few years as they have needed that to compete with chrome books.   The writing was on the wall when Marzipan came out last year.   Anyone who was against this just have to realize that even Apple employees don't want carry two devices (MBP and iPadPro) when they go on vacation.   Now they will only need to take on.
    I’ll eat my hat (first buying a hat) if anything like MacPad comes to fruition. 

    The aim of catalyst is to ... drumroll ... sell more Macs. If more apps are ported to the Mac then the windows users with iPhones (the majority) will consider moving more readily. It’s also designed to get native apps on the Mac (as opposed to electron, react etc.) and protect swift as the language of choice for Mac and iOS development. Which isn’t guaranteed.

    It will probably also produce more iPad apps with multi window support and in general, as it’s the  iPad OS that ports to the Mac and many iPhone developers wanting a foothold on the Mac will produce an iPad app if they haven’t already. 
    StrangeDaysFileMakerFeller
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