State of Apple Silicon - half of the most popular Mac apps still need Rosetta

Posted:
in General Discussion edited March 9
Two months since the first Apple Silicon Macs shipped -- and seven since the Developer Transition Kit -- very many of the most popular Mac apps have yet to fully adopt the new technology.

Apps are steadily moving to Apple Silicon M1, but there are some surprising holdouts
Apps are steadily moving to Apple Silicon M1, but there are some surprising holdouts


This is a moving target as developers continue to announce full and beta M1 support. What's good about this is that native Apple Silicon support is being adopted by more and more developers.

However, what's bad is that every Mac developer is insisting that their apps can run on the new machines -- and then a large proportion of them cough a little before admitting that they don't mean natively. An Apple Silicon M1 Mac bought today will run all of your current, existing macOS Big Sur software out of the box and that's as far as some developers hope you'll ask.

What you want, and what the best Mac developers have already raced to do, is get native Apple Silicon support. The difference is all the difference. With native support, the apps get all of the power of the new processor.

Without native support, they're run in Rosetta 2 emulation. That may conceivably turn out to mean that they run faster than they did on old Intel hardware, but it's not why you've bought an Apple Silicon Mac.

Surveying the M1 Apple Silicon app market

Truly, keep in mind that even before you read the end of this sentence, another developer could have released native M1 support for their app. Then with all the obfuscation over Rosetta 2 or native support, AppleInsider cannot be totally certain what state all apps we've researched are in.

That said, though, if a developer has gone to the trouble of adding proper native M1 support, they tend to shout about it quite loudly.

So to take a snapshot of how the transition from Intel to ARM is going, AppleInsider drew up a list of 100 major Mac apps. Our list does include ones that are niche but very important in their field -- such as the screenwriting app Final Draft. Adding the list to the piece hampers readability pretty severely, but feel free to email us for that list.

It also includes a range of more technical utilities, plus the kind of general purpose apps that a large number of Mac users have.

For each app, we contacted developers, we checked out support groups, and we listed apps as either having native M1 support or not. When an app had native support in beta, we counted that as it at least means the support is coming. Where it was not possible to prove that there was even official beta M1 support, we took that as a no.

As of February 5, 2021, the list of 100 apps showed 53 that had native M1 support to at least some degree. And therefore 47 that did not.




Surprise and no surprise

In fairness, there are apps that don't truly need the extra power of native Apple Silicon support. Evernote, for instance, does not have native support but it wouldn't be likely to see a gigantic improvement from it, because most of the time you're just typing into it.

However, background tasks like syncing notes would be affected, would be improved. And at some point, apps are going to have to move to Apple Silicon to be able to continue to run, so getting support now is advertising that you're planning to stick around.

There is also the fact that the most involved, active developers are genuinely thrilled by Apple Silicon. Just as one example, we spoke with Ken Case of The Omni Group. He agreed with us that the company's outlining app, OmniOutliner, has never actually been slow, but Omni has updated it to Apple Silicon anyway.

The best and most committed Mac developers are seeing the future potential of Apple Silicon and are excited by it.

What is and isn't updated to native support

Some developers are also clearly seeing the commercial advantage. So of password manager apps, for instance, 1Password introduced native M1 support in beta in November 2020. But Dashlane and LastPass have yet to do the same.

Final Draft hasn't either, but rival screenwriting app Highland 2 has. Speaking of writing apps, Scrivener, Ulysses and Microsoft Word are all now available as M1 native apps, to at least some degree.

Currently the entire range of Affinity apps -- Affinity Photo, Designer, and Publisher -- are native on M1. Adobe is taking much longer, though that would be because the company has very many more apps to convert than most developers.

So Lightroom, Photoshop, and Illustrator have or are getting M1 native support. Adobe Premiere Pro, the video editing software, has it in beta. But the related After Effects does not, and nor do InDesign, Acrobat, or Dreamweaver.

Video apps in general appear to be moving over to Apple Silicon. Naturally, Apple brought its own Final Cut Pro to the platform right at the start. But video editor DaVinci Resolve is there too, and so is the general-purpose video player VLC.




Utility software

Unsurprisingly, PCalc for Mac has native M1 support. James Thomson's PCalc calculator app has been among the first to adopt all new Apple technology for decades. .

The read-it-later app Pocket still needs Rosetta 2, while newsreading app Reeder 5 is native M1. The popular iStat Menus for monitoring every aspect of your Mac is now native, but the Kindle ebook reader app is not.

For video conferencing, Zoom has native support but Microsoft Teams doesn't, and neither does Skype. Microsoft is adding M1 support to all its Office apps so it will be coming, but it'll be curious to see whether the company extends that to Skype, too.

Speaking of conferencing and team meetings, Discord does not have a native M1 version, and is a little flaky when running under Rosetta 2. Discord uses the cross-platform Electron framework to work on Macs, and that has been updated for M1.

So Discord could soon gain native support and so could Slack. Currently, Slack claims to have a beta version available for M1.

There's no clear idea when the publicly shipping version of Slack will be a native M1 one, but that's more likely to be a business decision than a technical one. For apps that you might think delve so deep into macOS that they would great difficulty being adapted to entirely new hardware, haven't been.

Both Hazel and Keyboard Maestro, two of the most powerful Mac automation utilities available, both seemed to gain M1 support instantly.


Even Apple isn't all-in on native Apple Silicon software yet

It's seven months since Apple Silicon was announced, and more than three months since the first M1 Macs were unveiled. Yet that's still early in the timeline, since Apple maintains that it's going to take two years to completely transition from Intel to Apple Silicon.

One of the most surprising hold-outs on the move, though, is Apple itself -- in a way. The entirely Apple-owned Claris company has not yet brought native M1 support to its FileMaker Pro app.

That app can power very large databases, and it must also work across servers ranging from its own to Amazon's AWS. So this is surely a case where supporting Apple Silicon requires a lot more work than Apple generally suggests.

Still, if close to half of the 100 apps we selected have yet to make the move, the move is happening. Even as this article was being researched, Homebrew announced support.

Homebrew isn't the kind of software that most Mac users would have, but it is a key management system. It lets users install open source software and packages to the Mac, meaning that by this one app supporting M1, it opens the door to many other apps. If only quite technical ones.

Where technical apps go, consumer ones follow. And once most consumer apps are natively supporting Apple Silicon, the others will be at such a visible disadvantage that they will surely transition too.

AppleInsider will be continue to take regular snapshots of the state of the most significant Mac apps as the transition continues.



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Comments

  • Reply 1 of 54
    mcdavemcdave Posts: 1,756member
    I think the term “M1 native” will vary as will product strategy. Simply converting to ARM means little (& is sometimes a step backwards) as the main performance gains are coming from Apple Silicon beyond the ARM ISA. Much of it is only accessible via 1st-party software frameworks (VideoToolBox, Accelerate & Metal) so it’s the commitment to macOS that actually matters; Serif does, Adobe doesn’t.  When I see Electron (which replaces Apple frameworks) is “native” it’s a facepalm moment.

    Luckily developers have another option. Rather than writing fake-native cross-platform desktop apps, they can swing the ‘Mac version’ to the iPadOS category simultaneously allowing for a real AppleOS product and boosting functionality of the other products in that set. For me, this is the real story behind Apple Silicon.
    watto_cobra
  • Reply 2 of 54
    lkrupplkrupp Posts: 9,462member
    "The best and most committed Mac developers are seeing the future potential of Apple Silicon and are excited by it.”

    As for the rest... drag your feet until you absolutely have to.
    watto_cobra
  • Reply 3 of 54
    lkrupp said:
    "The best and most committed Mac developers are seeing the future potential of Apple Silicon and are excited by it.”

    As for the rest... drag your feet until you absolutely have to.
    For some developers there can be added complications.

    The article mentions Discord and Electron, but think about all the games and other applications based on the Unity engine as an example. The latest versions of Unity now have M1 support, but if you built your app in an older version? At that point it's not just a recompile, they need to re-write and test.

    But, yes - I'm sure there are a lot of developers dragging their feet. (I saw a new release on Steam last night that isn't Catalina compatible!)
    watto_cobra
  • Reply 4 of 54
    rcfarcfa Posts: 1,077member
    Apple Silicon support isn’t important because an
    app “needs the extra power”, it’s important because emulation requires system resources, and thus steals away memory and resources from other apps.

    Unless you’re one of few people who run a single app at a time in full-screen kiosk mode, Rosetta 2, as elegant as it is, needs to be seen as a stop gap measure for legacy apps: not more, not less.
    Apps are ALWAYS supposed to run natively (unless you’re doing research in CPU emulation, or something similarly esoteric). There’s no need to justify the need with the app otherwise being too slow: software layers should always be reduced to a minimum, even if only to reduce attack vectors and potential sources of bugs.
    williamlondon
  • Reply 5 of 54
    sflocalsflocal Posts: 5,732member
    As a developer myself, this inaction by other developers really irks me and gives us a bad rap.  I know conversions can be a pain.  I've done a few myself over the decades.  It's inevitable that Apple a future MacOS release will require that all apps be native ARM apps so anyone not ready by that time should be jettisoned as they obviously don't care and would rather complain the be compliant.
    macplusplusrob53
  • Reply 6 of 54
    dewmedewme Posts: 3,818member
    If this is a glass half empty versus glass half full readout, I'm on the side of the latter assessment. Seven months is not a long period of time for a development organization to pivot to a new platform, not if they are faithfully supporting their current customer base and don't have excess bandwidth to support what was, until the last WWDC, an unplanned activity on their product roadmap. Many software development organizations are running with Lean and Kanban development strategies, which means they don't jump into panic mode at every new request but instead run it through a triage and ranking process. On top of that, a lot of organizations are running "lean" on the staffing side due to a shrinking pool of qualified candidates, so you're definitely going to see a gap between those who have more resources and bandwidth and those who are already tapped out. 

    Apple provided Rosetta as a migration strategy because they understand the challenges that software development organizations are faced with. There is no shame in taking advantage of the bridge that Apple has built to help bring apps over to supporting Apple Silicon natively. From the glass half full perspective the transition is moving along at a remarkable pace. Kudos also to the trailblazers for working out the kinks for those who will follow.
    muthuk_vanalingam
  • Reply 7 of 54
    The irony is the elephant in the room, most apps run better and quicker non natively on the M1 than they do on an actual PC lol. You know, the computer they’re actually designed to run on  🤣😂😅
    williamlondon
  • Reply 8 of 54
    I thought Rosetta 2 did translation and not emulation. 
    macplusplusfastasleep
  • Reply 9 of 54
    To me this isn't necessarily a bad thing given there are only a few Macs with Apple Silicon right now.  As more Mac models come online (I'm eyeing the iMac), I'm sure it will happen.  Meantime Rosetta 2 is a capable translator.
  • Reply 10 of 54
    MplsPMplsP Posts: 3,260member
    I wonder how much of the delay is from developers taking a 'wait and see' approach - waiting to see what the true performance of the Apple Silicon machines was (as opposed to the A12 Mac mini apple made available as a stopgap measure,) and also waiting to see what the adoption rate was going to be. 

    Ironically, apple's work with rosetta may be hurting the transition. When you have an outstanding emulator/translator that lets things run perfectly from the consumer's perspective, there's less push to port the code over. 

    Out of curiosity, what was the pace of transition when Apple switched from PPC to Intel? Regardless, we're still early in the process, and I'm a year or so away from replacing my MBP with an M1 model, so I'm good!

  • Reply 11 of 54
    There's been too much "abandonware" on the Mac platform due to developers half-heartedly paying attention to both user needs and Apple directions (or simply going out of business or being acquired by someone who doesn't really care about the Mac).

     IMHO - If you're in on the Mac platform as a developer, you need to keep track of where Apple is going if you care about your users.

    For users, reward those developers that make the journey, and complain loudly to those that don't seem to want to listen. You know there will be a day when Apple removes the Rosetta 2 "crutch" and you need to protect yourself by having alternatives.

  • Reply 12 of 54
    I touched a M1 Mac today for the first time.

    S L O W.

    Completely what I expected, but with all the "no, really, they're fast" hype, I thought maybe I'd be wrong.

    Nope.  They're slow. 

    Buy an Intel Mac while you still can.

    williamlondon
  • Reply 13 of 54
    I hope developers remember that Apple will eventually stop shipping Rosetta 2 in future macOS updates.

    Anyone want to take a guess at the timeframe?

    I’m guessing a timetable won’t be announced until after the full transition has occurred. But is the original OS is any guide, it will be discontinued a year after the 2-year transition to Apple Silicon is complete. Developers hoping to just hangout on Intel will find themselves with a rapidly shrinking market.
  • Reply 14 of 54
    A bit off topic but has anyone given any thought to Windows PC PCI Cards over Thunderbolt for x86 compatibility? Or over thumb drive?
  • Reply 15 of 54
    N3V has their Trainz 2019 game for ASi in beta now. 

    While MS Teams may not be native code, MS Edge is native code even for the public, stable version. 

    I would not say there is only a few ASi Macs out there with the News in Japan and the backlog of the ASi Macs. That is also encouraging developers to code Natively. 
  • Reply 16 of 54
    darkvader said:
    I touched a M1 Mac today for the first time.

    S L O W.

    Completely what I expected, but with all the "no, really, they're fast" hype, I thought maybe I'd be wrong.

    Nope.  They're slow. 

    Buy an Intel Mac while you still can.

    I had the same experience before the 11.1 update, after which everything was fast and buttery smooth. It’s important to remember that anything running Rosetta is going to slow on first launch and then as fast or faster than the Intel model.

    No way I would go back to an Intel model. They run hot, are noisy and the battery life is dismal. Mine has only been barely warm  and I’ve never heard the fan (in thick protective computer case) and the battery life is just nuts, something no PC can match and all that with most apps still on Rosetta.

    Plus the wake from sleep is instant and USB4 pretty much eliminates the need for Thunderbolt for single flash drives, etc. Another benefit is that USBTB/4 manages data streams in a way that improves speed when using multiple devices.

    FAST - QUITE - COOL - CRAZY BATTERY LIFE

    Once you go Apple Silicon there is no going back!
    edited February 5 Fidonet127macplusplusmuthuk_vanalingamjdb8167rob53ITGUYINSDStrangeDays
  • Reply 17 of 54
    JWSCJWSC Posts: 1,012member

    “ There is also the fact that the most involved, active developers are genuinely thrilled by Apple Silicon. Just as one example, we spoke with Ken Case of The Omni Group. He agreed with us that the company's outlining app, OmniOutliner, has never actually been slow, but Omni has updated it to Apple Silicon anyway. “



    These are the kind of developers that will excel, not the ones that ask how many man-hours it will take to update their software.  It’s the difference between bean counters and creative engineers who push the boundaries and want to better themselves and their products, regardless of what the competition is or is not doing.  The developers with passion will succeed and their companies will flourish.  As an investor, these are the companies to watch.
    Fidonet127
  • Reply 18 of 54
    fastasleepfastasleep Posts: 5,690member
    darkvader said:
    I touched a M1 Mac today for the first time.

    S L O W.

    Completely what I expected, but with all the "no, really, they're fast" hype, I thought maybe I'd be wrong.

    Nope.  They're slow. 

    Buy an Intel Mac while you still can.

    Unadulterated horseshit.
    Fidonet127JinTechiqatedocommentzillawilliamlondonfahlmanjdb8167saarekrob53danox
  • Reply 19 of 54
    JinTechJinTech Posts: 775member
    darkvader said:
    I touched a M1 Mac today for the first time.

    S L O W.

    Completely what I expected, but with all the "no, really, they're fast" hype, I thought maybe I'd be wrong.

    Nope.  They're slow. 

    Buy an Intel Mac while you still can.

    I bought an M1 MacBook Air to replace my aged MacBook Pro 15" from 2015. The M1 has half the memory and boy is it buttery smooth and wicked fast. Plus I can run iPadOS apps which is convenient for some of what I do with this machine.
    iqatedocommentzillalukeiwilliamlondonfahlmanjdb8167rob53StrangeDays
  • Reply 20 of 54
    Goed to know: the most complete photo editor, and one of the oldest Mac applications, is also M1 compatible: Graphic Converter, from Lemke. 
    danox
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