Apple has a plan for universal apps across iOS and macOS, report says

Enlarge/ The iOS app Simulator tool in Xcode on a Mac.Samuel Axon

Citing people familiar with the matter, a Bloomberg report claims an internal Apple project seeks to make it possible for app developers to publish apps that work on both mobile iOS devices and Mac computers.

Currently, separate apps must be developed for iOS and macOS, and, with a smaller install base, the Mac App Store is not as robust as that of the iPhone. But the new project, reportedly code-named "Marzipan" internally, would allow for designing and developing apps that could be used with either a touchscreen or a mouse (or trackpad) and published to both platforms.

Depending on how Apple approaches this project, it could reduce workload on developers who want their software to be usable across the Apple ecosystem while bolstering the Mac App Store with a larger library of apps.

The report does not get into details about how exactly this would work. Critically, Macs run on a different architecture than iOS devices. That said, rumors that Macs will move away from Intel to ARM processors have been persistent for years, in contrast to Apple's previous claims that merging the iOS and Mac platforms is not something worth pursuing. (Apple has changed its mind many times before, though.)

There are existing software development tools that allow compiling executables for multiple platforms from the same project. Emulation is also a possible solution, but it would be sub-optimal, to say the least. In a way, running iOS apps with a mouse-based interface is already done in the Simulator tool in Apple's Xcode software for developers.

Apple could potentially draw on its approach to tvOS and iOS apps for inspiration. The Apple TV runs on the same basic architecture as iOS devices, but even then, there is not a single binary for both. Apple simply allows universal purchases that bundle the distinct apps together. Separate binaries are an obvious must when supporting both iPhones and Macs, so a similar approach is likely.

If Marzipan does come to fruition, Apple would not be the first to do something like this. Google allows publishing of apps to both Android mobile devices and the desktop Chrome OS in its Play store. Microsoft introduced Universal Windows Platform in Windows 10, allowing development of apps that run across a wide range of Microsoft platforms like desktop Windows, the Xbox One, and Windows 10 Mobile.

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