Apple Is Merging Mac And iOS Apps - But What Will This Mean For Musicians & Producers?

Feature parity across Mac and iOS devices makes sense for developers, but at what cost for the people who rely on pro software to make music?  

It has been clear for quite some time that Apple is looking at the relationship between its Mac and iOS platforms. Although the Mac is what made Apple rich, iPhones and to a lesser extent iPads are what have made it insanely rich. For a number of years now, sales of iOS devices have far outstripped hardware Mac sales.

While Mac OS X has decades of development behind it, iOS is a younger operating system. But its rapid growth has been remarkable, from a simple app launcher to an extremely advanced OS with core graphics, audio and MIDI frameworks making it suitable for use as a professional platform. Apps like Cubasis, Auria and GarageBand for iOS are truly powerful - but they are still very different from their desktop counterparts.

Now, a new report by Bloomberg suggest that the company is seriously considering releasing software development tools that will allow coders to make apps that run on both platforms. We have seen very early glimpses of this, like News coming to Mac OS Mojave, but only baby steps so far. Here's what the report says.

"Apple Inc. wants to make it easier for software coders to create tools, games and other applications for its main devices in one fell swoop -- an overhaul designed to encourage app development and, ultimately, boost revenue.

The aim of the multistep initiative, code-named “Marzipan,” is that by 2021, developers will be able to build an app once and have it work on the iPhone, iPad and Mac computers, people familiar with the effort said. That should spur the creation of new software, increasing the utility of the company’s gadgets."

But would this be good or bad for musicians and producers? It depends on various factors. For sure, it would take time. You can't take an app like Logic Pro X - with decades of history and legacy code - and press a button to make it work exactly the same way on an iPad that it does on a Mac. For a start, the interface paradigms are completely different - touch vs.mouse. And while Apple could easily make a touchscreen Mac, there's a reason it hasn't done so yet. It's also interesting to note that the company is adamant that it won't combine Mac OS and iOS into one system - but the suggestion is that applications will be interchangeable.

The risk - and I think it's a real risk - is that Mac apps dumb down in the transition, rather than iOS apps "smartening up". To take a non-audio example, when Adobe wanted to create a version of Lightroom with feature parity across iOS and Mac OS, it ditched a huge number of features from the "classic" version in order to make it work. You can imagine the same thing happening with Logic, or Live. It's not that developers would want to do this, but it might be unavoidable. 5, 6 years later these apps might be getting back towards their previous levels of functionality, but that's a long time to wait.

The appeal for developers is clear - code once, output an app for both platforms. For consumers it's less so. Yes, you might spend less money if you only pay once for an app that works on all your devices, but is that really ideal if it's lost a lot of its tools? iOS and the Mac are still very different, and if Apple really isn't going combine both operating systems, it has a real challenge on its hands - and so do developers - making a transition like this work. Apple isn't afraid of upending things - think the shift from PowerPC to Intel, or from Carbon to Cocoa apps which really annoyed a lot of people. But this might be its biggest challenge so far. 

What do you think? Is this a positive development or do we risk getting "LogicBand" instead of a serious, pro app? Let us know in the comments.

Hollin Jones was classically trained as a piano player but found the lure of blues and jazz too much to resist. Graduating from bands to composition then production, he relishes the chance to play anything with keys. A sometime lecturer in videographics, music production and photography post production, Hollin has been a freelance w... Read More

Discussion

Nulldevice
Apple’s got two business needs to address:

1) they want to ditch intel for ARM, and need native apps for the new architecture ASAP.
2) they have an enormous iOS App Store generating a lot of revenue and driving device sales, but the equivalent macOS App Store does not have the same traction (or price points). Few people buy macs explicitly because of the Mac App Store.

I think we are much more likely to see them pushing iOS apps to macOS rather than the other way around (in fact we already are). It’d make Apple more money far quicker than trying to port their flagship apps to IOS. We probably *will* eventually see complete platform convergence, but it’s further off than this, and Apple is still fond of the insane margins on Mac hardware. They’re playing the long game on that part, while trying to squeeze more money out of its service lines.
Stevejaz
In the first place I am NO computer expert, one of the main reasons I eventually moved to Mac with an early Retana MBP. Now that it is over 6 years old and myself 66 years old and an age pensioner a new MBP is pretty much out of my price range. I currently have an iPhone 10, 6 months into a plan with 200gig data (and no landline or NBN) I have been hoping for something like this when my phone plan runs out. The idea of a top of the range iPad Pro on a data plan would be very attractive if I can run usable music apps on it. I am not a professional musician but still take my music very seriously. The big attraction to moving to an iPad base is the combination of the device and Data in a monthly plan with, of course, the option to update every 2 years. I see no option of anything like that with a MBP.
Colin
I imagine that Apple's Marzipan project is intended for lower-level apps but will definitely not encompass high-end pro apps like Logic or Pro Tools etc. Garageband (Logic lite) is already on both platforms and that will be that. Apple still wants to sell Macs and will keep the Pro software for that purpose.
Zeljko
Hope they include at least clip launching from GarageBand and do whole overhaul on sampling workflow in new iteration of Logic, eMagic code starts to show his age.
Iain Anderson
Bloomberg used some clickbait headlines on this one. Apple aren't really "merging" Mac and iOS apps, but they are making it easier for port iOS apps to the Mac. It'll be fine for some simpler apps, but won't affect Pro apps that need different UIs for touch and desktop. In general this move is going to help the Mac rather than hinder it.

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