A theory of Mac future

Apple / iOS

Photoshop coming to iOS is all about the future of the Mac.

You’re moving your platform to ARM soon. It makes perfect sense — you’ll iterate hardware faster than Intel can enable, performance is better and power consumption is lower. You’ll get better margins or keep the same great margins with lower price points.

But there’s the problem of software. Pro users want the tools they’re used to on Mac. The big companies like Adobe won’t port their apps to ARM just because – and that risks your new computers being “useless” to people who need those tools.

You port your in-house apps of course. Everybody can already use iOS based versions Pages, Numbers, Keynote, Photos, iMovie, Garageband, Mail, Safari and of course the entire Microsoft Office suite. Remember how Pages et al were rewritten from the ground up and to essentially have feature parity?

So… to solve this you present a better proposition to key partners:

Port your apps to ARM and iOS at the same time. Ditch your 20 years of macOS cruft.

You make your next macOS release support running iOS apps to make this notion possible. The Mac App Store is rewritten in Mojave to pave the way for also installing iOS apps in the next macOS release.

This porting process more than doubles the market size of the previously macOS-only apps, and works for existing Intel Macs going several years back, and the last of the Intel Macs in 2019/2020. Everyone comes along for the ride.

By the time your ARM Macs hit the stores in 2019/2020, the key Mac apps have already been ported to iOS and ARM. Your iPad platform – the future of computing you are presenting – gains versions of key apps that would have Mac users holding off from switching to the future iPad-like iOS-like platform.

The smaller Mac apps will either recompile or be retired over time. Small software houses don’t hold any power in this relationship and not many people in the market will miss them as the power of the Mac platform — running all the apps iOS has to offer — trumps the importance of smaller tools.

So it begins with Photoshop coming to iPad. The most important app on Mac, one can argue. The one app, aside from Office, that everyone in the world has heard of.

Update: I should have added this at the end. Like a tide rising to fill rock pools, the macOS apps that don’t get ported to iOS/ARM will be replaced by some of the many thousands of iOS apps that will inevitably start to be used on macOS with small changes made over time by those developers.

The Author

Marc Palmer (Twitter, Mastodon) is a consultant and software engineer specialising in Apple platforms. He currently works on the iOS team of Concepts sketching app, as well as his own apps like video subtitle app Captionista. He created the Flint open source framework. He can also do a pretty good job of designing app products. Don't ask him to draw anything, because that's really embarrassing. You can find out more here.