Apple is working on improving Mac Catalyst based on developer feedback

Oct 26, 2019
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Apple is working hard to update Mac Catalyst based on early developer feedback, as per Todd Benjamin, MacOS product marketing director. Early adoption has been slow by developers and improvements to Catalyst will pave the way for more developers to port their iPad apps to the Mac desktop. You still might not see Netflix anytime soon in macOS Catalina, but with future iterations to Catalyst, we might get there.

What is Mac Catalyst?

Mac Catalyst is Apple’s development technology which allows developers to convert their iPad apps to macOS apps by enabling a checkbox in Xcode. Xcode is Apple’s development environment which allows developers to create apps for all the company’s platforms which include iOS, iPadOS, macOS, watchOS and tvOS. Developers still have to put in effort to make the app feel native to Mac, but the initial conversion is handled by Catalyst. For now, there are not many popular Mac Catalyst apps except from the likes of Twitter, GoodNotes and JIRA.

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Despite the ease, there have been some complexities in the technology. Developers had to face issues throughout macOS Catalina’s beta. Issues like broken APIs, incomplete documentation, constant changes and unavailable features caused headaches for many developers. Apple’s guidelines for Catalyst have been less than helpful, which does not bode well for any new development technology. The cherry on top is that app purchases can not be shared between Mac App Store and iPadOS App Store. This means that despite sharing a code base, the apps are isolated and users have to purchase them twice.

Catalyst is not really new, despite its official announcement in WWDC 2019. macOS Mojave actually shipped with a number of apps which were developed based on an early version of Catalyst, then known as ‘Marzipan’. These apps included News, Stocks, Voice Memos and Home. Users who used these apps were not impressed by the results because the apps simply did not feel native to Mac. Even in macOS Catalina, these apps have not received any considerable improvements to change user opinions.

Apple’s operating systems have shipped with various bugs this year, so it is not surprising at all that Catalyst has also suffered. Things might be looking up as Todd Benjamin, MacOS Product Marketing Manger told CNET:

We're learning a ton from these early adopters, and are planning additional resources and support to help them create amazing Mac experiences with Mac Catalyst.

While the complaints get more airtime, there have been good experiences shared by developers who have published Catalyst apps, such as LookUp as it saved time and effort.

No matter what the popular opinion is, Catalyst apps are the future of macOS apps. Along with fixing their operating system releases and their quality, Apple would need to ensure that Catalyst gets the attention it needs to get more developers on board.

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