18 Jan 2018

A rumoured new way to develop universal apps for iOS and macOS.

A weekly podcast that follows the journeys of two iOS developers

Join the conversation.

Show Notes

We discuss Marzipan, a rumoured new way to develop universal apps for iOS and macOS. We walk through what this could mean for the industry as a whole, and more specifically, for our own apps.

Links:

Transcript

 

Dave Nott

Welcome to Waiting For Review, a show about iOS development and the Apple ecosystem. From Devon, England I’m Dave Nott and joining me from Wellington, New Zealand is David Wood.

Okay so this week we are going to talk about marzipan. For those that don’t know. marzipan is a sort of new rumoured way for developers to write universal apps for both iOS and Mac OS. When I heard the news, my first reaction was pretty positive. When I think about myself as an iOS developer, I’m massively in favor of this. When I think about it, I am used to working in UI kit as an iOS developer, whereas with Mac OS, I would have to work in App Kit and with App Kit, I don’t really have any experience. I’ve heard through the grapevine that it, you know, can be kind of tricky and kind of “followed this path with caution”, so to speak. So for me, I’ll be massively in favor of this move. I think it’d be hugely advantageous.

Dave Wood

Yes, my first thoughts on the matter, and bear in mind this this rumor broke just before Christmas in last year now didn’t it…a couple of weeks ago at least. My first initial reaction to this was the sort of thinking, you know… that’s brilliant from an iOS developer perspective. This is something I would really love I think. There’s some queries from some people as to whether this would produce the sort of quality of apps that they would like to see on the Mac, but to be honest with the trend towards things like electron based apps that are just glorified Web Apps to a degree, you’ve got a whole instance of Chrome or whatever that’s running behind scenes and running the show, I would sooner have it’s an iOS app on a Mac versus that sort of scenario. So yeah, my initial reaction was very very positive. This could sort of mean more apps on the Mac, it could open some doors as an iOS developer to things that I can do, it could also mean that certain apps, I think a good example would be the Twitter app for Mac OS, in this instance if we could have a sort of unified app version we could see something like that where it’s updated across all platforms at the same time

 

Dave Nott

Yeah, I don’t know…because I suppose you then run into the risk of basically the Mac App potentially just being an iOS app running in the Mac…

Dave Wood

Yeah, yeah I guess so…it really depends I guess on what the implementation of this is going to be.

 

Dave Nott

Yeah, for me, with the Twitter app, I don’t think I’d necessarily mind if it was kind of just like at an iOS app that’s just been sort of you know put into the Mac and it can it can run, because with with the Twitter app specifically, I don’t think I require that much from it, but then, shift that argument to things like design software, audio editing…video mixing in your case, I think the conversation starts to take a different track quite quickly.

Dave Wood

Yep, yeah potentially that’s going to be a case of the implementation itself being absolutely critical to the type of apps and the type of things we could expect to see. It will be it will be interesting to me to see if this is essentially UI Kit coming to Mac OS or whether this is something completely brand-new…

 

Dave Nott

Yeah I was reading about UX Kit and it seems that UX Kit is a private framework of Apples that sits on top of App Kit and it strongly resembles UI Kit, and I think that was used quite heavily in the Photos app on the Mac. So whether, you know…what we end up seeing is kind of like an extended version of UX kit that then becomes what you use for iOS and Mac OS, I don’t know…but that that would start seem perhaps like a sensible place to start.

Dave Wood

Yeah I could see that, I think I’d be very keen though, like I say for it to not be yet another new thing from an iOS perspective. I think I’m heavily biased here, you know, as an iOS developer that doesn’t know very much about developing for the Mac. I am biased. I would like to sort of see UI Kit be the first citizen I think here and I don’t really mind whether that’s like say it’s bringing it literally to Mac OS or whether it ends up being called something slightly different on Mac OS. But I’d rather that that this wasn’t something separate that is then sort of separate but new on both platforms, I think it needs to be needs to be something that is an update to UI Kit on on iOS and I think on Mac OS it then needs to be potentially whether it’s called UX Kit or whether it is literally its UI Kit on on Mac OS but it needs to be bringing you know all of the good stuff back over from iOS to Mac OS I think to make this work.

 

Dave Nott

Yeah I think UI Kit will be at be at the core of it, even if it’s called UX Kit. I think UI Kit it’s gonna be at the heart of what’s going on here. For me I think a good place for this to end up would be but if writing a Mac app felt like you’re writing a tvOS app or a watchOS app in that it feels a little different from coding a traditional iOS app, but it’s familiar enough that it kind of still feels like home. At least for an iOS developer…I don’t know what the hardcore Mac devs will think!

Dave Wood

Yeah I think there are potential negatives if you’re a traditional died in the wall Mac OS developer, again it comes back to the implementation though…if this is a layer that you can invoke on top of all with the existing frameworks within App Kit, if it kind of links in to what’s there as well, then that means that it might be possible to use this new thing and not lose some of the benefits from from that history as well.

 

Dave Nott

Yeah, that’s an interesting take on it

Dave Wood

Thinking specifically around some of the things that Mac OS apps have to do, and do very well, which is where they end up using system UI components and stuff on the menu bars and that side of things, there’s a lot that’s built in…sort of in the back of App Kit. My very shallow knowledge of it is that because you have to sort of use a lot of very similar components again and again, if you’re thinking about things like preferences screens, that’s the sort of thing where, you know there’s not really any need to roll your own and there’s some very nice parts in the fame frameworks to be able to just do these things using using default api’s. So I think it would be a shame to lose that side of things within this new side of a sort of UI Kit layer coming across. Yeah, if that is what it is, I think it’d be very nice to be able to have a bit the best of both worlds on the Mac side of things so potentially you can sort of share a layer between the iOS and the Mac OS side of things but then you can start to specify on either platform with sort of the more specific tweaks if that’s something you want to do.

 

Dave Nott

Sure, yeah that makes that make sense. Thinking about it from Apple’s perspective, I think this whole thing is it makes so much sense because if you look at the the talent that they have within the iOS developer community, I mean there’s a ton of really good developers that are all highly skilled in iOS and familiar with UI Kit. and then it seems to me…you know, I’m not speaking for everyone here, but sort of in the community it seems a lot like if you mentioned developing a Mac App, a lot of iOS developers are like “I don’t know about that”…at least I’ve always found. It’s kind of ironic because there’s a lot of iOS developers out there and as a result of that, those iOS developers are power users of the Mac. but then it seems like that there’s a big disconnect between that and then being able to develop apps for the Mac. So I think if this can act as a bridge to transfer that skill set from the iOS dev community and sort of unleash us all at the Mac,I think I could be huge for the Mac.

Dave Wood

Yeah, I really agree. it’s for me, as an iOS developer, it’s not so much that I’m you know kind of afraid or even blissfully ignorant of what Mac development is like. It’s more just that I know it’s different and I know that it’s it’s an extra overhead.I know I want to be learning things that expand my skills as an iOS developer and so learning to develop on the Mac is something that just doesn’t doesn’t really necessarily tick any boxes for me. But if there was something that, like you say, is acting as a bridge that just sort of makes that that overhead a lot less then I think that could be really brilliant and that would sort of bring me personally over to considering the Mac as a target for my own apps.

 

Dave Nott

Yeah, when I first heard about this, my initial response was that I started thinking about it much like we discussed with the Twitter app – about iOS apps coming to the Mac. If you take the Twitterfic app for example, a Twitter client on iOS, their Mac version didn’t get as much attention due to the interest and therefore the money being on iOS, and you can’t really blame them for that at all. They ran a Kickstarter campaign I think, during the back end of last year to fund the development of a Mac version. I think if marzipan comes to fruition, it would have made this a lot easier for that for those folks, so that’s kind of like my first take on it, in the direction being from iOS to Mac OS. Once I kind of stewed on it for a while, it dawned on me that this could be a way to push iOS forward, for example, take a photo editor app on the Mac – a fully loaded photo editor that costs proper money, is actively developed, actively maintained. If today, that company were to announce they’re making an iOS version, I think I would probably think to myself “okay that’s cool but it’s probably just going to be like a stripped down version with a Mac version with a subset of the features that the Mac has”. Whereas now, let’s imagine a world where marzipan is a thing, that could allow for more, if not most of the features that the Mac version has to come to iOS, albeit with a different UI paradigm and a different approach in that sense. So really, we could see a huge push into iOS with this, this could really push iOS forward in a meaningful way, rather than just thinking this is good for the Mac because the Mac has been neglected and we’re getting all these electron apps now, because it’s easier for developers and you know so on and so on… and it’s easy to I think write off the benefit to iOS, I mean this good this could turn your iPad pro into even more of an iPad pro in in in years to come!

Dave Wood

Yeah I think you’re totally right there, the target platform on iOS would be the iPad I think this up bringing those apps over…

 

Dave Nott

Yeah I think so, especially with the pencil…

Dave Wood

Yeah I’d certainly love to sort of see more of that going on as well.

 

Dave Nott

How is your iPad by the way? Are you actually still using it?

Dave Wood

Yes, yeah I am!

 

Dave Nott

I notice you’ve been awfully quiet since you bought it. You were like “yeah I love” it then it’s like…we haven’t heard much about that iPad, Dave…

Dave Wood

Well we moved and everything sort of got a bit like “okay I’ve got this lovely new machine but no time to really play with it”…No, I keep I keep coming back to it, I think it’s fair to say that my phone’s mostly my primary device really but the the iPad stops me from using the the Mac in the evenings unless what you need to start doing some code or anything

 

Dave Nott

You know what would solve that don’t you?

Dave Wood

Xcode on the iPad?

 

Dave Nott

A 12 inch MacBook! It’s the perfect device!

I think kind of like my last thought of marzipan, if it were to happen of course, is the expectation from Mac users regarding when you purchase an app on iOS, let’s say you buy like a an iOS app for $1.99, for me it’s become quite common for me to expect the the iOS app or the iPhone app to go across to my iPad which is you know it’s fairly commonplace, and in some cases I’ve picked up on the fact that if I install an app on my iPhone I go to my Apple TV lo and behold, there’s a new icon on my Apple TV, obviously similarly with the watch. To the to the regular customer base that kind of reinforces a buy once run everywhere kind of mentality, so I wonder what the expectation will be on the Mac whether when you go to your Mac next or if you when you’ve paid $1.99 for an iOS app expect to see a new icon on the dock or whether the Mac is still going to be considered and you’re like a different playing field and yes, it does exist on both but you’re gonna have to pay for it again if you want the Mac version…

Dave Wood

Hmm…

 

Dave Nott

It’ll be interesting to see how that shakes out, my gut feeling is (using Twitter again as an example) the Twitter app if you install it on iOS yeah sure probably pop up on the Mac because it’s it’s free anyway something like a photo editor app or maybe if one day you made GoVJ for the Mac I would probably expect to have to pay more to get it on the Mac maybe through some kind of app bundle, because otherwise where‘s the incentive for you to go to this effort getting it on the mac because at end of the day, with a UX Kit / UI Kit hybrid or whatever it’s going to end up being. I think the Mac is going to bring more of an overhead in terms of support and the way the app needs to be considered, so there has to be has to be reward to the developer to put the app on the Mac so I think bundling is going have to be a thing, like you can just buy the iOS version for $1.99 or add the Mac version for an extra five dollars or whatever the prices are.

Dave Wood

Yeah, now that would be an interesting sort of take on it, I think. I think that could end up being quite difficult if it’s done in terms of…isn’t it on tvOS that the the app bundle is the same but they’re different targets?

 

Dave Nott

I’m not entirely sure… I think so. I’ve never actually done that myself but I think I think you’re right saying that.

Dave Wood

There’s something on those lines so essentially if you’ve bought it on the one then (it’s completely different binary) but you get that version available to you on on the TV and so I think unless you were doing it as a literal app store bundle, so they’re two different two completely different apps that happen to be on, one is on iOS one is on Mac OS but you can buy them together then I think otherwise yes it will be that that scenario of it’s expected to be available on both and once you’ve made the one purchase…

 

Dave Nott

Yeah, the communication is going to have to be pretty clear in the App Store isn’t it…

Dave Wood

Yes and I think some of this to be honest is actually part of a bigger thing in terms of pro apps and their price point on on iOS as well. So I could see this being a scenario where perhaps pricing wise, for that sort of like not necessarily pro app, more like sort of a prosumer app, somewhere in that that middle area I’m thinking about your photo editing app example again, you know it’s something that’s more complicated than just throwing a few filters on a picture but equally is not necessarily Adobe Photoshop in terms of complexity. In that middle ground. The pricing that it may have approached on the Mac before may have been at say about $50 or $60 app. On iOS, you wouldn’t necessarily be able to charge that at all, but there is an argument to say that if these apps are going to exist, we need to be able to start charging more, so maybe it becomes a $30 app that is available on both, and kind of drives the the iPad pricing, the iOS pricing, sort of up and off the bottom.

 

Dave Nott

Yeah, I suppose we’re talking more about you know direct purchasing here, but I wonder with subscriptions, whether it would work out differently, because, regardless of whether you buy the iOS app or the mac app…so let’s say you download it for free and then you can subscribe, the Mac has the potential for more subscriptions, so I guess you could, subscriptions might make it easier to get the initial downloads and then make it more sustainable by having more Mac users subscribing maybe that could carry the iOS versions along as well…I’m not entirely sure where I’m going with this now I’ve started saying it! We may have to edit this out!

Dave Wood

Yeah possibly, but there is something there to be said for, if you have somebody using your app on one platform but they also happen to have a device on the other platform, so they’ve got both an iPad and a Mac and your app is there in one form or another in both both environments there is something there to be said for subscriptions in terms of keeping your subscribers engaged with your app and keeping them… it’s a sort of ‘stickiness’ factor I’ve heard it referred to in the past in terms of like you want those customers to keep subscribing to still be with you. So the more places you are available to them the sort of stickier that subscription is and are less likely to cancel it.

 

Dave Nott

So, that said, the Mac version adds value in that sense…

Dave Wood

Yes it’s about presence.

 

Dave Nott

So, rather than just an initial give me $40 at the on the app store…

Dave Wood

Yeah and if we’re talking about something development wise that ends up meaning that the the overhead of being in both environments is quite low, you know okay maybe the experience you’re getting for a fully UX kit mock-up is not as deep as it would be if it was a fully app kit Mac app, but it’s there you know it’s available and you can still use it if the efforts of provisioning for that and creating that’s are getting creating that version of the app is is quite low then it becomes this kind of well, well why wouldn’t we you know for the sake of sort of spinning up another target and maybe putting in I don’t know however however many hours or whatever of work it is but kind of doing that and then it’s it’s sort of set you know we can just keep updating you app for iOS and it’s minimal effort to keep the mac app sort of ticking along yeah it becomes this kind of no-brainer why wouldn’t I do that?

The games you’re doing at both the moment…could totally be a thing on both?

 

Dave Nott

Yeah I think so and I think that’s kind of part of the motivation for choosing to go down that path because you know a game can run on the iPhone, the iPad, the TV and maybe soon in the Mac so yeah I think though it could definitely be of like a direct benefit to me definitely. I mean I’ve looked at other kind of ways of making games sort of write once run everywhere, but for better or worse I’ve chosen to go with sprite kit so I think it’s yeah this could have pretty pretty big pretty big impacts, yeah and I think in your case GoVJ would be a really good fit for the Mac

Dave Wood

It would there’s… I’ve always had a desire to bring go VGA across to the max of in the longer term I’ve also had a desire for a while to kind of make a a sort of more pro version of the app for the iPad as well. Last year, so almost literally a year ago, I did a survey where I got members of the the online VJing community to give me some feedback essentially a bit the state of the union for for VJing, kind of survey..,And some of the questions I asked within that survey I asked them specifically about the types of software they were using to actually do their that -this is, this is professional VJs so these are guys who are mixing video events every weekend and getting paid for it it’s not just your guy he wants to spin some some graphics for his mate who’s happens to be DJing down the road for the first time sort of thing, which is quite commonly my sort of target users who use GoVJ on the iPhone now these guys are way in the pro and of things and their feedback to me was that they would love to see things happening on the Mac but also that an iPad version would be very useful.

So…. something like this is sort of marzipan you execute idea would kind of let me have a look quite seriously about bringing a pro version to the iPad of my app and also to then if it’s a case of it’s almost turnkey I can get a Mac version very quickly after doing that work then it sort of becomes a two-for-one on the effort and that that would HIGHLY motivate me into sort of making sure I carve at that time and …

Dave Wood

… make that happen because at the moment looking at the iPad side of things I’m still not sure you know even even after doing that survey I’m still not a hundred percent sure that it would really be the best use of my time at the moment because spare times at a premium. But, if I could kind of nail the Mac side of things as well then without having to sort of get deep with AppKit and that side of things then for me I think there would actually be some business to be done there so yeah I’m pretty hopeful for this from a very very self-interested point of view there this this would let me sort of address something that I’ve been wanting to do for a while without having to sort of invest lots and lots of time getting very specific with with the sort of intricacies of AppKit, that would be really quite cool to do.

 

Dave Nott

Okay we’ll call that a wrap! If you enjoyed today’s show it’d be great if you could leave us a review on iTunes or if you could and leave us a recommendation in overcast by hitting that star button that will help us reach even more like-minded people also we have our slack channel we’d love to invite you to join. Our hope is it can be a really great place for other developers to come and hang out. If you’d like to join just leave us a message on Twitter @wfrpodcast, and we’ll get you signed up. So Dave, before we run off, where can people find you?

Dave Wood

You can find me on twitter @dwroboheadz that’s “roboheadz” spelt with a “zed”, and you can find my apps at roboheadz.com again that’s “roboheadz” spelt with a “zed”. How about you Dave?

 

Dave Nott

Yeah you can find my remote control for Kodi at armchair-remote.com, and my latest app to help kids learn to read you can find at spacereaders.com and on twitter I am @_davenott