in Opinion

When Apple revealed the stocks, News and Home app would all be on the Mac, it took me a moment to put the pieces together. When they then denied they were merging the Mac and iOS but were making tools to help developers move their apps between the two platforms, the mystery was over for all.

I hadn’t given it too much thought (as there’s nothing for developers this year) but after hearing Myke and Grey discuss it this week on Cortex — why they predicted it would help the Mac and iOS — I started wondering about the darkest marzipan timeline, and how this could all go wrong.

(Spoiler: I’ll discuss the brightest timeline afterwards)

The problem with most universal design systems

There have been “universal” and cross device operating systems and frameworks in the past. In fact, many developers now favour one of these options, electron, thanks to its cross platform use of Windows and Mac. The problems is that these apps usually feel terrible and don’t consider what makes this device unique.

This can be little things like, using a different design paradigm (although this can be a good thing. Not all apps should follow iOS guidelines) using the wrong share button, something which can cause minor annoyance and confusion, or more major issues like slow performance and errors.

Most of the time, they fail to consider what makes this device unique and so deliver a sub-par interface combined with a slower interface and performance. Not great.

But would this be true of Marzipan?

How Project Marzipan could all go wrong

The later should be avoided in Marzipan as it should still work natively and not as a glorified web wrapper. However, the issue of not considering the device design interface is possible here.

Having used a Windows RT tablet, I know that Windows 8 with touch was a terrible interface. It basically had a touch mode and a traditional mode. You could touch on the traditional interface and you could use a mouse with the touch interface, but it was a bad idea. Neither was well suited. From what I can glean, Windows 10 has done a much better job of treating both touch and traditional input methods as first class citizens.

However, an interface that relies on a mouse doesn’t require the larger buttons that a touch interface does. This is usually the strength and weakness of a touch interface. It has lower data density making it easier to glance at, but you can’t have as much on the screen at one time.

Trying to use a regular mac interface on an iPad, complete with menu bar and tiny icons to tap, would be a nightmare.

Now admittedly marzipan is designed more to bring iOS apps over to the Mac, however it could encourage a Mac developer to move their app across the other way as well. The issue in both cases would be if they don’t consider the other device and just port their app or implement some terrible work around.

Imagine the Mac app store gained all these interesting iOS apps that look exactly the same as the iOS versions with no consideration of the Mac.

Now imagine a Mac app like the full photoshop, ported to iOS and with a tiny menu bar which you constantly hit the wrong button on.

In the darkest timeline, we get badly thought out new apps on each platform and developers are encourage to be lazy. This is not the one that I hope will come true, but it isn’t impossible.

The brightest timeline

However, there is a brightest timeline. This is the one where great apps can be easily ported between devices and it encourages developers who were “only mac developers” to become Mac and iOS developers, with new high powered iPad apps, and iOS developers to bring some of the fantastic iOS apps to the Mac app store.

Because Marzipan can make it easier to transfer your app across, saving developers time, they can now spend more time optimizing for each platform.

A move towards subscriptions?

In either the brightest or darkest timeline, I can’t help but think that this really encourages subscription pricing. It could also drive up iOS app prices (for power apps) and/or drive down mac app prices but subscriptions make more sense when you use software across devices.

What is the most likely timeline

Honestly, I’m not sure. Marzipan looks like it should really help iPhone developers bring their apps across, and I really hope it will encourage more high powered iPad apps but as I’m not a developer, I don’t know how it will really pan out.

What do you think?

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