Copland 2020

Five years ago, I predicted that Apple would port iOS to the desktop, with a compatibility mode to run existing Mac OS X programs; we are now at the deadline I later put for this prediction, so did Apple announce such a thing at WWDC 2018?

Big No on WWDC 2018 Keynote stage, with Craig Federighi on the left

Now I think it is worth going into what did come to pass. Apple is definitely going to port UIKit, an important part of iOS, to the desktop for wide usage; and these last few years have seen the possibilities improve for distribution of iOS apps outside the iOS App Store or Apple review, though they remain limited.

But beyond that? I got it all wrong. The norms established by the current Mac application base will remain, with apps ported from the mobile world being only side additions, there will still be no encouragement for sandboxing except for the clout of the Mac App Store, pointing with pixel accuracy will remain the expectation, most of iOS will remain unported, etc. You are all free to point and laugh at me.

And I can’t help but think: what a missed opportunity.

For instance, in an attempt to revitalize the Mac App Store Apple announced expanded sandboxing entitlements, with developers on board pledging to put their apps on the store. Besides the fact some aspects of the store make me wary of it in general, I can’t help but note this sandboxing thing has been dragging on for years, such that it ought to have been handled like a transition in the first place; it might have been handled as such from a technical standpoint, but definitely not from a platform management standpoint (I mean, can you tell whether any given app you run is sandboxed? I can’t) even though that could be a differentiator for Apple in this era of generalized privacy violations. Oh, and that is assuming the announced apps will eventually manage to be sandboxed this time, and this is far from certain: I still remember back in 2012 the saga of apps that were worked on to be sandboxed, only for the developers to eventually have to give up…

I mean, Apple could have done it: the user base was in the right mindset (I did not see a lot of negative reactions when news of the unified desktop user experience got broken by the press a few months ago, which was in fact Marzipan, the initiative to run UIKit on the desktop), developers would obviously have been less enthusiastic but could be convinced with “Benefit from being one of the first native apps!” incentive, influential users could be convinced by selling it as a privacy improvement (remember: in Mac OS X unsandboxed apps can still read all the data of sandboxed apps), etc. But this year they explicitly prompted the question in order to answer it in the negative, meaning no such thing is going to happen in the next few years, and in fact on the contrary investing in alternative solutions like Marzipan. Sorry Apple, but I can’t help but think of Copland 2020.

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