Apple might start to converge iOS and macOS in a big way next year by letting developers create a single app that runs across both platforms. Bloomberg reports that Apple is planning to let developers create apps that will adjust to whichever platform they’re running on, so that they’ll support touch input on an iPhone or an iPad and mouse and trackpad input on a Mac.
The report notes that plans could always change, but it sounds like the combined apps could become available next year. If so, they’d likely be announced in June at Apple’s Worldwide Developers Conference and then introduced in the fall, when new versions of iOS and macOS typically ship.
Though Apple is far from the first to attempt such a crossover, the move would still be a very big deal. While the Mac has its share of very good apps, iOS is by far the more vibrant ecosystem. By letting developers create for two platforms at once, Apple can potentially make it easier and faster for updates and new apps to arrive on the Mac.
The really big open question is how all of this will work. It isn’t clear whether this means that macOS will emulate portions of iOS, or if developers will still largely have to code two separate apps. The closer the two platforms are, the easier it’ll be for developers — but the bigger the risk of users on one platform getting an interface that feels like it was designed for other types of input.
Microsoft has been trying this exact same thing with Universal Windows Platform apps for a while now, allowing developers to create apps that run across Windows, Windows phones, the Xbox, HoloLens, and even the Surface Hub. This has had limited success, in part because there’s always going to be one or more platforms that developers just don’t care to serve. Google has started going down the same road, bringing Android apps over to Chrome OS.