Apple will add new developer tools that will enable developers to design and engineer a single application that runs on iPhone, iPad, and Mac devices, according to a report from Bloomberg. This will be a huge step for the Mac app ecosystem especially, as it should make it easier for third-party developers to maintain one app that runs on iOS and Macs.
The apps would be designed in such a way that they can work with a touchscreen, mouse, and trackpad depending on which platform the app is running on. The new ability is scheduled to launch with iOS 12 and macOS 10.14 next year, but the timeline could change.
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With the new SDK features coming for the next major operating system releases, presumably named iOS 12 and macOS 10.14, this likely means Apple would announce the plans at the WWDC developer conference in June. This would give time over the summer for third-party developers to adopt the new APIs to enable truly cross-platform apps.
Bloomberg warns that the plans are not set in stone, timings could change, and perhaps be cancelled altogether. Apple has previously shied away from encouraging one-size-fit-all apps as a lowest-common-denominator solution.
It remains to be seen how developers would be able to take advantage of the different UI paradigms on iOS and macOS with a single application. Presumably, the new SDK would be iOS focused and enable support for Mac apps – rather than the other way round.
Right now, developers use UIKit on iOS and AppKit on the Mac to create GUI applications. The new cross-platform framework may be an extension of the iOS APIs, or herald the introduction of a brand-new platform independent framework. Apple has shown some interest in a cross-platform framework internally, using something called UXKit to power the Photos app on iOS and macOS.
Apple has introduced new ways for developers to make their iOS apps more flexible and resolution-independent, unlocking support for new aspect ratios and screen sizes as the iOS ecosystem has evolved. On the iPad, the same app can be used in different layouts depending on how it is being presented, full-screen or in Split View multitasking.
The Bloomberg report does not mention compatibility of the new cross-platform APIs with tvOS. tvOS is based on iOS under the hood, but has a substantially different UI layer which may mean it is unsuitable for the new cross-platform apps. Similarly, Apple Watch developers are currently constrained by the system as to how their apps can look, function, and behave.
Read the full report over at Bloomberg.