Apple will provide new developer tools that will for the first time let app makers design, engineer and compile a single app binary which will run across iPhone, iPad and Mac devices.

According to Bloomberg’s Mark Gurman today, the forthcoming developer tools should aid programmers in expanding their existing iPhone and iPad apps to the Mac platform.

So-called universal binaries are nothing new: Apple’s been using them on iOS since 2010’s launch of the original iPad and on macOS since switching to Intel processors back in 2005.

With universal binaries, developers can combine code and user interface assets for both their iPhone apps and iPad-optimized apps into a single download.

The upcoming new tools will extend the universal binary concept to macOS apps, too. In other words, developers will be able to design apps that work not only with a touchscreen on iOS devices, but also with a mouse and trackpad on your Mac.

From the report:

Apple’s apps initiative is part of a larger, longer-term push to make the underpinnings of its hardware and software more similar. Several years ago, the company began designing its own processors for iOS devices.

It has started doing the same for the Mac, recently launching a T2 chip in its iMac Pro that offloads features like security and power management from the main Intel processor onto Apple-designed silicon. Much the way Apple plans to unify apps, it could also one day use the same main processor on Macs and iOS devices.

That would make it easier to create a single OS for all Apple gadgets, something Microsoft has already done with its desktops, laptops and Surface tablets.

Currently, developers leverage Apple’s UIKit framework on iOS and AppKit on macOS to design user interfaces, but they’re required to design separate apps for iOS and macOS.

With a single app for both iOS and macOS platforms, owners of  iPhone, iPad and Mac devices will get new features and updates at the same time. It’s unclear if the firm plans to merge the separate Mac and iOS App Stores as well.

The project, internally codenamed “Marzipan”, will require iOS 12 and macOS 10.14, which should release in the fall of next year.

Apple typically updates its software platforms at its worldwide developers conference, which takes place in the summer. We should learn more about this exciting new initiative at WWDC 2018 although the exact timeline is subject to change.

  • Iskren Donev

    I think that Apple is on the right track here. They are not trying to shoehorn touch-native iOS apps onto a non-touch MacBook. Instead, they will just make the macOS interface an equal citizen to the iOS/tvOS/watchOS counterparts.

    When you combine this news with the leaks that suggest a MacBook powered by an A-series processor, it is easy to see how things can come together.

  • Juniors234

    This will be amazing. Being able to seamlessly use Logic, final cut pro, Pro tools, and other productions apps. Mainstage will be nice on iPad Pro as well.

  • diggitydang

    I wonder if this means more that iPhone and iPad apps will be ported over to Mac, for their use on the Mac, rather than resource-intense Mac apps being available for use on an iPhone or iPad. I hope for the latter but don’t think that will be the case.