We are starting to see with iPadOS what the new macOS will bring… (my opinion).

Origin: Jean-Louis Gassée’s Monday Note – ARM-ed Mac: A Mere Matter Of Software

Last week’s discussion of ARM-ing the Mac left us with a non-conclusion conclusion. While the move is intuitively desirable, there are complications under the attractive surface — and a big hole: A Mere Matter of Software. The Mac is no longer the apple of the Apple developer’s eye.

Twice in the machine’s history, Apple moved the Mac to a new CPU, from Motorola’s 68K to PowerPC in the mid-90’s, and then to Intel a decade later.…

Things went fast in 2006, a sign that the software transition, OS and apps, wasn’t a problem. To the contrary, developers sensed a better future for the Mac, and they were right…
In Fiscal Year 2007, as Apple total revenue climbed by a healthy 24%, Mac sales grew by an even healthier 40% ($10.3B), versus $8.3B for the iPod (Apple was “the iPod company” back then, the nascent iPhone brought in and “only “ $123M). For context, in Fiscal Year 2006, Mac sales brought $7.4B (38% of revenue) versus $7.7B for the iPod (40% of total sales).

With the company’s history in mind, moving to the ARM architecture shouldn’t be inordinately difficult. Given that Apple’s Xcode development tools allow it, Craig Federighi’s team obviously has had ARM versions of macOS at their disposal for a long time. And let’s remember that iOS started as an OS X derivative modified for the iPhone touch interface and recompiled on an ARM processor.

Indeed, modifying the operating system won’t be the obstacle. But what about apps?

Looked at rationally, moving x86 macOS apps to an ARM-ed Mac should would work almost as well in Reality as in the well-ordered country of Theory. …flushing out “clever” programming tricks and shortcuts that will no longer work on ARM … implicit number representation convention …
None of this is lethal, the bugs get caught and the apps soon work correctly on the new ARM-based macOS.

…there’s a much bigger problem: iOS.

Last quarter, Mac represented a little less than 8% of Apple’s revenue, while iOS devices (iPhone and iPad) amounted to more than 67% of the company’s $92B for the Xmas period. That disparity translates to about 2M apps for iOS and less than 10% of that number for macOS. Understandably, app developers are much more interested in iOS than in macOS, something that could slow the ARM-ed Mac transition…

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To prevent iOS domination from starving app development for the Mac, Apple came up with a software tool called Catalyst (née Marzipan). The idea is simple: Since more apps are developed on iOS than on macOS, we’ll make it (almost) effortless to bring interesting iOS apps to the Mac…

But Mac and iOS user interface building blocks are not the same and don’t always translate one-for-one. Moving from a touch-based user interface to one with a menu bar and pull-down menus could prove awkward or require extensive reworking of the user interface code. …

For another example of the challenges involved in moving the Mac to ARM-based CPUs, we can look at Microsoft. … Even for a software giant such as Microsoft, moving from one processor architecture to another isn’t easy or fast.

If indeed Apple one day moves the Mac to ARM processors, The Mere Matter Of Software could be the biggest challenge in moving the $25B/year Mac business forward.

Then, assuming the transition is done and done well, other strategic issues will become apparent. For example, what will be the differentiator between a Mac and an iPad?