Tuesday, Oct. 8th 2019
macOS Catalina Review Roundup
Sometimes software upgrades just fuzz together, all part of a continuum of changes over time. Others are more momentous, when there’s a clean break from what has come before. After a few years of fuzzy updates, macOS Catalina is one of those clean breaks.
If you need to upgrade but have one key app you just can’t live without, consider making a disk image of your existing Mac (even better, make it a fresh install with just your important apps) and using it in an emulator such as VMWare Fusion or Parallels Desktop.
This is the promise of Mac Catalyst: That iOS developers who have been more or less locked out of the Mac for the past decade (unless they learn an entirely different set of development skills and build alternate versions of their apps) will now finally have access to that platform.
I've tried dabbling with Cocoa/AppKit, but it has never really clicked in the same way that UIKit has. I'm excited for Catalyst. Plus, being independent as a single designer and developer (and tech support and book keeper and well, everything) it doesn't make sense for me to work on and update a separate mac and iOS app.
Despite this initial rush of interest, it feels like it’s going to take months, if not years, for us to see just how Mac Catalyst might change the Mac and the software that we use on them every day.
It's a helluva lot more difficult than just "checking a box in Xcode" as Apple is advertising.
Then there’s the interesting problem that Mac Catalyst apps are entirely separate from their iOS equivalents when it comes to the App Store. For a lot of developers with existing iOS apps, that’s a dealbreaker, since they want the option of letting their existing iOS customers use the Mac version without re-buying. A shared store may be coming, but it’s going to be a while.
This is a huge hurdle and complication for me. This has to be addressed.
Some developers will probably be tempted to stop at this point, but to make an iPad app really feel native on macOS, additional time will be needed to polish them for an environment without a touchscreen present.
I can't emphasize enough how different a touch vs cursor based interface is.
The Mac isn’t in crisis, but it isn’t healthy either. Waiting until the Mac is on life support isn’t viable. Instead, Apple has opted to reimagine the Mac in the context of today’s computing landscape before its survival is threatened. The solution is to tie macOS more closely to iOS and iPadOS, making it an integrated point on the continuum of Apple’s devices that respects the hardware differences of the platform but isn’t different simply for the sake of difference.
Anyone who has browsed through the Mac App Store in the last few years would agree that the mac is probably in need of something to change. But there's also a lot of great things about the Mac that make it amazing. I have a lot more thoughts as well about the expectations of bespoke software on iOS (probably mostly driven by design orgs…) and the exact opposite expectations of consistency and similarity on macOS.
Catalina is a cold splash of water in the face of users accustomed to small incremental changes to macOS in recent years. What makes Catalina different from updates in years past is Apple’s renewed commitment to the Mac.
I really hope so. I love the mac. The richness and robustness of Mac OS 10.3 and 10.4 is what really piqued my interest in being a software designer.
Catalina is a careful balancing act between the old and new. One of the most successful advances by Catalina is the breakup of iTunes. I expected far more of the legacy features to be shed from the app than actually were.
I think it's going to be a relatively slow transition, but I think when we look back in five to ten years it will be shocking how different apps on 10.14 Mojave looked and felt (hopefully for the better…).
These reviews are pretty meaty and I highly suggest you give them a read. There's a lot of great information about new features and theory about the future of the mac.
In the near future I'd like to do a quick roundup and design review of Catalyst apps. I don't think anyone has really solved the transition from touch to cursor based interface (re: Windows Metro). I'll be watching for any successful Catalyst apps.
Updated on Saturday, Feb. 15th 2020