Apple’s Project Catalyst Team Share Deep Dive on Quality Control, iPadOS Limitation, More

A new report sheds more light on Apple’s recently announced “Project Catalyst” porting effort.

At WWDC 2019, Apple officially revealed this as “Project Catalyst,” thought it was previously known as Project Marzipan. It’s a large undertaking that’s years away from being completed, but the seeds have planted for a very different future for your Mac.

Now, Ars Technica has spoken with some of the team members working on Project Catalyst, who shared more information on their decisions. The report is comprehensive in nature and gives us a better look at how the Project Catalyst works and the benefits it has to offer.

Apple’s senior director of marketing for iOS, Todd Benjamin, says it’s the right time to focus on bringing Catalyst to developers:

We’re at a stage at this point now where developers have fully developed iPad apps, and there’s a great opportunity to take the work that they’ve done there, which not only leverages what they had done on iOS, but also takes advantage of screen space and some things that we can leverage nicely as we bring them over to the Mac.

The team also mentions how exploring the idea came about and what quirks they had to work out to make Project Catalyst possible:

We learned at WWDC this year that one major component to that push is called Project Catalyst, which enables porting iPad apps to the Mac relatively quickly.

App developers can start doing this now with the beta version of Xcode, the development environment Apple maintains for making apps for its various platforms. To much fanfare on the WWDC stage, Apple claimed developers simply need to open their iPad app project in Xcode and click a single check box to be able to build a Mac app. Of course, it won’t always be/quite/that simple—but it’s closer than you might think.

The developers also spoke about how apps would transition from a touch-based interface of the iPad to the mouse-pointed interface of a Mac:

Mac app runs natively, utilizing the same frameworks, resources, and runtime environment as apps built just for Mac. Fundamental Mac desktop and windowing features are added, and touch controls are adapted to the keyboard and mouse. Custom UI elements that you created with your code come across as-is. You can then continue to implement features in Xcode with UIKit APIs to make sure your app looks great and works seamlessly.

The Apple team also talked about the decision to focus on porting iPad apps, not iOS ones which outnumber that of Apple’s tablet. Todd Benjamin explains why:

Just design-wise, the difference between an iPad app and an iPhone app is that the iPad app has gone through a design iteration to take advantage of more screen space. And as you bring that app over to the Mac… you have something that’s designed around that space that you can work with and that you can start from.

Lastly, Benjamin gives a bit of background information on the history of how we’ve looked at Mac and iOS apps and how Catalyst fits in.

I think apps on the Mac have always been these large and complex and highly capable apps that are very broad. And I think apps on iOS by nature are a little bit more focused. They’re highly designed. They’re very much considered in what they do and how they do it. And I think that’s changed how people look at apps, right?

Now people know what those things are, and they would love to have those kinds of simple and accessible experiences on the desktop as well. And while the Web can actually do that, an app is a more focused thing… now you’re used to using that experience that’s relatively new on your phone and on your iPad. Why can’t that same experience translate over to the Mac?

The Ars Technica piece sheds a spotlight on all the inner workings of Project Catalyst and is most definitely worth a read.