Apple's new Mac update marks an important shift to the same strategy that Microsoft and Google have pursued for years


During an Apple keynote back in 2013, Apple CEO Tim Cook stood in front of an image of a street sign. On that sign was an arrow that was twisted and turned in all different directions.

“The competition is different,” he said. “They are confused.”

Cook was referring to PC vendors that were making laptop-tablet hybrids at the time following the release of Microsoft’s Windows 8 operating system. He had a point – early hybrid devices struggled to find their place in the market, as some of them failed to do their job well as a tablet or a laptop.

Apple has always insisted that the Mac and the iPad should remain totally separate, unlike Microsoft, which has released software designed to work across tablets, laptops, and desktop PCs in recent years. That still remains true, as you shouldn’t expect to see a laptop running iOS or an iPad running macOS anytime soon – or perhaps ever. But Apple has slowly been bridging the gaps between its desktop macOS software and its iOS operating system, and this year’s release brings the two closer than ever.

On stage during the company’s Worldwide Developers Conference keynote on Monday, Apple unveiled an initiative called Project Catalyst, which allows app makers to bring their iPad apps over to the Mac using the same code base. That means companies no longer have to hire a separate macOS development team if they want to bring their iPad app over to Apple’s laptops and desktops; they can simply add support right in Apple’s Xcode app-development program. This will hopefully lead not only to higher-quality Mac apps that feel more natural when switching back and forth from iOS, but more apps in general.

This follows an approach taken by Microsoft and Google in recent years. Apps made for Windows can run across laptops, tablets, and desktops of all sizes that run on Microsoft’s software, while Google began bringing its large library of Android apps to its Chrome OS operating system for Chromebooks in 2016.

Apple’s macOS Catalina update is filled with other goodies from the iPhone and iPad too: It brings dedicated macOS versions of Apple mobile apps like Apple Music, Apple TV, and Apple Podcasts that resemble the iOS versions of those apps. Screen Time, the feature that lets you view and manage how you’re spending time on your iPhone or iPad, is also coming to the Mac. Apple is launching the ability to use your iPad as a secondary display for your Mac with a new feature called Sidecar too, another sign that Apple believes there’s an advantage to be had in having your tablet and laptop work together on the same tasks.

While Apple is far from ever creating a single operating system that runs across all of its devices, with macOS Catalina it’s finally recognising that there’s a benefit to be had from having apps that can run across its mobile tablets, laptops, and desktops – whether they’re made by Apple or third-party developers. That alone is perhaps an acknowledgement that Microsoft and Google may have been on to something that Apple wasn’t.

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