Hello and Goodbye: Faking the death of the Mac

14 June 2018

Remember the Mac? Well, it doesn’t matter.

Why, you ask?

Sales! The iPhone sells more units than the Mac!

Wait, what?

Business Insider’s Kif Leswing knows what’s up with Apple’s product lines.

“Bringing iPhone apps to the Mac won’t stop its slow march to the grave — the future is the smartphone”

The smartphone is the future… as opposed to the PC? Are the two platforms actually competing? One would think so based on Leswing’s approach to proving his point.

The announcement [of iOS apps on macOS] was supposed to generate interest in the Mac software marketplace, but it only confirms the desktop's second-place status to the smartphone.

And here’s Leswing’s more thorough yet no more accurate explanation of what he means:

Basically, rather than revitalizing the Mac software world, Apple’s announcement on Monday permanently confirms that it’s a second-class citizen with iPhone and iPad apps. It sends a huge signal to the software-development world that the best software is being developed for iPhones and that Macs are an afterthought.

No. The problem is not that the best software is on iPhones. Macs have superb, professional-grade software available. The “problem” is that more software is on iPhones. Different types of applications are designed for the iPhone because they’re better suited to the mobile nature of iOS. But the “work” software is generally higher-quality when it comes to the Mac. Apple’s problem is that developers aren’t willing to use the Mac App Store.

But it’s also hard to imagine the kind of iPhone apps that would work well on a laptop. Many apps, like WhatsApp or Pocket, already have web-based versions. Some apps, like Lyft or Uber, may represent a poor experience without the GPS built into smartphones. One developer who maintains four commercial iPhone apps such as TapeACall told me on Tuesday he couldn’t imagine any of his apps being ported to Mac, because they do such limited and specific tasks.

Lyft, WhatsApp, Pocket, Uber, and TapeACall certainly seem like the kind of software Apple intends developers to bring to macOS.

No, they don’t! You’re missing the entire point! There are certain applications on iOS that do make sense on the Mac because they don’t conflict with the nature of macOS. If you think apps like Uber and Lyft are what Apple intends to use this technology for, you’re misunderstanding the fundamental philosophies behind iOS and macOS.

There are some apps that do make sense on both macOS and iOS. Voice Memos, Apple News, Stocks, and Home, to name a few. Leswing even mentions these but doesn’t realize that Apple intends not for every single iOS app to join the Mac family but for the ones that should be Mac apps to become Mac apps. Again, this isn’t about bringing a bunch of quantity into the Mac App Store. It’s about the quality of the apps that are there, and iOS can bring that.

Another thing to consider is that the Mac versions of iOS apps that Apple displayed all resemble the iPad version of the app, not the iPhone version. Leswing repeatedly mentions “iPhone” apps, but we should be thinking about the kind of work apps you’d find on the iPad as well. Those would scale more normally to a laptop screen, and they’re more about “real work.”

Unfortunately for Apple, this is not going to stem the worry of many Mac devotees that the company has put its oldest product line on the back burner.

Why is this? Seems like this is an example of Apple giving a lot of attention to the Mac. These APIs can’t have been easy to create.

It’s basic math: During the quarter that ended in March, the most recent quarter for which statistics are available, Apple sold over 12 times as many iPhones as it did Mac computers. Apple sold over 52 million iPhones, compared with 4.2 million Mac laptops and desktops.

Wow! So what? The iPhone is not competing with the Mac; how many people do you think bought an iPhone to replace their Mac? Not many! The iPhone is a bigger product line than the Mac, but that does not mean that the Mac is unimportant all of a sudden.

Especially considering the total number of Mac users is a fraction of the number of iPhone and iPad users, companies aren’t likely to spend a lot of time dialing in their iPhone apps for a smaller audience.

This feature is not intended for all developers and all users. Apple’s supposedly making it much less of a time and effort investment to bring iOS apps over to the Mac, so developers could see this as a huge opportunity. Although the Mac market is smaller than the iPhone market, it’s by no means small. The headline says the Mac is on a “slow march to the grave,” but WWDC suggests the opposite: Apple is putting effort into making the Mac a better app platform.

“… developers will earn about $32B this year, a number that we believe is big enough to continue to entice world-class developers to continue to code on iOS and macOS,” the Loup Ventures analyst Gene Munster wrote in a note on Monday.

Notice which platform he mentioned first.

Notice both platforms he mentioned! Nobody’s denying that iOS is bigger than macOS, but the Mac is not insignificant. Why are we trying to read into the order in which an analyst mentioned operating systems when it’s clear that both of them are doing fine?

This article tries to establish the Mac as a “second-class citizen” in Apple’s software world, but that’s really not the case. Why then would Apple give the Mac access to such a wellspring of apps as iOS? Leswing provides no real reason to believe that the Mac is on a “slow march to the grave” and instead resorts to the ridiculous assumption that the iPhone’s greater sales suggest the end of the Mac.

As one Twitter user replied:

While it is marching, it is making money.

Uluroo couldn’t have said it better himself. The Mac is printing cash.

Is the Mac a “second-class citizen”? No. Apple’s investing iOS’s app market into it, and it wouldn’t be doing that if it thought the Mac were a serf to the royalty of the iPhone. Regardless of the size of their respective markets, both the iPhone and Mac are important parts of Apple’s business. Neither of them is dying anytime soon.