I think someone at Apple said “Wouldn’t it be cool if iOS apps could run on OS X”? And I think what we get is the Macbook Air 12” (2015 model). Here is why I think so:

Apple is often very good at leaving clues about the future. The clue I find the most interesting is what Tim Cook said with the introduction of the A7 processor, and Apple has repeated many times since: “it’s really a desktop class CPU”. And with the iPad Air 2 I must admit, I’m using it much like I would a desktop - and I’ve added a keyboard for it:

My iPad setup

Of course, with Apple you have to sort in what comments to lay weight to. The last reference I’ve found to a touchscreen Mac is from october 2014 where Craig Federighi said “We don’t think it’s the right interface, honestly, […] Mac is sort of a sit-down experience.”. Since I at the same time kept unconsiously touching my desktop screen and my laptop screen, my reactions tell me that this is no longer true.

Right now, the rumour mills are full of speculations around devices with a 12” screen, both a 12” Macbook Air and a 12” iPad Pro have been predicted. I really think these are the same device. Apple has at times made two identically sized but still different screens, but they usually don’t. The iPad version of iOS is honestly not as well adapted for its interface as the iPhone version, so I think making a 12” version of iOS that isn’t just a scale-up version, would be stretching already thinly stretched resources too much.

I also don’t think Apple would just scale up a larger interface: Apple has already shown this by giving developers an iPad simulator with a resizable width and height. Resizing would make sense if it was used for having two apps run side-by-side on iOS. It would also make sense if iOS apps were running in a window on OS X.

By going the route of a 12” touch screen display for the next Macbook Air, and adding an A-series chip such as the A8 into the Macbook in addition to the expected Intel chip, Apple could let any iOS apps run on the Mac, without emulation. It’s not like they haven’t done it before: when Apple was switching to the PowerPC I was told (by my neighbour at the time) it would be able to run both Windows (3.x) and Motorola Mac applications. We’ve also had the two OS’es in one Mac situation with Rosetta, allowing Mac OS 9 to run together with OS X.

In material costs, Tech insights estimated that the A8 processor cost $37 at the time of the iPhone 6 launch, a small extra hardware price for a spectacular integration point.

The motivation for doing this, apart from great integration opportunities, are to mac the Mac a more interesting platform. All the sudden it has everything you have on iOS! Even more important, it would instantly make the many iOS developers Mac developers!

When I began developing for iOS back in the beta days of iPhoneOS 2.0, my plan was to use it as a stepping stone to build Mac apps. I still haven’t released a single Mac app, having only made a few to help me automate my build processes. I am sure I am not the only developer in this boat, and I know of many developers that have complained about the AppKit framework missing features UIKit developers take for granted.

To add to the argument, Apple released size classes for iOS that help us, together with AutoLayout, span the range from 3.5” to 10” devices. With the Apple Watch I expect it’ll bring us down to 1,25”: could that be a key to span up to 27”? At least beginning with 12” as an incremental step would not seem unreasonable.

An argument against, of course, is that the examples of using AutoLayout and size classes to span the existing range in a manner that feels optimized for each screen size are far between. How do you design a responsive UI anyway? The web guys tell us they have been doing it for ages, yet I have not seen anything that meets my criteria above: “feels optimized for each screen size”.

The second argument against, is Android. It has also been able to be make responsive UIs for a long time, and also there I can’t think of an example that meets my criteria above. And, I’ve been able to run Android and apps based on that on my Mac for a while now, and I can’t say that I’ve really taken good use of that.

The scary part of the scenario, is of course the consequence for Mac Apps. The iOS apps would probably all be vended through the iOS App Store, with it’s 30% cut to Apple and low prices. If the Mac App Store was joined together with it, it would probably impact the pricing on Mac apps, instead of what many developers are trying for - bringing Mac style pricing over to iOS.

So that is my speculation for the 12” Macbook Air / 12” iPad Pro/Plus. I’d love to hear your thoughts, and I’m looking forward to seeing how well this matches what Apple will actually bring this spring.

Amazon’s customer service was really great to me! My wife and I had bought a nice christmas present for my father, a book he’d long wanted, printed in 1976. We couldn’t find it half-decently priced new copy in Europe, but we found one through Amazon in the US. Order placed, postage charges being as much as the book, we waited for it to arrive. But when it did, it was clearly used. Not badly used at all, but a couple of ear marks, pencil lines in the book and… sigarette marks on the cover. Disappointed we took pictures of it, and contacted Amazon.

Against my fears, they didn’t object to our description at all, and didn’t even want to see the photos I’d taken. They told me I should return it, they’d refund the shipping charges for me sending it back to the US. They refunded the book and since it was through a 3rd party, we could opt to buy a new copy, which they’d then refund 1-day shipping for. That’s an awful lot of shipping! Much more than the price of the book, even though the replacement we got was a bit more expensive. Also, the amount of communication that went back and forth, where they were very clear but where there were some minor complications since it was sold by a 3rd party, absolutely has taken a bit of their time. It leaves me wondering how much this eats into their margins. But, this experience made me realize how happy I am as an Amazon customer, this being the first time anything unexpected had happened since I started shopping there in 1998. And when something unexpected happened, how quickly and nicely they solved it for me, even though it cost them in the short run. In the long run it must be worth it for them, because I became even more confident buying through them, and even felt like writing their praises here. :-)

How do you deal with incoming calls or similar disturbances while driving the bicycle? Today a bicyclist in front of me demoed his reaction, taking up his phone and trying to interact with it while almost creating an accident with other bicyclists. More proper would be to ignore it, and if you felt it was important, find a place to stop and check it.

Glances provide a second option: you can have a glance on your watch. It’s a disturbance, but better than fumbling one-handed with your phone. But there can be no interaction: your other hand is firmly on the steering wheel and the hand on the watch arm cannot interact with it. So there all the sudden the interaction that is making a short glance into a long glance comes in. Looking at the watch a bit longer can provide additional information about the disturbance, making it easyer to make the call of whether to stop and take care of it, or keep on cycling.

I’m curious to see how long a long glance is, how well glances and bike-riding or car-driving works together (probably still a better idea to focus on what you were doing), and how we can use touch-less interactions initiated by a glance.

When the iPhone launched, and for the first versions of the iOS SDK, an app was a bundle, a directory with metadata if you will, with the suffix .app. System- and 3rd party apps were all contained in each bundle. No app was in multiple bundles, and no bundle was multiple apps.

Already I’m simplifying, because there was one more thing to the app bundle: optionally, you could add a settings bundle, which would load into Settings.app and allow the user to change the settings from your app, from outside your app.

Since then, things have become more complicated. To start with, you had universal apps: it was still an app, but now it had the complexity of targetting two platforms, the iPhone and the iPad.

Following that, we got extensions, which could (and in my opinion should) be seen as apps in their own right: little plugins, if you will, to the share panel, to the today panel, to the keyboard panel, and to the photo editor. Many apps that used to be limited to living in their own app, now live more hosted in other apps than in their own. But still they are packaged together with “the app”. And sold together. Being in the same bundle you cannot delete one without the other also being deleted.

With the Apple Watch, we get three more extensions: glance, notification (with short glance and long glance), and the watch app. These are supposed to provide windows into your app, but I think that again we will find that for many apps, this is more the app and the main iOS app is. And again, if you’ll delete the main app, these extensions will also disappear from your Apple Watch.

I’m working on a hobby project at the moment, and I think it’s a good illustration of what is bundled with the app now:

  • It has the app, that is a little bit different depending on what size of a screen its running on
  • It has a settings bundle
  • It has a share extension so that you can share items with it
  • It has a today extension so you can see what has changed since last you logged into the app
  • It has a notification extension to notify you when new stuff you could be interested in has happened, together with a long glance and a short glance
  • It has a glance that doubles the today extension for functionality
  • It has an Apple Watch app where you can do the basics of the iOS app Oh, and I should probably add that the functionality of the app isn’t all that advanced. But this only goes to show how many aspects to this app will be here. For my app, it fits well with the iOS app being the centerpiece which the extensions interact with. But what if you’re a storage container like Dropbox? What it you’re a timetracker? What if you’re a health tracker? What if you’re a currency converter? For all these things, the main app in most cases becomes a sidekick that can give you a more advanced look into your data, but which you’ll probably interact with very little compared to the extensions.

What worries me the most is that the main app is required. And if it’s not the centerpiece, then people would not be sure why they would pay for it. That’s very different to me from if people could buy a kick-ass keyboard, share extension, photo filter, Apple Watch app or similar on its own.

The other thing that worries me is what will pay for all these extensions. As you could see from my hobby project, it’s a whole lot of extra work that comes on top, and that honestly is more or less a basic requirement. If my app were a paid app, I don’t think people would accept an in-app purchase to allow the Apple Watch extensions to be made available. I don’t even think Apple would allow me to submit an app with three extensions that by default don’t do anything. And making something that doesn’t do much and then open up functionality seems like something that would be just as bad. Also, showing ads on this little constrained device would probably not sit right with many people as well: you’ve just spent, let’s say $500 on this piece of jewelry, and now it’s plastered with ads most of the time. Nope, that’s no good.

I think the “everything is in the ‘app’ bundle” approach we have now does a lot to cement, or even make worse, the hard situation for people to make money of their apps alone, and I really think this is unfortunate. I would love for this ecosystem to become something people can make a good living of by making good things. If people can make a living selling good wax candles, why should they not be able to make a living selling great digital tools? For now, the only good business I know is for the wax candeleer to use the apps as an entry into his candle-shop to sell more, and perhaps more custom, wax cendles.

For WatchKit extensions, I’ve used the parallell of puppeteering: the app makes the extension do things, but the extension itself has close to little logic. Others use the parallell of the browser, and I do like this. Like the browse, the iPhone serves up state in a context upon a remote screen, the app can project state in a context upon a extension (remote view controller).

Continuing on yesterdays post with the idea that hosting extensions (I really prefer the name remote view controllers like we saw in iOS 6) is something that can be opened up, let’s take it to the extreme and say it was proposed as an open standard, much like HTTP. All the sudden, this could become the new browser, allowing any app to project their content into it.

That would be absolutely awesome! Think about it all the opportunities for device integrations! That could possibly allow me to treat a 5K iMac as a dumb terminal, having all my personal information, documents and state on my phone, and interact with it through a beautiful desktop experience. No compromises, all integration! At the same time, you’d have the Apple Watch integration, with extensions being able to run of the same iMac integrating with it when they are near. Having third parties such as keyboard makers being able to integrate a little screen, or Google Glass taking it to the next level, even having other platforms participate together, making for a seemless integration. This would be a dream of devices coming together, much like we experienced it when having disks formatted for Mac, Amiga or PC was no longer a thing. Data was just data. Now state in a context can be state across a shared context, optimized for the best interaction on each device.

Having thought that thought now, please Apple, propose extensions as an open standard. This would make our devices so much more integrated, redusing hassle and really delighting. Would this be a competetive advantage for Apple? I’d argue yes. Sure, not for people like me who get the whole stack already, but for people like my mother who has a PC, an Android phone and an iPad. She’d have such an amazing upgrade of her experience, that I’m sure she’d be much more likely to buy again from Apple if she didn’t have to consider what ecosystem her new device would integrate with and what system it would not.