Even if you don’t buy a new $6,000 Mac Pro, your Mac is about to get a whole lot more powerful. Alongside macOS 10.15 Catalina, Apple unveiled a new way to design apps across all of its platforms. Called Project Catalyst, the new initiative builds on the News, Stocks, Voice Memos, and Home apps Apple launched in macOS 10.14 Mojave, and it has the potential to transform the entire app ecosystem.
Project Catalyst is designed so a team of developers can easily make a single app that runs on the iPhone, iPad, and Mac without needing to spent months on each. In its announcement of the new macOS framework, Apple showcased three apps during the WWDC keynote: Asphalt 9: Legends from Gameloft, Twitter, and Atlassian’s Jira Cloud.
Granted, none of these developers are exactly small, but the idea is that an iOS or iPadOS app can be ported to the Mac with very little work. Twitter, for example, was able to develop a native Mac app in just one day, and Gamelot said it had a macOS version of its racing game, which hit the App Store in July, running on the first day.
That’s a massive accomplishment for a process that normally takes months and tons of resources. With an ever-shrinking audience, many developers have understandably shifted their focus away from the Mac, but Project Catalyst should make it as easy to bring an iOS app to the Mac as it is to turn on iPhone app into an iPad one, completely with drag-and-drop functionality and a full-screen experience..
And they’ll be more than super-sized iOS apps. Apple is respecting the Mac’s menus and interface so apps will look as native as they can. Developers will be able to add unique features as well. Atlassian said it was able to use Project Catalyst to “put the finishing touches that make (Jira Cloud) perfect for the desktop” and Twitter was able to add “native Mac features” without spending weeks designing and testing. On its website, Apple also highlighted DC Universe, TripIt, and Fender Play, all with Mac-style UIs.
Apple presumably used Catalyst on several of macOS 10.15’s new apps as well, including Screen Time, Find My, and the redesigned Reminders app. Project Catalyst is available to developers today as part of the macOS 10.15 Catalina beta. A public beta will be available in July, with the official release happening in the fall.
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Michael Simon has been covering Apple since the iPod was the iWalk. His obsession with technology goes back to his first PC—the IBM Thinkpad with the lift-up keyboard for swapping out the drive. He's still waiting for that to come back in style tbh.