In the history books, you could call today the official beginning of the end. Today really marks the end of the Macintosh as an independent computing platform.
For years, Apple has said that they expect to keep the Mac (an open platform, with no walled gardens) separate from the iPhone, iPad, and iPod touch – a trio of platforms with a walled garden.
Reading between the lines of WWDC, it’s very clear Apple is viewing the future of the Mac as a DuoDock-like experience, where you “dock” your iPhone, iPad or iPad Pro into a clamshell or desktop experience. One that recreates the Mac look and feel, but perhaps with touch, and perhaps with a walled garden too.
All the Mac-specific technologies are headed to, at a minimum, iPad Pro – including the newly-open-sourced Thunderbolt 3 specification. Docking an iPad Pro into a MacBook Air-like clamshell, could easily auto-launch a Finder.app.
And with that, the Mac is over. Oh sure, there will be a Mac family. An iMac, a Mac Pro with a 64-core ARM array. But it will be iOS running the Mac apps and stack.
Apple didn’t go so far as to deprecate the macOS UI calls (today), but they did make very clear that they are encouraging people to embrace iOS APIs on Mac. If you aren’t using iOS’s UIKit and AppKit to build your next Mac app, you’re basically building a Carbon app in a Cocoa world (which was the choice Mac developers had circa 2002-2005).
Apple almost certainly will bake macOS for Intel machines for years to come, but it’s clear at some point, the apps not jointly built for iOS and macOS will die off at some point.
And with that, if you are one of those folks that valued Apple’s openness to third-party software – the lack of a gatekeeper to decide what apps can, and cannot be built on your platform – you now face an uncertain future. If Apple doesn’t allow sideloading on these unified systems, it’s the end for you.
And for us, that leaves just Windows and traditional desktop Linux as modern computing platforms. It’s not a great place to be if you’re part of, as Apple put it for a decade or two, The Rest of Us.
You raise an interesting point. What I noticed in this, an APP that runs on macOS only could still be made and published. That APP in turn is excluded from IOS devices. And there are applications that need the kind of memory, CPU and storage that only a Mac Pro can provide and would not be used on an IOS device.
Adding IOS apps to macOS may give the Mac some needed longevity. Your clamshell idea has true merit. A new single OS is the best answer. But apple can’t get there for some reason. Thus folks like me have Apple at home (Mac, homepod, IPad, IPhone, Apple TV) and a Surface 4 for work.
For now, you are totally correct. You can (under macOS 10.14) use AppKit and UIKit to create an app, rooted in iOS code, that can be sideloaded on macOS 10.14 – free from any gatekeepers.
The problem becomes that a future version of “macOS” – running on an ARM system – doesn’t have to live by those rules. Apple can then easily require apps to be obtained from the “unified” App Store. Apple has even started unifying the two App Store platforms, proudly noting that 10.14’s Mac App Store is based on the iPad’s iOS 11 design.
Apple can easily say that sideloading is something that got “left behind” in x86, and that if you buy an ARM-based Mac, or an iOS device running in “Mac mode” that it must obtain apps from the App Store.
This has, granted, always been a concern with macOS in general. We feared this when Apple rolled out Gatekeeper, only for them to leave an option to sideload. Partly because every macOS release, dating back to version 10.0.0, could run Carbon/classic apps as first-world apps.
Even today, you can cross-compile an app for the original Macintosh, and run basically the same app code on a Mac today. High Sierra is the final release that is possible – I don’t think that’s coincidental. If they bring the option to sideload over to iOS, as part of this unification, great…
… But I’m not holding my breath.