SwiftUI and Catalyst: Apple Executes Its Invisible Transition Strategy

Catalyst is Apple’s framework that enables developers to easily bring existing iOS apps to the Mac, while SwiftUI is a new, Swift-based technology that makes it easy for developers to create one app that runs on all of Apple’s platforms. Jason Snell from Macworld highlights the slow, invisible transition of these new technologies. From the report: Catalyst, which arrives this fall, will allow developers who are well-versed in the vagaries of writing iOS apps to use those skills to write Mac apps. This will most commonly take the form of bringing iPad apps to the Mac, with additions to make them feel more like native Mac apps, but it’s more than that — it provides iOS developers with a familiar set of tools and access to an entirely new platform, and it makes the target for professional apps across Apple’s platforms broader by including both the iPad and the Mac. iOS apps are currently built to run on devices running Apple-designed ARM processors, and if the rumors are true, that’s another transition waiting to happen. But given that all Mac and iOS developers are already using Apple’s Xcode tools to develop their apps, I suspect that the pieces have been put in place for a fairly simple transition to a new processor architecture.

And then there’s SwiftUI, which may be a harder concept for regular users to grasp, but it’s a huge step on Apple’s part. This is Apple’s ultimate long game — an entirely new way to design and build apps across all of Apple’s platforms, based on the Swift language (introduced five years ago as yet another part of Apple’s long game). In the shorter term, iOS app developers will be able to reach to the Mac via Catalyst. But in the longer term, Apple is creating a new, unified development approach to all of Apple’s devices, based in Swift and SwiftUI. Viewed from this perspective, Catalyst feels more like a transitional technology than the future of Apple’s platforms. But we’re talking about the long game here. Transitional technologies are all a part of the long game. Catalyst will bring those apps to the Mac. iOS and Mac developers will pick up Swift and SwiftUI. Mac apps can integrate iOS stuff via Catalyst. iOS apps can integrate Mac stuff for use on the Mac. And all developers can begin experimenting with SwiftUI, building new interfaces and replacing old ones in a gradual process. “And then we’ll turn around sometime in the 2020s and realize that all of this talk of UIKit and AppKit and Catalyst is behind us, and that our apps are written in Swift with interfaces created using SwiftUI,” Snell writes in closing. “It will have all changed due to Apple’s slow and steady pace of iterative, continuous improvement. The long game never stops, and it can be hard to see that you’re even in it.”

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