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Catalyst’s Rough Edges Risk Alienating Developers and Users Alike

Catalyst, the technology that allows developers to bring their iPadOS apps to the Mac, is off to an uneven start, as Mark Gurman of Bloomberg recounts through interviews with several developers. According to the developers interviewed, there’s a big difference between getting an iPad app up and running on a Mac, and using it to build a high-quality Mac app. According to Gurman:

[PCalc developer James] Thomson said the Mac version of his iPad calculator app initially looked like an iPad app floating on a larger Mac screen, so he had to redesign much of the user-facing software. However, all of the lower-level code pretty much worked out of the box, he said. Lukas Burgstaller said it was initially easy to copy over his Fiery Feeds iPad app, but then he “ran into all sorts of walls” trying to adapt the software to a Mac interface.

Those and other rough edges experienced by developers are exacerbated by a long-standing limitation of the Mac App Store: Mac apps can’t be bundled with iOS and iPadOS apps. That means developers have no choice but to charge separately for their new Catalyst apps, risking the ire of customers.

Although I remain optimistic about Catalyst, it’s off to a rougher start than I’d hoped, as I discuss in my macOS Catalina review. The quality of the relatively small crop of early Catalyst apps demonstrates that the technology holds promise, but Apple needs to move quickly to close the gaps. Otherwise the company risks alienating both developers and users, which would be a significant blow to its Mac strategy.