What you need to know

  • A new report highlights the frustration developers feel about Apple's Catalyst.
  • Catalyst is designed to allow developers to port iPad apps to Mac.
  • Apple's one-click messaging, however, is more complex than originally thought.

When Apple debuted macOS Catalina, one of the most exciting features was Catalyst, a new set of tools that allows developers to port their iPad apps to Mac with ease. Many developers, however, are finding it's not as easy as Apple made it seem.

A report from Bloomberg says developers are frustrated by Catalyst at this early stage, with some even rebuffing taking part in the technology altogether — at least for now.

Apple rolled out Catalyst, the technology to transition iPad apps into Mac versions, on Monday. It's the initial step toward a bigger goal: By 2021, developers should be able to build an app once and have it work on iPhones, iPads and Mac computers through a single, unified App Store. But the first iteration, which appears to still be quite raw and in a number of ways frustrating to developers, risks upsetting users who may have to pay again when they download the Mac version of an iPad app they've already bought.

Developers have said they had to worker much harder than expected in order to port their iPad app to Mac. There also seems to be a lack of documentation surrounding Catalyst, making it tough for iOS developers who are unfamiliar with Mac to create a working Mac app. That contrasts with Apple's messaging about Catalyst; the company has made it sound like all it takes is checking a box.

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Developers have found several problems with Apple's tools for bringing iPad apps over to Mac computers. Some features that only make sense on iPad touchscreens, such as scrollable lists that help users select dates and times on calendars, are showing up on the Mac, where the input paradigm is still built around a keyboard and mouse or trackpad.

So far, there are only a few Catalyst apps available in the Mac App Store, although many more are expected to be released in the coming days and weeks.

In the early stages, problems are expected to arise — just look at the release of iOS 13. But developers have found Apple's one-click messaging for Catalyst is a little misleading, leaving many frustrated. It's to the point where some app developers and service providers, including Netflix, are waiting to see how Catalyst develops in the coming months.

That's unfortunate for Apple users who expected a flood of new Mac apps and instead got a small stream. Kevin Reutter, who ported Planny to Mac, summed up the situation by calling it "sad."

There are a few dozen or so Catalyst apps available for Mac as of this writing. Hopefully, that number grows over the coming weeks as developers continue to familiarize themselves with Apple's tools.

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