Last year’s MacBook Pro and MacBook Air releases were some of the fastest laptops available. The switch away from Intel chips to Apple’s own ARM-based chips allowed the hardware to contribute a significant amount of extra power to the Mac experience.
But the hardware is nothing without software, and the more power software can deliver, the better for the platform. With the latest beta of macOS, Apple is unlocking even more power, and it’s all down to iOS.
The Mac’s Apple Silicon processors in theory allow both iPad and iOS apps to run natively. It is of course slightly more complicated than that, not least the fundamental differences between a keyboard based clamshell laptop and a handheld touchscreen smartphone.
The latest macOS beta (the seventh beta of Big Sur 11.3) improves the support of iOS apps running on macOS, increasing the utility of the Mac platform and unlocking the extensive iOS and iPadOS app library for the deskbound hardware.
First up is the ability for iPadOS apps to be opened in larger windows, assuming the display will accommodate this. The current displays of the M1 powered MacBook Pro and MacBook Air machines are a shade smaller than the current iPad Pro resolutions, but both of these laptops and the macMini will output much higher resolutions to external monitors.
Then there is how macOS handles touch. The obvious solution of using the trackpad or a mouse remain, but the beta adds in ‘Touch Alternatives’. This allows keyboard inputs to replicate specific touch inputs, in essence allowing macros to be created. Need to have the ability to quickly test a pull-down action? Now you trigger this from a key, rather than having to replicate a finger drag.
Finally there is the inclusion of ‘Controller Emulation’. With the rise of mobile gaming came the rise of mobile controllers (such as Razer’s Kishi) offering true gaming controls. Allowing the Mac’s keyboard and mouse buttons to emulate gaming control inputs will make these apps more accessible for users.
Just as hardware and software working closely together has improved the Mac platform over the last six months, the moves to bring macOS closer to iOS and iPadOS will see Apple’s own ecosystem improve. While iOS will remain the dominant OS in terms of sales and users, the three platforms are orbiting ever closer, drawing strength from each other and sharing their benefits.
It’s going to be even more impressive when Apple unlocks even more power in the hardware with the upcoming M1X processor which is expected to launch in a high-end MacBook Pro. But that might be delayed for a while.