Roben Kleene

You Don't Need a Mac

Matt Gemmell on the direction the wind is blowing for the future of iOS and the Mac:

But you don’t need a Mac. You need Xcode on the iPad. That’s all. […]

There’s no particular reason you can’t write and debug code on an iPad, and it’s going to happen. Same for Logic, and Final Cut, and Photoshop, and so on. Oh sure, maybe it won’t be those specific apps (though in a lot of cases, it will be), but tasks themselves are always more interface-agnostic than you think.

I see where he’s coming from, and there’s a part of me that agrees, or at least wants to agree. The architecture of iOS is fundamentally more secure and easier to use than macOS, and I love fantasizing about a future where it’s the only OS I ever need.

But the mistake I think he’s making is equating programming to just another task. For computers, it’s not a task, it’s the task; it’s what makes everything else possible. And you still can’t do it on iOS1. Has any platform ever become a first-class programming platform retroactively? They’re usually designed to be bootstrapped as fast as possible.

I’m increasingly convinced that this process of bootstrapping builds features into the nature of platform, and that these features can’t be retroactively changed or added2. And if that’s true, it means the ship has already sailed on iOS ever being a great programming platform. I really hope Apple proves me wrong on this.

  1. It’s such an obnoxious term, but so perfectly apt I can’t help using it: iOS only allows “toy” programming. ↩︎

  2. For examples of where Apple has tried to change the nature of macOS, see Spaces, the Mac App Store (especially sandboxing), replacing “Save As” with “Duplicate” in Mac OS X Lion, and “App Nap” from OS X Mavericks↩︎