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Apple launching Marzipan today? What you should know about iPhone apps on your Mac

Apple’s is expected to announce the details of Project Marzipan. today at WWDC, its annual developer conference. (Here’s how to watch WWDC live.) While we’ll hear all about updates to iOS 13, MacOS 10.15, WatchOS 6 and TVOS 13, it’s Marzipan — the ability to use your iPhone and iPad’s apps on your Mac — that we’ll be paying special attention to. 

The idea of being able to install and use your favorite iPhone apps on your Mac is incredibly appealing and downright convenient, but it isn’t going to happen overnight. Let’s take a look at what Marzipan is exactly, as well as a potential name, timing and why you should even care. 

Apple News on the Mac is the same Apple News app on your iPhone, thanks to Marzipan. 


Screenshot by Jason Cipriani/CNET

What is Project Marzipan?

As far as Apple is concerned, Marzipan isn’t a dessert, it’s an internal code name. Specifically, it’s a code name for Apple’s initiative to give developers the tools to bring iOS apps to the Mac. To be clear, Apple hasn’t ever directly called the initiative Marzipan; it’s a name that’s been leaked in various reports.

We got our first look at Marzipan apps when MacOS Mojave launched with the addition of Apple News, Stocks, Voice Memos and Home.

Previously, it hasn’t been possible for iOS apps to run on a Mac (or vice versa) due to differences in the underlying frameworks — or software code required for apps to work on a platform. Up until now, iOS has relied solely on UIKit, while MacOS has used AppKit.

With Marzipan, Apple is adding elements of UIKit to MacOS, making it possible for an iOS app to run on a Mac.

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Will it really be called Marzipan?

We doubt it. We don’t know what Apple will ultimately call these types of apps, but we have a good guess. Right now Apple refers to iOS apps that are built for the iPhone ($1,000 at Amazon) and the iPad ($249 at Walmart) as “Universal” apps, so it’s possible we’ll see Apple use that same name for apps built to work with the iPhone, the iPad and the Mac.

Wait, don’t we already have Universal Apple apps?

Yes, but those apps are limited to the iPhone and iPad right now. We do have features like Continuity for using your iPhone to place phone calls on your Mac, or sharing clipboard contents between your iPad and Macbook. Looking back, it becomes clear features such as hand-off (for things like opening an email you’re viewing on your iPad on your Mac) have been precursors to true universal apps in Apple’s ecosystem.

apple-merge-ios-and-macos

At WWDC 2018, Apple made it clear it has no plans to merge iOS and MacOS. 


Screenshot by Jason Cipriani/CNET

When will more iOS apps come to the Mac?

At Apple’s WWDC conference last year, the company announced that iOS apps coming to the Mac would roll out in two phases. The first was the release of Apple’s own apps on MacOS. Then Apple promised the second phase would give developers the tools to begin porting their iOS apps to MacOS in 2019.

Apple’s annual developer conference starts Monday, and we expect to hear a lot more about how Marzipan will work, what it’ll really be called and any limitations that iOS developers will have to keep in mind.

Whatever Apple announces Monday will be available only to developers until a public release later this year, possibly in September, when such Apple releases typically happen.

Why should you care?

Take a look at the difference between the iOS App Store and Mac App Store in terms of quality and quantity and it quickly becomes apparent the Mac App Store is lacking all around. Developers just don’t invest their time into developing apps for the Mac.

But if Apple can provide developers with a simple tool so that it takes only a few minutes to create a Mac version of their iOS app, we’re likely to see the number of high-quality Mac apps increase. 

In theory, apps like Netflix, Instagram, Twitter or YouTube could wind up on the Mac. The longterm goal of Marzipan is to combine iOS and Mac apps so developers don’t have to pick and choose which hardware to support. They build an app once, and it works across all your Apple devices. It’s a scenario that benefits users and developers alike. 

Not to mention that learning how to use one version of the app, or finding and sticking with an app you love across all your devices, is super convenient. 

With any luck, we’ll learn a lot more about Marzipan on Monday during the WWDC opening keynote presentation, which starts at 10 a.m. PT. The keynote event will be livestreamed, should you want to tune in and see all the new feature announcements as they happen. 

Published June 1. 

Update, June 3: Adds details.


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