Should Apple put Xcode and other Pro tools on iPad?

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Over the past few years, Apple has done some interesting things with the iPad. First, the company’s software engineers separated iPadOS from iOS, creating a device-centric operating system. Then came the iPad Pro, a heavy spec iPad aimed at professionals such as designers; it is clear that Apple wants the iPad to become the main platform for many people for their daily workflow.

The iPad Pro 2021 doubles the “pro” angle by adding the same Apple M1 chipset tucked away in new Macs, including the new iMac. The iPad also has its own keyboard and stylus, all in the name of productivity. But where are the real “pro” applications? Specifically, why does the iPad have the M1 chipset if not to offer desktop applications?

Some confuse the iPadOS / macOS issue by saying that Apple should simply merge the two platforms, thanks in large part to shared hardware such as the M1.

But in a recent interview with Independent, Apple vice president of hardware engineering John Ternus said, “We strive to make the best Mac possible. We strive to create the best iPad possible. We’re just going to keep improving them, and we’re not going to get caught up in fusion theories. [platforms] or something like that. It’s a strong signal that macOS and iPadOS won’t be merging anytime soon.

Greg Joswiak, Apple’s vice president of marketing, added, “We’re pretty proud of the fact that we’re working really, really hard to create the best products in their respective categories.

Given how Apple continues to push the iPad as a pro-grade device, can we expect Xcode and other pro tech tools to finally arrive for iPadOS? The experts we consulted seemed pessimistic about this result, at least in the short term.

IOS author and instructor Vardhan Agrawal told Dice, “Apple should probably avoid including developer tools like Xcode on the iPad because, despite its Mac-level chipset and performance, there is a gap between the Mac and the iPhone in their ecosystem. . This space is not where the commercial quality development tools belong.

Agrawal adds, “If anything, iPad users should be able to do basic sandboxing, which is available through third-party text editors that handle the code, and for Swift, there’s Swift Playgrounds to handle. this niche. “

Swift Playgrounds is designed as a tool for learning the Swift programming language, but it is also a lightweight code editor. It has the same playground functionality as Xcode, something Apple was proud to bring to the iPad. In an interview with TechCrunch, Ternus said, “Contrary to the belief of some people, we never think about what we shouldn’t be doing on an iPad because we don’t want to infringe on the Mac, or vice versa.”

Apple’s contempt for the “hard lines” between Mac and iPad is sometimes reasonable; even though the Swift Playgrounds editor is nowhere near as robust as Xcode, it offers functionality for code creation and execution, as well as code completion, and captures buggy code in the same way as Xcode. on Mac. If you need to piece together some code on the go, the Swift Playgrounds Code Editor is enough.

Harriet Chan, co-founder of Cocofinder, suggests that full developer tools could eventually arrive, with a few tweaks from Apple: For some things, they come at a performance cost. Presumably, it would have to be done in a much more sandboxed way than what we’re used to seeing on Macs.

Miranda Yan, co-founder of VinPit, echoes the idea that the iPad is not quite desktop class, preventing the arrival of full Xcode on iPadOS: “iPads are designed for light use as basic entertainment, web browsing and social media. IDEs require significant processing power. Depending on the complexity of the running program, the iPad would warp under pressure and the battery would drain too quickly. That could change in the future when iPads improve technologically. We are getting there. The latest iPad is really powerful.

Yan notes that she would prefer VSCode for iPad (“It’s always a problem that I can’t use Visual Studio on my iPad without some time-consuming workarounds,” she notes), so hints at a different problem: the monetization of business apps.

iPad Pro Tools and the App Store

Many IDEs, including VSCode, charge extra for third-party functionality. VSCode has a massive and robust network of extensions in a “store” functionality within the IDE itself. Many are free to download and use, but some are paid extensions. This makes extensibility another issue when considering bringing professional development tools to iPadOS.

Paid functionality of apps should be done through apps designed for Apple platforms. Over the years, this has rubbed shoulders with many, including Netflix, Spotify, and now the creator of Fortnite Epic. Apple and Epic are heading to court this month in a serious battle over how much control Apple should be allowed to exercise over in-app monetization. The end result (expected calls) will have a lasting effect on the App Store and the ability of developers to monetize their work.

Apple won’t voluntarily give up all that money from the App Store; it made nearly $ 90 billion last quarter and dwelled on the roughly 30 percent cut it takes for app purchases and in-app sales. Apple has also come under fire for not applying its rules consistently, and allowing an app like VSCode to run an integrated store while suing Epic would draw tons of anger from developers and other pros. .

For the Mac, the dominance of the App Store is not a problem; monetization either. You can download apps like Sketch or VSCode from the web. As long as these apps are designed to work on a Mac, you can use them. “If, for some reason, Apple decided to do [pro-level apps like Xcode] for the iPad, this would not affect developers much, neither in terms of monetization of their current applications nor for the development of new applications, ”argues Argawal. “Those who use a computer for programming are very unlikely to change. “

There are a lot of nuances in the discussion of professional iPad apps. The new iPad Pro can probably handle a lighter version of Xcode (the Photoshop favorite has a lighter iPadOS version, for example) or projects below a certain megabyte threshold, but, as our experts pointed out, it doesn’t. still not a desktop computer. And no matter how easy it is to port iPad apps to Mac, the reverse is not true.

For the moment, the pro applications on iPad are all made of concessions. Photoshop for iPadOS is a limited version of its desktop tools; Coda was discontinued and replaced by the Nova for Mac only; Swift Playgrounds does not replace Xcode. Speaking to TechCrunch, Joswiak added, “The majority of our Mac customers have an iPad. It’s a great thing. They don’t have it because they’re replacing their Mac, it’s because they’re using the right tool at the right time.

In other words, while iPadOS could possibly see lighter professional tools for developers, it seems unlikely that full versions will hit the App Store anytime soon – and when they do, it could spark a new one. series of fights around monetization and sandboxing.


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