On iTunes, Marzipan and Expectations 

With Marzipan expected to bring new apps to the Mac to replace venerable programs like iTunes, I think now is the time to talk about our expectations of what these new apps may be like. My thoughts break down into a few different areas:

Quality

There’s no denying that the four Marzipan apps in macOS Mojave — News, Home, Stocks and Voice Memos are bad. They don’t act or look like Mac apps, and in some places, barely function at all with a cursor.

I am sure that Apple is well aware of this, but I think that hoping that the “for realsies this time” version of Marzipan is going to make iPad apps feel more at home on the Mac is probably foolish.

I hope for some improvements,1 but I think the truth is that these apps are going to feel weird compared to old-fashioned AppKit ones. My expectation is that Apple is working as hard as it can to improve things, but I think we may be in a “minimal viable product” situation here; just getting the tools in the hands of developers seems like a massive amount of work to ship this year.

Hoping that these new apps will be good may be too big a dream for 2019.

Features

There have been a lot of conversations about the differences between iTunes and Music.app as we know it on iOS 12.

Zac Hall did a great job contrasting the two, and Dan Moren pointed out some of iTunes’ power features that are nowhere to be found on the iPad.

When Music.app shows up in our Docks this fall after installing macOS 10.152 I expect it to be way closer to the iPad version than many are hoping for. There will be features that go down on the burning S.S. iTunes.

Here’s Michael Tsai on the matter:

I’m not looking forward to this because, while I agree that iTunes needs work, I don’t have confidence that Apple will preserve its functionality (or even its desktop-optimized design) in the new apps. I expect that iTunes will remain the only way to sync music that you didn’t buy from the iTunes Store. Apple’s track record is to remove features from AirPort Utility and QuickTime Player 7 and let the dead versions hang around for years until eventually sunsetting them, without ever reimplementing what was lost.

I hope he isn’t right, but I am afraid he may be.

Future Development

If I’m right, and these new Mac apps are more or less clones of what we see on the iPad today, than we have to look beyond iOS 13 and macOS 10.15 to the future.

Here’s the question I keep rolling around in my mind:

Will Apple go the Final Cut Pro X route with all of this, slowly adding features back over time, making the new app as powerful — but also more approachable — than the old?

I would love to see this happen with Music.app. It could adopt the best parts of iTunes, and leave the cruft behind, especially if Podcasts.app and TV.app are there to share the load.

If this year is all about porting iPad apps to the Mac, without massive changes, that will be a bummer, but I will not be surprised. If that comes to pass, making these apps better over time won’t only benefit the Mac, but the iPad and iPhone as well, and that’s good for everyone.

At least until things get so good on the iPad they can replace the Mac with it and move us all over to iOS.

(Just kidding.)3


  1. I’m looking at you, date and time picker in Home.app. 
  2. For once, I’d like a macOS name reveal to happen on the WWDC stage without a “macOS Weed” joke, Craig… 
  3. Probably.