Survey Results: Cross-Platform Apps Don’t Matter to You

Two weeks ago, we published a survey asking you if cross-platform apps were on your roadmap. Your voice, quiet as it may be, has been heard. The results are definitive, but our methodology is perhaps the most telling tale, in this instance.

As macOS Catalina and Xcode 11 arrived, so did Catalyst, Apple’s tooling for creating cross-platform iPadOS and macOS apps. Conceptually, it’s simple: a few buttons clicked in Xcode allow a simple iPadOS app to find its way to the macOS desktop environment. Much of the heavy lifting for things such as keyboard and/or trackpad support are handled automatically.

In an ideal world, developers would jump at the chance to publish an app in two spots, but there are additional considerations. First, the iPad is not a primary device for the widest audience. We’d wager most have it as an accessory, and even more are holding onto legacy iPads, since the desire to upgrade just isn’t critical. As Statista data tells us, the iPad is selling better than it did in 2018 (but is trending down overall).

The Mac is also niche. Net Marketshare shows the macOS ecosystem currently has a 9.84 percent marketshare of the desktop environment.

These data-points show Apple may have missed its mark in asking developers to massage apps into existence for both platforms. Colloquially, we’ve heard from many developers that Catalyst is not as simple as described (as is so often the case with many technologies). In addition to roadblocks, developers are frustrated with the lack of documentation from Apple, and the Mac App Store review process is downright infuriating to some.

Getting back to our survey, we have discovered another ray of light in this particular prism: you just don’t care. Our surveys are typically well-received, but this one fell flat. After a bit of time on its own, we duplicated the survey on Facebook because we weren’t happy with the number of respondents we had. That usually helps boost survey data in a huge way, but our Facebook poll also did poorly (just in case you wanted a glimpse of how the sausage is made).

Interestingly, the findings were also very different. In the chart above, you’ll see that 58 percent of technologists who completed the survey “don’t care about” writing cross-platform apps. In our survey proper, the ratio of those who said they were interested was 3:2. The Facebook poll was almost perfectly opposite – but had less respondents – which brought the total percentages closer to 50/50, for a final 58/42 split.

This is especially curious because a survey from earlier this year suggests most technologists think – or thought – Apple’s Catalyst would succeed. Now, it seems those same voices are less excited.

The story here is the context. Not only does the overall response suggest people are not excited about Catalyst or cross-platform app creation, but the dearth of participants to this study is another telling point. Nobody likes admitting their project wasn’t a wild success, but for us, it’s an outlier, and we feel it’s part of the story. The lack of participation shows people just don’t care about Catalyst. This becomes clearer when we examine Facebook impressions or how many read the article; we reached plenty of people, but there just wasn’t much interest.

Let’s hope Catalyst’s fate is different.