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[macOS] Application development and OS compatibility

In the previous article, "Is Finale neglecting Mac users?", I wrote about the issue of macOS compatibility in application development, but why is macOS updated more frequently than Windows? This time, I'm going to summarize what I've researched and thought about this.

・The reasons of high frequency of macOS version upgrades

Regarding the frequency of OS version updates, Windows is provided over a span of 3 years: 7 (October 2009), 8 (August 2012), 10 (July 2015), and 11 (October 2021). In contrast, with Mac, it has already been updated every 1 to 2 years since Mac OS X 10.0 (January 2001), and from Mac OS (June 2022), new versions continue to be released every year up to macOS 14 Sonoma, which is said to be released in the fall. You can see that the frequency of releases is completely different between Windows and Mac.

Generally, security measures are one of the main reasons for OS version updates, but this alone cannot fully explain the difference in release frequency. After doing some research, it seems that a major reason for this is the difference in product development and sales strategies between Microsoft and Apple, the developers of each OS.

Windows provided by Microsoft is widely adopted by businesses, public institutions and many companies including Japanese computer manufacturers are now providing computers that use Windows. Therefore, while OS versions are updated with emphasis on strengthening security, the frequency of version updates is kept to a minimum in order to ensure that changes in the OS environment do not affect the convenience of various users as much as possible.

In contrast, Apple products basically emphasize the integration of the hardware and software environments, and now macOS only runs on hardware provided by Apple. macOS updates the OS not only to strengthen security, but also to provide new features and improvements, integrate with hardware, and provide innovations to differentiate the OS. This difference resulted in more frequent macOS updates than Windows updates.

- Impact of high frequency of OS updates on application development

From an application developer's perspective, the difference in the frequency of OS updates affects development costs.

As with a music notation software called Finale, when a new version of OS is released, applications must not only make programmatic adjustments to adapt to it, but also test to confirm that the application functions properly on it. As a result, even for the same application, the development cost will be higher for the Mac version, where the OS version is updated more frequently.

Considering this, the force-quit problem that occurred in Finale 2014 on Mac OS X 10.11 El Capitan could be a sorrowful example of failure of the difficult macOS adaptation work, and the fact that the Mac version of Finale's simplified version of PrintMusic and the free version of NotePad were discontinued one after another in the same period may have been due to the fact that the developer was withdrawing from the development of Mac version products because the development costs were too high nevertheless the number of users is relatively small.

(Personally, I think this is not because MakeMusic, the developer of Finale, neglected Mac users, but rather because they were just unable to overcome the hurdles of developing a Mac version product that costs too high.)

・As an end user, how should we view this cost?

Problems with Mac versions include high development costs and relatively high risks such as application malfunctions that sometimes occur due to the compatibility with the new macOS. However, for example with Finale, it seems that the Mac version is superior to the Windows version in terms of ease of use due to its sophisticated user interface, and there will still be a certain number of people who prefer to use the Mac version of Finale.

As an end user, you are likely to choose between the Mac version and the Windows version while weighing the convenience and risk.

What I am curious about is the future trends in Mac application development. Apple seems to be moving more and more towards integrating its hardware and software environments, and given recent global economic trends where uncertainty about the future is increasing in various aspects, there is a fear that the number of applications that cannot keep up with the macOS development might increase in the future.

As a Mac user, probably we should keep an eye on these trends and carefully choose applications that we can use for a long time. In addition, it might be a good idea to try to establish a production style that combines the strengths of the multiple production tools, instead of relying too much on a single production tool.



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