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Apple poised to bring Mac and iPad closer than ever

Illustration of a Mac laptop and an IPad with hands reaching to clasp
Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

It's pretty much a given that next week's Apple Worldwide Developer Conference will bring new versions of MacOS and iOS. The real question is just how much convergence there will be between the 2 operating systems.

Why it matters: The Mac remains popular even as the bulk of Apple's business is now selling phones and tablets, both of which have been increasing in computing power.

  • Apple has long said it doesn't plan to merge its mobile and computer operating systems, but the two have been moving closer together recently.

Flashback: Apple offered a "sneak peek" last year at its multiyear effort (known internally as Marzipan) to allow programs written for iOS devices like the iPad to run on Macs with minimal changes.

How it works: Input differences is one of the big hurdles to bringing the two closer: IPhones and iPads use touch input while Macs primarily use a keyboard and mouse (the poorly received Touch Bar notwithstanding).

  • Last year, the company said it was testing the technology first with its own apps, like Stocks and Voice Memos, and would offer other developers a chance to adapt their apps over time.
  • Developers are champing at the bit for their taste of Marzipan, and WWDC could offer them a way in.

What's next: Apple is likely to preview upgrades to its TV and watch operating systems and perhaps give a few more details on some of its new services, such as Arcade, a subscription iOS game service due out this fall.

Here's some of what I'll be watching for at the conference, which kicks off with a keynote Monday morning in San Jose:

1. Mac Pro: Apple first announced back in April 2017 that it planned to scrap its cylindrical Mac Pro design and develop an all-new desktop for professionals.

  • Apple said in 2017 it expected the new design to take at least a year to arrive, but by 2018 was acknowledging the new desktop wouldn't come until 2019.
  • Software is usually the main attraction at WWDC, but it could also be an ideal time and place to unveil a new desktop computer.

2. Siri: The voice assistant is an important market for Apple, and the company has been falling further behind Google and Amazon when it comes to creating opportunities for developers.

  • Apple offered a couple new ways that developers could work with Siri last year, but it will be interesting to see whether it's willing to provide broader access this year.

Go deeper: Apple pivots to media as iPhone sales fall