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Apple Says It's Not Pursuing Universal Software Platform

By Evan Niu, CFA – Apr 19, 2018 at 7:35PM

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The Mac maker is intent on keeping its platforms separate for now.

There's been considerable speculation in recent months that Apple (AAPL -1.26%) could be pursuing some type of universal software platform, where iOS and macOS apps would merge together. Bloomberg had reported on the internal project, code-named "Marzipan," last year. The likelihood that Apple is exploring transitioning Macs to its own proprietary A-series chip architecture only fuels the speculative flames.

CEO Tim Cook just shot down the idea.

Person using iPad Pro and Smart Keyboard

Image source: Apple.

Never say never

In a recent interview with The Sydney Morning Herald, Cook downplayed the rumors, saying that users don't appear to want such a platform.

We don't believe in sort of watering down one for the other. Both [the Mac and iPad] are incredible. One of the reasons that both of them are incredible is because we pushed them to do what they do well. And if you begin to merge the two ... you begin to make trade offs and compromises.

So maybe the company would be more efficient at the end of the day. But that's not what it's about. You know it's about giving people things that they can then use to help them change the world or express their passion or express their creativity. So this merger thing that some folks are fixated on, I don't think that's what users want.

It's worth noting that Microsoft (MSFT 1.97%) has been pursuing this strategy for years with Windows 10 universal apps. However, the big difference there is that Microsoft is mostly looking to cater to a diverse range of form factors from traditional laptops to convertibles or other hybrid computing devices. The software giant lost all relevance in the smartphone market years ago, so it really just needs to focus on tablets, laptops, and everything in between.

Cook's reference to "trade offs and compromises" largely echoes sentiments that the chief executive has made in the past. Let us never forget his infamous remarks about toaster-refrigerators or flying-floating cars. In other words, Apple is steadfastly sticking to its strategy of keeping the Mac and iPad discrete platforms, even though the lines between the use cases are blurring more every day. Apple starting bringing iOS software features to macOS back in 2010, when Steve Jobs hosted the company's "Back to the Mac" event.

As always, Cook is very deliberate with the words that he uses, and he doesn't absolutely preclude the possibility. More than likely, Apple is at least considering a universal software platform and laying the groundwork should it ever need to create a platform in earnest. If a point ever comes that users definitively do want such a platform, Apple would then be able to roll it out faster after having quietly put together all the requisite pieces. Convertible PCs are undoubtedly becoming a larger part of the market, after all, particularly as the tablet market stagnates.

Cook is probably just playing coy while hedging his bets.

Teresa Kersten is an employee of LinkedIn and is a member of The Motley Fool's board of directors. LinkedIn is owned by Microsoft. Evan Niu, CFA owns shares of Apple. The Motley Fool owns shares of and recommends Apple. The Motley Fool has the following options: long January 2020 $150 calls on Apple and short January 2020 $155 calls on Apple. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.

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