It’s always been a given that development for Apple platforms had to be performed exclusively on mac hardware. Sure, there have been cross-platform tools before, but none of them provided the kind of access to APIs, fine tuning and testing capabilities that devs got with the real thing. At the end of the day, it’s always been all Apple.
Apple has shown itself more willing to put aside old stances and breakdown former strongholds that we take for granted in recent years. Along those lines, in a somewhat surprising move, Apple released new tools that allow Metal Shading Language compilation into Metal Library Objects on Windows. These were announced and released during WWDC, but made news in Apple circles this weekend.
This is an important move for Apple because it’s completely new. They’ve never shown much willingness to open up development to Microsoft platforms, choosing instead to favor their own hardware for development in their ecosystem. This isn’t much of a surprise, because the brass at Apple has always done whatever they can to foster a halo effect that drives hardware sales. But with a greater emphasis on services going forward, maybe there is more willingness on their part to go further to bring more developers in.
It’s hard to say right now if this means Apple is preparing to offer a complete set of end-to-end developer tools for Windows in the future. We aren’t quite there yet, as anyone using these new tools would still need a Mac with Xcode to sign their apps and do their testing. The new tools are also geared toward gaming development only. However, it would seem odd for Apple to offer something like these Metal Developer Tools and not go further at some point.
For today, the impact of these new tools for Windows will likely be limited. However, this should still encourage developers who have established workflows based around Microsoft platforms to at least investigate and consider porting games to Apple’s platforms. Because Apple is now moving the Mac to ARM processors, the same basic code will soon be able to run across all Apple devices, as well. That’s an advantage that no other platform currently offers. This wide reach across some very popular hardware should help to spur increased interest.
While these new Metal tools for Windows are a great step, hopefully it is only the first of many. If Apple were to create a fully-functional development environment for Windows, that would definitely spur additional interest from new sources who have never bothered with Apple’s platforms before. Hopefully this first step will prove fruitful enough for them to take the next one. If Apple really wants to expand gaming and their new Arcade service, especially on the Mac, then cross-platform is the way to go. Only time will tell if that’s a step Apple is willing to take.