Update, 11 July 2014:
Will Esri be migrating ArcGIS to the Mac?
We currently have no plans to migrate the full ArcGIS for Desktop to the Mac OS. It does, however, run very well on Mac using Windows emulation software (e.g., Bootcamp). This is a high-performance environment, and many of our developers at Esri use the Mac environment as their platform.
In addition, Explorer for ArcGIS will run natively on the Mac OS. Similar to the iOS app, it will work with web maps and access ArcGIS for Server services (both on premises and hosted). Explorer for ArcGIS on the Mac will be available at the 2014 User Conference.
Developers can develop native apps for Mac OS using the ArcGIS Runtime SDK for OS X.
Note: in the ~2 years months since the post below was written, some things have changed. The 2013 Esri User Conference Q & A (July 2013) notes: “Q: Can Esri develop a simple Mac-based viewer for ArcGIS Online?” – See the answer at: http://events.esri.com/uc/QandA/index.cfm?ConferenceID=CCAEEE69-1422-2418-7F1D0EB8490B776D#sthash.V7J5INEI.dpuf . Also, “Q: When will Esri support native Mac OS and Mac hardware?” – See the answer at: http://events.esri.com/uc/QandA/index.cfm?ConferenceID=CCAEEE69-1422-2418-7F1D0EB8490B776D#sthash.V7J5INEI.dpuf.
In the late 1980s, Macintosh computers were commonplace on the desks of Esri staff. People used them to write documentation, design graphics, and write proposals. About the only thing we didn’t do with them was run Esri software.
Esri actually did make software that ran on the Apple platform at one time. This was back in the early 1981, when a short-lived product called “Gridapple” was released for the pre-Mac Apple II platform. Gridapple was the first microcomputer implementation of Esri’s raster-based “Grid” system.
In the early 1990s, during the early days of ArcView, Esri was working on a port of ArcView to the Macintosh, but due to engineering challenges it never got beyond pre-release.
As it does every year, the question came up again at the 2011 Esri International User Conference: “When will ArcGIS Run on a Mac?” This question was addressed at the UC Closing Session on Friday.
“We’d love to be on the Mac, but we have engineering priorities…so we have to ask ourselves what’s most important for our users,” said Jack Dangermond. “That focus is very important and we want to make sure that we don’t spread our resources too thin. In theory, we could spread our resources more on platforms and thus less on functionality. But would you want us to slow down advancement of the basic tool in order to deploy on a Mac?”
Of the approximately 1,600 people attended the Closing Session, only one or two people raised their hands.
But don’t count a Mac version of ArcGIS out yet. Dangermond added “We’ll probably start moving more towards supporting the Mac at the next release after ArcGIS 10.1.”
Scott Morehouse provided a little more detail: “The architecture changes we’re making with ArcGIS 10.1 are allowing us to break some of the deep integration with Windows that we’ve built through the component architecture. That complexity of moving to the Mac is getting easier because the component architecture is going away. This is helping us work better on Linux and other environments and that engineering work does allow us to work more on building a native Mac OS application. The problem is figuring out how to allocate resources to support Window versus Mac or the lightweight clients like Android, mobile hosted services, etc. So it’s a technical problem. It’s also a resource problem.”
Meanwhile, Apple users are not left high and dry—there are several options available to let you use your Apple devices as entry points into the ArcGIS system. “I see this issue three ways,” said Chris Cappelli, a self-professed Mac bigot. “First, we’re aggressively supporting the iOS platform for mobile Mac users so they can leverage online GIS and the ArcGIS system. Secondly, our browser-based products like ArcGIS Explorer Online can be used on a Mac. When I need to make maps on my Mac, I always use ArcGIS Explorer Online. Lastly, if I ever need to run ArcGIS Desktop, I have a virtual machine that runs Windows 7. I can run ArcGIS Desktop from there.”