macOS 10.12 Sierra to Succeed OS X 10.11 El Capitan
During the WWDC 2016 keynote today, Apple took the wraps off the replacement to OS X 10.11 El Capitan. The change that will affect the most people is the least technical — Apple is renaming its Mac operating system from OS X to macOS to make it consistent with the company’s other operating systems, iOS, watchOS, and tvOS. It’s a good move — as a name, “OS X” had no connection with the Mac, ever since Apple dropped the word “Mac” during the days of 10.7 Lion. And while the “X” in OS X both moved on from Mac OS 9 and referenced the new Unix underpinnings, all of Apple’s operating systems are now based on Unix, and that’s not the selling point it was when Macs were much less stable.
Apple is continuing both the same version numbering and its recent practice of naming versions of the operating system after inspiring locations in California. So we’ll be writing about macOS 10.12 Sierra for the next 18 months. With Sierra, Apple is once again alluding to a rock formation, although a much bigger one than Yosemite’s El Capitan — the Sierra Nevada mountain range in this case.
Tying the Apple Ecosystem Together — Most striking among the changes in macOS Sierra are those that integrate the Mac more deeply into Apple’s hardware ecosystem. For instance, the new Auto Unlock feature eliminates the need to enter your login password if you’re wearing an associated Apple Watch. Regardless of the improvements in watchOS 3, Auto Unlock may spur Apple Watch sales on its own — I get sick of typing my login password repeatedly and would have a stronger one yet if I seldom had to enter it. Apple said nothing about other authentication capabilities, but wouldn’t it be great if wearing an Apple
Watch eliminated all requests for your Apple ID password, on all your devices? I’d pay for that.
We just published a big article about the clipboard (see “OS X Hidden Treasures: Copy and Paste,” 11 June 2016), but it will need updating once macOS Sierra ships, thanks to Universal Clipboard, which extends the clipboard concept across all your devices. Copy some text from your Mac and paste it on your iPhone instead of typing! The only unfortunate aspect of this capability is that it has been provided by a variety of third-party apps so far, and they may have trouble competing with Apple’s Universal Clipboard unless they can offer additional capabilities.
Apple is enhancing iCloud Drive in an interesting way. Although it will remain largely useless for collaboration in comparison to Dropbox, Google Drive, and Box, macOS Sierra can make the contents of your Desktop and Documents folders available across all your devices via iCloud Drive. This will likely require paying Apple for more space — I don’t know about you, but my folders contain over 26 GB of data. Given that iCloud’s monthly prices in the United States are just $0.99 for 50 GB, $2.99 for 200 GB, and $9.99 for 1 TB, it might be worth it.
Finally, Apple Pay will make its way to the Web, and with Apple Pay support in Safari, you’ll be able to pay for online purchases with ease, authenticating your credit card details with Touch ID on your iPhone or by double-clicking the side button on your Apple Watch. Using Apple Pay ensures that your credit card details are never shared with the vendor, eliminating the possibility of them being compromised in a security breach. We’ll see if Chrome and Firefox are allowed to add Apple Pay support as well.
macOS Sierra, or macOS Siri? — Although the integration features may be compelling for many people, the marquee addition to macOS Sierra is Siri. From the demo, it appears you must press a key or click a Dock icon to invoke Siri, though a “Hey, Siri” option would be welcome for those who don’t share office space.
Siri can do many of the same things in macOS as it can in iOS, such as sending messages, locating files, and searching the Internet. When searching for files, you can even refine searches after they find too many results on the first try. Since Siri results are quite ephemeral, you can pin them in Notification Center for later reference. And the results of Siri searches can be transferred from the results window to other apps via drag-and-drop, just as you’d expect on the Mac.
Some of Apple’s example Siri commands include:
- Show the PDFs in my Downloads folder.
- How much free space do I have on my Mac?
- What’s the weather in Lake Tahoe?
- Show the photos from yesterday.
- Add Laura to my 10 AM meeting.
El Capitan has voice dictation even now, so we expect that to be in macOS Sierra as well, hopefully with whatever enhancements Apple has made in general.
In the iOS portion of the keynote, Apple said that it was opening Siri up to developers. No mention was made of that during the description of Siri in macOS, but we hope the APIs are available on both platforms.
Photographs and Memories — Apple spent quite a bit of time demoing new features in Photos, and honestly, it was a bit of a jumble. Photos gains a number of automatic recognition capabilities, so it will be able to identify who is in photos, as well as objects and scenery in the photos, all without manual training. You’ll be able to search for photos by what’s in them, along with date and location.
A built-in People album will automatically bring together all photos of the people in your life, thanks to improved facial recognition technology. Returning from iPhoto is a Places album that displays all your photos on a world map.
The new version of Photos will use this technology to create Memories, which is also the name of a new top-level tab in Photos that automatically creates slideshows and shareable collections of your best photos. We’ll see how well it works when it ships, but since putting together photo slideshows is relatively time-consuming now, it could be worthwhile.
Other Peaks in Sierra — Apple promised a number of other fascinating-sounding changes in macOS Sierra.
For those who have trouble fitting their data into the flash storage on a small MacBook Air, for instance, Optimized Storage may prove helpful. Most notably, it automatically moves rarely used old files to iCloud, likely creating another reason to pay for more iCloud storage. It also reminds you to delete used app installers, and on its own can remove duplicate downloads, caches, logs, and the like. It will even automatically delete items that have been in the Trash for 30 days, a feature that Windows has had for ages. Apple tried it on a system with 20 GB free and Optimized Storage freed up another 130 GB. Nevertheless, lots of questions surround Optimized Storage.
Messages in macOS Sierra won’t get all the features Apple is adding to the app in iOS 10, but it will be able to display them. Similarly, some of the design changes in iOS 10’s Music app will be making their way to iTunes; it remains to be seen if that will be sufficient to make it usable again.
Some time ago, Apple added tab support to the Finder, following along with the tab capabilities of Safari and every other Web browser on the planet. In macOS Sierra, apps that currently open documents in their own windows will be able to confine them to tabs, something that a few apps like Adobe’s InDesign and Photoshop do already.
Finally, for those who like having some video in the background at all times, macOS Sierra will take a page from iOS 9 on the iPad and add Picture in Picture. You’ll be able to float a resizable video window from Safari or iTunes in any corner of your screen while you pretend to get work done.
Compatibility and Availability — Regarding hardware compatibility, macOS Sierra will run on MacBook and iMac models released in late 2009 and later, and on MacBook Air, MacBook Pro, Mac mini, and Mac Pro models released in 2010 and later. This is a major change from the compatibility chart for 10.8 Mountain Lion, 10.9 Mavericks, 10.10 Yosemite, and 10.11 El Capitan, all of which supported machines as far back as 2007.
As much as it can be frustrating when an older Mac is dropped off the back of the wagon like this, we’re still talking 6–7 years of backward compatibility, and a lot of niggling little issues probably go away because the hardware is newer and more consistent.
macOS Sierra is available for developers now, and Apple will open a public beta next month if you want to get your hands on it early. It’s scheduled for release “this fall,” which will likely mean September or October given past performance. Like all recent releases, it will be free.
Adam, I watched the keynote and Tim Cook was pretty clear about dropping the "10" so the new version of MacOS when released should be MacOS 11.0.0, code name "Sierra". I did some calculating and if Steve Jobs had not been so enamored on capitalizing on the Roman Numeral for 10, the version coming out in the Fall would have been MacOS 22!
Mac OS X 10.0.0 (Cheetah) = Mac OS 10.0.0
Mac OS X 10.1.0 (Puma) = Mac OS 11.0.0
Mac OS X 10.2.0 (Jaguar) = Mac OS 12.0.0
Mac OS X 10.3.0 (Panther) = Mac OS 13.0.0
Mac OS X 10.4.0 (Tiger) = Mac OS 14.0.0
Mac OS X 10.5.0 (Leopard) = Mac OS 15.0.0
Mac OS X 10.6.0 (S. Leopard) = Mac OS 16.0.0
Mac OS X 10.7.0 (Lion) = Mac OS 17.0.0
Mac OS X 10.8.0 (Mt. Lion) = Mac OS 18.0.0
Mac OS X 10.9.0 (Mavericks) = Mac OS 19.0.0
Mac OS X 10.10.0 (Yosemite) = Mac OS 20.0.0
Mac OS X 10.11.0 (El Capitan) = Mac OS 21.0.0
MacOS 11.0.0 (Sierra) = Mac OS 22.0.0
MacOS Sierra is version 10.12, not version 11.0
There seems to be little reason to update unless you are tied into the "walled garden" that is IOS. Siri seems to be all thats offered for those of us who are Mac only users. Is it worth the potential update bugs that seem to plague recent macOS updates?
There's no way to know that at this point, or even to worry about it. Save your brain cycles until September. :-)
It's always a good idea to wait to upgrade your OS until you see what issues turn up. For instance, Yosemite was a rolling disaster for many. El Cap has been pretty smooth—if you were wise enough to inform yourself of the changes the enhanced security imposes.
If you are the impatient type, though, be sure to clone your system before upgrading so that you can revert easily if things go south.
As for older hardware, Apple still, as of now, supports OS X 10.9.x through 10.11. Which means you can continue to use Sierra incompatible hardware for at least two more years, if you upgrade to OS X 10.11.x. That said, if Apple's support policies remain consistent, we may no longer get updates for Mavericks once Sierra is released. I've been holding on to Mavericks because the issues with Yosemite were so daunting—and serious evidence of the decline in quality control at Apple. Once trust is lost, it's hard to get it back. And, like some others, I don't have an iOS device so I haven't been drawn into that relentless upgrade cycle. Which, given how unreliable iCloud services have been, I don't see as a bad thing.
It looks like a new file system is planned for 10.12. see: https://developer.apple.com/library/prerelease/content/documentation/FileManagement/Conceptual/APFS_Guide/Introduction/Introduction.html#//apple_ref/doc/uid/TP40016999
Also, it seems like RAID support has been added back into Disk Utility!
Yes, APFS could be quite interesting. I think Macworld had something too, and Michael Cohen was looking into it for us yesterday. We'll see if there's an article there.
APFS is not due for release until 2017, and Apple doesn't say whether it is early or late 2017. Currently, it does not support boot volumes and its specifications are subject to change.
In short, it is intriguing, and does represent an advance over HFS+ (in theory), but whether and when it becomes the default macOS file system is unclear.
I'm hoping that Siracusa does one of his in-depth reviews of it soon even though it will be wildly preliminary.
A significant amount of the new or updated features in Sierra will be useless to users, unless they own a recent vintage, iPhone, iPad, or an Apple Watch. Sorry but I am not willing to spend hundreds or thousands of dollars for new hardware just to activate a few new, and useful but unnecessary features to my existing hardware when it is running the current OS systems and works with all existing current applications.
More and more it seems that Apple is targeting its market to the one percenters and ignoring the rest of its loyal customers! Supporting Apple and its product line means more than just constantly buying new hardware which their marketing and sales division seems to be now lost in their paradigm.
The choice of a hardware platform should be based on the tools that will run on it, not who makes the hardware! This razor seems to be now lost on Apple. They need to stop focusing on short term gratification and restart focusing on long term survival.
No one is forcing you to update, certainly, but you should keep in mind that sticking with old systems very much puts you in the shrinking minority, not everyone else. Apple sells many millions more iPhones and iPad than Macs every year, so the likelihood that a Mac user has an iPhone or iPad is quite high.
And I don't think it's fair to claim that Apple is forcing you to buy new hardware when the last four OS X updates have worked on Macs back to 2007, and macOS Sierra still works on Macs back to 2009. Getting 7+ years of OS compatibility is extremely good. Even the integration features that were discussed don't require the latest iOS hardware.
Finally, you're right that the choice of a hardware platform should be based on the tools that run on it. And that hasn't changed significantly with Sierra, any more than it has changed significantly since the jump from Snow Leopard to Lion dropped Rosetta support.
Regardless, I don't see anything in these releases that shouts "short-term gratification" or raises the concern of "long-term survival." Apple is one of the richest and most valuable companies in the world, possibly in the history of the world, and "survival" simply isn't an issue.
While that may be correct in theory, I think in practice it's not quite true, Adam.
Poeple *are* being forced to update. Want security updates? Need to upgrade to at least last year's OS version. Want to run new a new software package? Needs latest OS X version. Want a new iPhone? New iPhone needs latest iTunes, latest iTunes needs this years's OS X. Etc.
This didn't use to be such a big deal back when major OS releases happened every few years. Two OS versions meant support for easily six years. Roughly the same time scale as the hardware's usefulness. But now with silly superficial "features" being released as major OS updates on an annual basis, people are having the rug pulled out from under them.
Apple should get people to update by offering superior features, stability, and performance. What a shame that they chose to ignore that and instead simply force people into updating with sleazebaggery. And all so they can brag about how high the percentage of users on the latest version. What a steep fall.
Security updates are always for two OS versions back, and realistically, I've never heard of major exploits against all the people still running Snow Leopard. So it's hard to be too stressed about that. And yes, if you want a new iPhone AND you want to connect it to iTunes, you may have to update, but you don't need to connect it to iTunes.
I just helped my aunt and uncle upgrade from Snow Leopard because they bought new Macs. They had been fine, apart from not being able to do online banking on the Mac because everything was too old. (They used an iPad instead.) And you know what, their new Macs are fine too.
I'm just a little sad that Apple can't even announce new things without everyone assuming the worst. It's just not true that Apple is forcing people to upgrade, or foisting useless features off on an unsuspecting populace for some evil reason. And it's not true that modern operating systems are worse. I use my Retina iMac for 40-60 hours per week for all sorts of tasks, and I don't have stability problems or performance problems. Not everything is perfect, but it never was before either. The world isn't perfect, and I don't expect it to be. When I have problems, I solve them.
No one but developers has even seen macOS Sierra yet, and developers have had 1 day with it. Let's wait until we've all had a chance to try it in person before we heap such opprobrium on it.
Third paragraph is great Adam. I'm getting tired of it too. ALL OSs have problems.
It's not some "evil reason", Adam.
It's that they want to push a "major" OS release every year. It's that they chose to fill it with fluff instead of real progress (no surprise if you have to deliver on a fixed 12-month schedule). It's that they want to be able to feed the propaganda machine of "all our users are on the same latest and greatest OS version".
It's not an evil conspiracy. It's just Apple putting marketing ahead of professional users. Of course they are free to do that, just as we are free to walk. But expecting that to happen without a few loud words is just naive.
I'm sad that Apple appears to do really well only when they are a niche company fighting for their life. As soon as the dough rolls in they start behaving like MS used to. It's disgraceful. And it's a shame it appears the only thing to fix that is that iOS has to be relegated to 5% market share.
Yes, they've ended up with an annual release schedule, but as we've seen, not every release is equally large. Snow Leopard, Mountain Lion, and El Capitan were all minor releases, and the hardware requirements stayed the same for four releases between Mountain Lion and El Capitan. And, of course, they're all free, so whether or not you upgrade is based purely on whether you want to take advantage of what's new.
And realistically, the experience of using a Mac hasn't changed hardly at all in a long time. As I noted, I was just helping my aunt and uncle upgrade to new Macs from older machines running Snow Leopard and apart from a few minor things (like not being able to control their older Macs easily via Messages, because they were still on iChat), I had no trouble telling them what to do.
And speaking as a professional user, what Apple does is largely irrelevant. Apart from the big jump with Lion in eliminating Rosetta, compatibility with professional software hasn't been a major issue. Apps are what makes a platform appropriate for professional use, not OS features. I get more productive all the time, regardless of what Apple does, because I'm always looking for software and techniques that will make me more productive.
I agree, Adam, every time the Mac OS is upgraded, people crawl out of the woodwork screaming "The sky is falling! Apple is doomed!" This has been going on for well over a decade now and, sadly, shows no sign of letting up.
On the one hand, it's not unusual for people to resist change, for a variety of reasons, both personal and professional. The panic and loss of perspective, however, is harder to explain. Not to mention all the FUD these people spread around like manure.
That said, it's in the nature of the marketplace that, like a shark, if you're not moving forward, you're dying. Apple has to continue to innovate, even though not everyone finds every innovation useful. The problem I have with many of Apple's innovations is that they remain half-baked, like Launchpad, iBooks Author and iCloud—or spiral out of control, like Yosemite and iTunes. Apple has accelerated their development cycle to the point where many things never get finished. It's like the whole company has ADHD. And people pick up on this slapdash affect after awhile. Which may explain all the hyperventilating.
A big Meh. More useless feature bloat and empty calories.
I'm curious—if you put yourself in Apple's shoes, Steve, what changes do you announce?
Stability. Performance. Ease of use. It just works™.
Loads of themes come to mind that are in urgent need of reinvigoration. I would have chosen any one of those over this superficial bloat obviously targeted at girls in junior high.
Those aren't announcements. Those are bug fixes, and we just got El Capitan, which was a polish release on top of Yosemite.
I'm serious—what major features would you announce if you were Apple?
The changes in Messages are fluff, of course, but Apple has millions of users who aren't like you and aren't like me. That doesn't make the needs and desires of those people any less valid. And, let's face it, young people who might like these changes are the market of tomorrow. (Of course, the Messages changes are also largely because the iPhone, where that audience does care more about silly stuff. The Mac just has to remain compatible.)
I disagree. Ease of use isn't a bug fix. It's a paradigm. Window management could be vastly improved on OS X. But Apple choses to do nothing other than redecorate Spaces.
El Cap might have been an improvement over Yosemite, but that says more about Yosemite than El Cap. El Cap is still wasteful, bloated, and a far from "just works".
And if you think it's justified to throw away the platform because that's what appeals to "the market of tomorrow", well then I guess professional users like myself will just have to start looking for another solution. One where our needs are still taken seriously. I have no reason to stick with Apple if they believe they can now act like MS used to.
I don't use Mission Control or desktop spaces, since I believe that multiple displays lead to far more productivity enhancements than virtual desktops, but I'll stick with my question:
What exactly would you have Apple change to benefit the majority of Mac users, whether with window management or something else?
It's easy to say, "X could be vastly improved," but it's a lot harder to come up with concrete solutions. Plus, I find that a lot of criticisms are easily met by third-party utilities.
I agree fully that if a platform doesn't do what you want, you should switch.
But speaking as a professional user who has based his livelihood on using the Mac for over 26 years, I can say with some assurance that the software and services available to me today, running on Apple's current hardware and operating systems, make me far more productive than at any time in the past. That's the bottom line.
And to reiterate, no, not everything is perfect. I wasted a bunch of time on an obscure problem related to SMB file sharing with our OS X Server box that was solved only by forcing the use of AFP instead. And I lost a bunch of yesterday to having to physically clean a switch in my Contour Designs RollerMouse so I could drag properly again. But problems happen, I solve them, and I move on. Nothing new under the sun, and the problems become ever more rare.
"I'm curious—if you put yourself in Apple's shoes, Steve, what changes do you announce? "
I don't think it's about "announcing" changes. I think it's about developing true innovations and platform strategy. It seems to me that the Mac has become just a burdensome legacy product for Apple and their strategy is to move it to a desktop/laptop iPhone/iPad clone to minimize support costs. In the long run, that implies turning it into a dumb terminal connected to "The Cloud", running a common, locked down OS and common, locked down, rental apps with all the other iDevices.
This strategy may make business sense for Apple but it doesn't meet my needs as someone who understands computers and wants to control my own data and applications on my own machine, not on Big Brother's network.
I remember the "Timeshare" model and found personal computers to be a welcome freedom. (continued next post)
Under the planned regime, more and more control is wrested from the end user so that more and more data mining can occur and more and more advertising can be "pushed" down our throats under the guise of "sychronizing all your data".
Every change in the OS precipitates a cascade of changes in my installed apps to be compatible. While Apple may give away the OS, the app vendors are not always so generous. Not to mention the time cost in installing and debugging the changes. I resent having to go through this just so Apple can appeal to the "greater market". And the irritation of constantly having to adapt to a changed user interface for no reason other than it appeals to said greater market and/or some supposed "design guru" at Apple. Frankly, I haven't seen anything or real value since Snow Leopard.
I'm afraid my long love affair with Apple died with Steve Jobs. The only real option appears to be Linux.
You should absolutely use the platform that meets your needs, Steve, and if Linux is it, go for it. You can even run it on your Macs, and even in a virtualized window to start.
And I agree with you about some of the annoying ways that Apple has locked things down—for those of us who do know what we're doing, that can be limiting. I'm equally not a fan of UI changes for the sake of having it look different.
But I certainly hope you see it from Apple's perspective too. The simpler and more robust things are (i.e., the less the user can screw something up), the more adoption there will be among the vast majority of people who will never be able to do the kinds of things you can. That accounts for scenarios where apps have become less full-featured or where a visual change will make Apple products seem fresh and hip. No one is excited about DOS anymore. As a company that has to sell ever more hardware, Apple needs to keep those new sales coming, and with such a minority market share, it has to compete against Windows and Android.
Plus, a lot of the changes that remove user control are related to increasing security. The whole standoff with the FBI shows just how key it is that Apple ensures that our devices don't tattle on us.
So again, if you're Tim Cook, and you're in charge of maintaining and increasing hundreds of billions of dollars in sales, what do you announce to keep that revenue coming in?
"But I certainly hope you see it from Apple's perspective too"
Of course I can see it from Apple's perspective. That's the problem. Apple's perspective and mine are no longer congruent.
As you did last time, please let us know when the last chance to update to or obtain a copy of 10.11 comes around. I found that very helpful. Thanks.
That will happen just before macOS Sierra comes out. Frankly, if you want to update to El Capitan, there's no reason to wait any longer. It's as mature as it's going to get, and it will be replaced in September or October.
You can also download it without installing it (quit the installer when it autolaunches). You can even throw the installer away, since you can always download it again from the App Store purchases section. But it's probably better to keep a copy because Apple's definition of 'always' is likely to be different from mine...
On macOS/ApplePay/Safari. Many of us use browsers other than Safari so will it be possible to use ApplePay with them?
Unknown as of yet, as I said in the article.
Almost certainly not. in fact, I would be shocked if ApplePay was available on any other browser. Maybe in a version or two, ApplePay will simply be a system-level API that anything can query, much like on iOS now, but that doesn’t seem to be the case right now.
Adam, you said, "wouldn’t it be great if wearing an Apple Watch eliminated all requests for your Apple ID password, on all your devices? I’d pay for that." Does that mean if someone got hold of your Mac and your Apple Watch, they would have access to your Mac, your iTunes account, your iCloud stuff, etc?
Contrary to everyone who is not looking forward to the OS updates, I can't wait! Some of the new features, e.g., the universal clipboard, sound really great to me. And anytime Apple says Siri is getting better I love to hear it. I am using Siri more and more and I find that it already works extremely well. I haven't yet been able to justify getting an Apple Watch, but the announced improvements might get me to take another look, although I will probably wait until Apple Watch 2 comes out.
I generally have no problem with annual updates and I often run betas in the interim. I have owned many Apple devices since the very first Mac, in 1984, and I have never felt "forced" to upgrade hardware because of new software releases.
No, there's no worry about someone getting your Mac and your Apple Watch because of how the Apple Watch itself authenticates—you have to enter a passcode when you first put it on if you're using it for Apple Pay. (I don't do that now, since I don't use the Apple Watch with Apple Pay, but tapping in a passcode once in the day would be far better than logging into my Mac repeatedly.)
I presume that for the Apple Watch to unlock a Mac, it would have to know that you're wearing it via that passcode. But we'll see once people start testing it.
They should make it work with the iPhone as well.
That would be nice, although the details might be trickier in practice with the iPhone.
I disagree. Having it work with the phone would be too much of a security issue. With the watch, the watch knows that it is attached to a warm body and that it has been attached to that warm body the entire time since it was unlocked.
I wouldn’t want my computer to unlock based on proximity to my phone.
If you have an Watch and an iPhone you never have to enter the PIN on the watch, just unlock your iPhone and the watch, if it’s on your writs, unlocks.