I was disappointed that no new MacBook hardware was announced at this year’s all-software World Wide Developer’s Conference. Not even a hint about what’s in the development pipeline. Of course, we probably have a pretty good idea of what’s coming with a new generation of MacBook Pros, thanks to the rumor stream filtering down through the upstream supply chain and other anonymous sources, but we’ll have to wait a while yet for official confirmation.
Another conundrum that remains unresolved is the fate of the MacBook Air, with rumors in that regard having been contradictory, one school of thought being that the Air will be discontinued and another predicting that it will be mildly upgraded and carried on as Apple’s price leader notebook. I’m rooting for the latter, but not with a high degree of confidence.
In the meantime, the most significant hardware news from WWDC was that a large tiers of both macOS and iOS middle-aged devices like my still in active service late 2008 Core 2 Duo MacBook and my wife’s and my brother-in-law’s respective iPad 2s are being kicked off the bottom rung of the support ladder with macOS 10.12 Sierra and iOS 10.
According to Apple’s onstage presentation at WWDC 2016, minimum Macintosh systems supported by macOS Sierra 10.12 are:
MacBook Pro (2010 and later)
MacBook Air (2010 and later)
Mac Mini (2010 and later)
Mac Pro (2010 and later)n
MacBook (Late 2009 and later)
iMac (Late 2009 and later)
Over on the iOS side, the iPhone 4 and 4s,iPad 2, iPad 3rd generation, and original iPad mini get the bum’s rush from iOS 10, obsoleting some 40 percent of the total iPad installed base. Here are the minimum systems supported by iOS 10:
iPhone: iPhone 5 or later
iPod Touch: 6th Generation
iPad: 4th Generation or later
iPad Mini: mini 2 or later
As for what was announced at WWDC last week, while I’m pleased with the restoration of macOS terminology for Apple’s desktop operating system, the slate of new features in this 12th OS X revision don’t appeal to me terribly much. I don’t use Siri with iOS devices, and haven’t missed it on the Mac. I much prefer text entry for initiating document and content searches.
The new Desktop & Documents on All Your Devices, and Copy & Paste Between Devices features could prove handy, We’ll have to see how that works out in practical terms. However, Dropbox already does an excellent job for me of keeping documents synchronized across devices.
Picture in Picture on the Mac, crossing over from iOS 9, is something I might use sparingly in theory, although I’ve rarely bothered with it on my iPad. Usually there are enough distractions to deal with.
Shopping on Your Mac with Apple Pay could be a convenience for those who use Apple Pay, which I don’t as yet. However, elimination of the need to share credit or debit card numbers with online merchant and having actual card numbers neither stored on your device, nor on Apple servers has definite security advantages when dealing with payees that support Apple Pay, so a thumbs-up on that one, but it’s hardly a gotta-have-it enhancement.
Speaking of security, with macOS Sierra, Apple is implementing a new technology called Differential Privacy to help discover the usage the usage patterns of large numbers of users without compromising individual privacy. Apple says this technology will alo help improve autocorrect suggestions and Lookup Hints in Notes.
Possibly the most substantive addition in macOS 10.12 Sierra is the new “Memories” feature in Photos helps you retrieve favorite and forgotten images deep within your Photos library by automatically creating curated collections covering particular occasions or topics. According to Apple, “new advanced computer vision” enables Photos to recognize people, places and things depicted in your images using on-device facial, object and scene recognition and location information to group images into albums. For example, Photos’ “People” feature automatically groups photos into albums based on who it recognizes in them, while “Places” displays your photos on a world map tom indicate where they were shot. There is also a new “Brilliance” image optimization tool that Apple says pulls in highlights and adds contrast to enhance details. All to the good.
One new Sierra feature I definitely won’t be using is “Auto Unlock” which lets you simply approach your Mac wearing an authenticated Apple Watch and be automatically logged in. I can’t anticipate ever being won over to the Apple Watch.
Sierra’s Optimized Storage feature that frees up space when your storage drive starts getting full by storing infrequently used items in iCloud, popping up reminders to delete used app installers, and even clearing out duplicate downloads, caches, logs and more will appeal to many users, especially in this era of relatively small SSD drives.
An enhanced Messages on the Mac will also be appreciated by those who are heavy Messages users, of which there are apparently many — at least on iOS devices, on which Apple says Messages is the most commonly used app. Apple Music in iTunes is another feature that will be widely used.
There’s some good and useful stuff in that inventory of tweaks, but nothing that gets me excited. The current OS X 10.11 El Capitan is already a substantial personal computer operating system that lacks little.
The iOS, however, despite Apple’s stated enterprise aspirations and redesignating the 9.7- inch iPad a “pro” device, still suffers from a constellation of deficiencies from a productivity perspective, none of which have evidently been addressed in iOS 10, which was also previewed at WWDC, and which is the main focus of my WWDC disappointment.
Still no visible file system, no real multi-windowed multitasking, no drag & drop between open documents even in Split View, no mouse support, no content level global document searches, to name a few.
Instead, iOS gets the aforementioned more “expressive” Messages app that supports animations that can take over an entire screen to celebrate a special occasion, invisible ink to send a message only revealed after a friend swipes over it, and for added personalization, handwritten notes. Automatic suggestions make it easy to replace words with emoji, Tapback creates a quick and simple way to respond with a tap and links that let you see content inline and play media without leaving your conversation App Store support, stickers to be peeled and pasted into conversations, the ability to quickly personalize GIFs or edit photos, and send payments. Whatever floats your boat, I guess. The appeal eludes me. I prefer text messaging that is simply, well, text — the plainer the better.
As I previously noted, I don’t use Siri. Neither do I talk to my F-150 using its Ford Sync voice command feature. Aside from dictation software, which is useful and which I’ve been using for years, I’m not interested in talking to my computer or my truck, or in car or in having it “talk” to me in synthesized human language. However, for those who do like being able to converse with algorithms, Siri for iOS 10 adds messaging, phone calls, photo search, ride booking, personal payment and workout capabilities, and can use Siri to control CarPlay apps, access climate controls or adjust radio settings within automakers’ apps.
Maps in iOS 10 has been redesigned to make it simpler and more intuitive to use, and enhanced interaction with third-party apps like OpenTable, Uber and Lyft without leaving the Maps app. Maps for iOS 10 a;so has new “intelligence” that proactively delivers directions to where it calculates you are most likely want to go next, based on your routine or appointments on your calendar. Spooky I say. Once a route is planned, Maps can search along the route for gas stations, restaurants, coffee shops and more and provides an estimate of how the stop impacts the length of your trip.
The “Memories” feature described above has also been added to Photos in iOS 10, which also contains “Memory Movie,” an automatically edited movie with theme music, titles and cinematic transitions.
Apple has now deeply integrated the Home management app into iOS !0, conceptually delivering a simple and secure way to set up, manage and control your home from your iOS mobile device, using Siri as a command medium if you wish, and interacting with Apple TV, and nearly 100 home automation products globally adopting Apple’s HomeKit this year, bringing support for thermostats, lights, window shades, door locks, video cameras and more to the Home app. Living in the country in an older house heated with wood. and which is emphatically not amenable to automation, all this is of only technical and academic interest to me.
The revamped Apple Music and News apps are also largely terra incognita for me. My collection mostly classical music is on vinyl and I prefer to read ink on paper news and magazine content as long as it remains affordably available.
Raise to Wake? Would never have missed it.
Security-wise, Apple says iMessage, FaceTime and HomeKit now all use end-to-end encryption to protect your data by making it unreadable by Apple and others and iOS 10 uses on-device intelligence to identify the people, objects and scenes in Photos, and power QuickType suggestions. And while services like Siri, Maps and News send data to Apple’s servers, this data is not used to build user profiles. iOS 10also gets the Differential Privacy technology discussed in the macOS Sierra section above, which does represent progress.
However, I’m having big trouble perceiving iOS 10 as Apple’s “biggest release ever”, as claimed by Apple senior vice president of Software Engineering Craig Federighi, at WWDC. And as noted, nothing there to speak of for productivity focused users. Your mileage may vary.