Apple’s MacOS: Inching toward perfection

BitDepth#940 for June 10

MacOS X Yosemite is the newest version of Apple’s operating system for it’s computers. Photo courtesy Apple.
MacOS X Yosemite is the newest version of Apple’s operating system for it’s computers. Photo courtesy Apple.

Technology keynotes are a special breed of business presentations and keynotes targeting developers are a very special subset of these theatrical sales pitches.

On the one hand, presenters are tasked with getting developers excited about things that interest almost nobody, like better access to operating system code and interfaces.

On the other, they need to do a rather more colourful show about the amazing things are coming for the customers who must be wooed to upgrade their hardware, operating systems and their software.

During Apple’s developer conference keynote earlier this month, Craig Federighi made a joke about the decision to name the new MacOS after a famous and picturesque rock formation.

Let’s just say that MacOS X Yosemite offers far more productive promise than MacOS X Weed.

But the name’s probably also a signal to the Mac faithful that their operating system won’t just be adding features, it’s going to keep running as stolidly as it has in the recent past.

Once upon a time, meaning up until around seven years ago, I had a side gig getting Macs back up and running. It wasn’t a money spinner, but it was exactly the type of thing that fascinates someone curious about the way operating systems worked and the quirks that lurk in the guts of software interactions.

My personal Mac mission began way back in the days of Mac OS 6, which couldn’t even install a font easily (Font/DA Mover anyone?).

Almost 95 per cent of the work I did was software based. Hardware failures happened, but they were a rarity compared to crazy software problems.

Eventually, I got bored with it all, and apparently so did Apple. I wouldn’t want to be doing that type of thing now, because most of the problems that crop up with Macs now are hardware based; the software basically just works.

Somewhere around the seventh major iteration of Mac OS X, the bugginess of Apple’s operating system just vanished. It wasn’t something that was received by cheers or even noticed by many. The devices simply stopped freezing.

I know recent Mac owners who have been stunned to see a modern Mac’s crash screen.

“My Mac has foreign languages on it,” they bawl.

So Yosemite? Absolutely the right signal to send to the audience at this year’s developer conference, a small slice of the nine million developers creating software for Apple devices.

Yosemite also works hard to bridge the gap between iPads and iPhones, devices that run iOS, a derivative software product that Apple has been moving the Mac OS toward in both style and functionality.

That makes perfect sense for the company, who may be quite cheerful about having the largest installed base of Macs in its history with 80 million of the computers now in use, but Apple also has 800 million iPads, iPhones and iPods in the hands of customers.

Most of the design changes to the new Mac OS bring the style of both operating systems into closer alignment, flattening user interface elements to create a look that mirrors both the current version of iOS and the new version that’s coming.

The Hand Off feature, allows users to start working on, say, an e-mail on a Mac and finish it on an iPhone. And answering a phone call on your Mac? Slam dunk.

Such enhancements are to be expected from a company that’s put ease of use high on its agenda and Apple hasn’t been the kind of brand conscious business who spends much time talking about their competition anywhere, far less on a keynote stage.

If you live in an all Apple device ecosystem, then Yosemite and iOS 8 are blessings from Cupertino. If you’re hoping for useful interoperability improvements like better support for double factor verification for GMail users, well that’s still to be seen.

Can’t wait for Yosemite? Sign up for the upcoming public beta here.