The next version of Apple’s desktop operating system has been showcased at Apple’s Worldwide Developers Conference (WWDC)—and it has a new name.
The big change is Apple’s decision to nix the former OS X naming. Instead, the company announced that OS X is now known as macOS, and the latest version will be called Sierra.
Aside from the name, the operating system is a relatively minor upgrade over the current version, dubbed El Capitan, running on Macs. The operating system comes with a slightly enhanced design, but adds some nice software features.
For one, users will find a feature called Auto Unlock, which will recognize another Apple devices, such as Apple Watch, connected to the user’s account and automatically unlock the operating system without requiring credentialed users to input a password. In addition, Apple’s Sierra adds Universal Clipboard, allowing users to copy-and-paste content from one Apple product to another.
Apple’s iCloud Drive has also received an improvement, allowing users to access documents on other Apple devices, like iPhones.
Arguably the most important update to macOS is the addition of Apple’s Siri to the operating system. The long-awaited feature will allow users to run Apple’s virtual personal assistant on desktops and laptops.
Siri has been available for the last several years on iOS, but Mac users had been hoping for the virtual assistant to make its way to Macs. Siri is capable of opening files in Finder, accessing content in Apple Mail, and much more. Speaking at WWDC, Apple senior vice president Craig Federighi added while onstage that Siri can do “more” than what’s available in iOS, including performing refined “sophisticated queries” and searching for images.
Apple (AAPL) holds WWDC annually, allowing developers the opportunity to learn more about its new operating systems and learn best practices for developing better apps. In addition to the keynote, which Apple uses to unveil new operating systems to as much fanfare as possible, the company holds workshops and tutorials with developers over the week-long San Francisco show.
Federighi revealed that Sierra is also adding Apple Pay support to the Internet, allowing users to make an Apple Pay purchase from a Mac. He added that Sierra will attempt to improve storage issues by offering users the opportunity to store content in iCloud, rather than on their built-in drive. Tab support, similar to what users would find in a browser, is also coming to apps running on the operating system.
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Apple’s Sierra announcement keeps an annual cadence the company has relied upon over the years. Each year, Apple uses WWDC to unveil a new version of its desktop operating system, which it then launches in the fall as a free upgrade through its Mac App Store. The company is planning the same tactic this year.
Like its predecessors, Apple’s Sierra is designed solely for Macs, so those hoping to run the operating system on a Windows PC are out of luck. However, the operating system supports virtual applications, like Parallels and VMware Fusion (VMW), which allow users to run Windows on the Mac in a virtual environment. Apple’s Macs even support a “dual-boot” feature, permitting users to run Windows on the machine natively, rather than in a virtual window.
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Still, Apple is hoping that most Mac users will stick to its own operating system. To enhance those chances, the company each year delivers nice upgrades to make them more appealing. In addition to Siri and the other major updates, Sierra delivers a slew of under-the-hood improvements to deliver better performance as well as security fixes.
That said, the operating system won’t be launching anytime soon. Over the summer, Apple will be offering it as a free beta for developers and others to try out and then work out bugs and glitches. Apple says the operating system will launch in the fall as a free upgrade.
Once it launches, look for it installed on every Mac that launches thereafter.