What Mattered to Dr. Mac: Notes from WWDC

Dr. Mac’s Rants & Raves
Episode #390

Apple kicked off its annual conference for developers last Monday.

The nearly two-hour keynote was notable for several reasons, the most obvious of which was the lack of a live audience for the first time. It’s also the first time the conference was 100% virtual, with all sessions streamed and available for download via the free Apple Developer app, which is now available for Mac, iOS, and iPadOS.

Apple chips

The most important news, in case you haven’t heard, is that Apple will transition the Mac from Intel processors to its own “world-class custom silicon to deliver industry-leading performance and powerful new technologies.”

The first Macs with Apple processors will be available before the end of the year, kicking off a two-year transition cycle. That’s all I have for now, but I assure you I’ll have much to say once I get my hands on an Apple-chipped Mac.

Big Sur(prise)

Moving right along, the next release of macOS is named Big Sur and includes the biggest Safari update ever, plus a visual redesign affecting almost every pixel on the screen. On top of the visual overhaul, Big Sur includes a customizable menu bar, an all-new Control Center, a redesigned Maps app, considerable improvements to the Messages app, and much more.

The surprise was that after 15 releases, macOS X (pronounced “ten”) will turn 11 with the release of Big Sur. There’s no word yet on whether “eleven” is expressed as a Roman (XI) or cardinal (11) numeral, but if I were a betting man, I’d bet on the latter.

Eye on iOS/iPad OS

iOS 14 offers new ways to customize your Home Screen, including redesigned widgets that can be pinned to any page. It also introduces the App Library, which organizes your apps by category automatically, and “intelligently surfaces apps that may be helpful in the moment.” It also adds App Clips, “a small part of an app experience designed to be discovered at the moment it is needed.” So, for example, if you’re at a parking meter that requires a specific app to pay for parking, an App Clip will appear and let you pay instantly without finding and downloading the app.

iPadOS 14 will include all of the new iOS 14 features as well as powerful new handwriting recognition features for Apple pencil and less-obtrusive notifications.

But wait—there’s more!

There were other announcements that mattered (to me), including an update to AirPods Pro that will add “spatial audio with dynamic head tracking,” to provide pseudo-surround sound.

And, at least three more new features I’m looking forward to trying:

  • Third-party support for the Find My apps on all platforms (so I can find gadgets not made by Apple as quickly and easily as I find my Apple gadgets)
  • Sharable Apple watch faces
  • and
  • Sleep tracking (in watchOS 7

I’m installing developer releases and will have much more to say once I’ve had some hands-on time with them. 

There is one more thing…

I thought this was the best Apple special event broadcast yet…screen shot of Apple special event window.The missing audience meant no time wasted on cutaways, reaction shots, or waiting for the applause to die down, making the show feel more streamlined. And, the production seemed slicker and faster-paced, with more presenters (and more diverse presenters) and faster transitions between presenters, not to mention quite a bit less fluff than usual.

If you have an hour and 48 minutes to spare, you can watch the replay here.

5 thoughts on “What Mattered to Dr. Mac: Notes from WWDC

  • Hello Bob:
    First, I’m glad that you pointed out the X at the end of OS X is the Roman numeral for 10 in the Arabic numeral system, as opposed to X as in X-ray, given that this followed Apple’s retirement of OS9, which should have made it obvious. 
    One of TMO’s early writers, Rodney O’Lane (still miss you, brother), used to make this point with wicked humour. Being an African American, and wearing one of Apple’s OS X t-shirts that simply read, ‘X’, he got tired of people thinking that this was a socio-political statement about the slain civil rights activist, Malcom X, and wished that Apple would step up their branding. 
    Apple actually this abundantly clear in the lead up to the release of the new UNIX-based system, back in the day. Many a later Mac adopter, following mainly a Euro-centric insistence on calling OS X as in X-ray (I was spending most of my Western time in Europe and the UK when not in the tropics back then) had made it vogue to say X as in X-ray. This was helped in no small measure by companies glomming onto Apple’s branding with X-monikers of their own, with many of my Windows using colleagues pointing out to me Windows XP as a case in point, and of course, Windows sets the naming standard (yeah…got that a lot). When I rejoined to one of my colleagues once that, no, it is Mac OS 10 and in fact, that the XP on MS’s Windows was pronounced 10p, which is about what his crappy system was worth, including the Dell hardware that ran it, he was not amused (shocking, but he dropped the topic). In fact, following the rollout of Mac OS X, many companies started using X in their software to show compatibility with Apple’s new system, even when their version was not number 10, causing people to say X as in X-ray, as Thomson does even today with EndnoteX9, to advertise macOS Catalina compatibility. The confusion is understandable, even if annoying. 
    BTW: Both the Roman numeral X and the Arabic numeral 10 are cardinal; there’s simply not a current convention for making a Roman numeral an ordinal number. 
    As for your list, I fully concur that the announcement of the move to ARM – based Macs, branded Apple chipsets, was by far of the greatest significance, and Apple did an excellent overview, in my view, of explaining the technology and the rationale, as well as the steps that they will take to minimise the pain of the transition. From my read of the literature, for those concerned with running Windows apps, we are likely to see emulation first, before we get to virtualisation. Word is, MS are on this. It’s not the same MS as back in the day of SB, who could be a true SOB about all things Apple. Market dynamics are certain to drive this, assuming there is sufficient demand. It’s likely to be definite if we get to ARM-based servers. An unknown is the compatibility between the Apple chip and traditional or standard ARM chipsets, and therefore how much of a driver Apple’s chipset is to a wider industry shift. I think it’ll be compelling. 
    Personally, I think that this move has platform-wide implications, including hardware and software, so will hold off any major Mac hardware purchases until the new Apple chip powered machines roll out. I have enough Intel-powered Macs to see me through without rushing to purchase another one. I’m also keen to see if Apple leans into the growing competition between their Mac laptop lineup and their own very capable iPad Pro. It’s a thing now, and it’s full on. It’s likely to be decided more by what Apple do with iPadOS than on the hardware side, but those new ARM-powered laptops are going to be beasts compared to their under-powered, over-heating and relatively slow Intel cousins (my 11” iPad Pro runs rings around my 2017 MBP). 
    Looking forward to your upcoming reviews. 
    Be well.  

  • ordinal (11) numeral, but if I were a betting man, I’d bet on ordinal.”
    You mean cardinal number.
    11th would the ordinal number.
    a number denoting quantity (one, two, three, etc.), as opposed to an ordinal number (first, second, third, etc.).”

  • Thanks. What about running true Intel x86 Windows on Mac using Boot Camp and VMware Fusion? Emulation now? Virtualization in the future once Microsoft releases Windows 64-bit for ARM?

    1. I don’t think anybody knows just yet… I heard a long discussion of it on a recent MacGeekGab episode but I think the conclusion was, “I guess we’ll find out when Apple starts shipping ARM-based Macs.”
      I didn’t devote much space to it here, but I will write more as soon as I know more.

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