Apple Needs a Smarter Way to Encourage macOS Upgrades

3 minute read
| Editorial
High Sierra GM Candidate

macOS High Sierra is a worthy upgrade, but like any, should be approached with care.

Back when macOS High Sierra was released (Sep 25), I published an article on how to get ready.

There, I outlined the mindful steps one can and should take before undertaking a major macOS upgrade.

  1. Make sure all important, “mission critical” apps have been updated to support the new macOS. Especially important are the apps used to back up macOS itself.
  2. Check System integrity with the Disk Utility.
  3. Make sure one has several, verifiable backups. Preferable a bootable clone so that one can return to the pre-install state if necessary.
  4. Be mindful that, in this release, SSDs will be force-updated from the HFS+ file system to APFS. And all that that implies.

Following these steps will help ensure a good experience and allow for a graceful recovery if something goes wrong.

Apple’s Pushy Push

You can imagine my dismay when I read Adam Engst’s article from November 15.

The issue here is that Apple has started the process of downloading High Sierra in the background and then inviting the user in a notification offering to start the install. Author Engst explains:

What happens is that Apple’s Software Update automatically downloads High Sierra in the background and then presents the notification shown at the top of this article to the user, offering just two choices: Install and Details.

macOS upgrade notification.

Too simple, too urgent, not backed up with any logic.

Because the installer is already downloaded, if the user clicks the wrong button, the install starts immediately. This may not be what the user wants, being possibly caught unprepared. Author Engst explains how to bail out immediately.

The Mac App Store has made macOS banner invitations before, but the user typically had to initiate a download. That is, if he/she was careful to click the “more…” button and not fall for the “Update all” gimmick.

A Better Way

I can fully understand Apple’s enthusiasm to get its many users to the latest version of macOS. Important security fixes come with every major (and many minor) macOS upgrades. And yet, the simple minded idea that the user is still running Sierra is not a sound basis on which to encourage an update with a UI/UX that isn’t bullet-proof in its clarity and facility for backing out easily.

Another issue is the severity of the security fixes. Apple takes a happy-go-lucky approach. All’s well. Just upgrade! You’ll be happy. Any discussion of the gravity of security issues would be seen, in my experience, as alarming to the user.

And yet, if the customer, it is argued, needs to take responsibility for maintaining apps and backing up, why can’t they also take responsibility for assessing their security posture? It seems Apple just wants to ignore all these details for the sake of boasting about how popular its new macOS is and cite very good adoption statistics. Or else there are urgent but unspoken security issues.

macOS HS adoption.

macOS High Sierra adoption was good at four weeks. Credit: Bombich Software.

The tech community is currently rich with discussions about artificial intelligence and machine learning. And yet, macOS is crippled in its ability to partner with the user and intelligently advise the user about the seriousness of a pending upgrade.

There are lots of ways to do this. One way might be to develop a hierarchy of urgencies. If the user is on, say, macOS Yosemite, drop out of simple notifications and bring up an information window that describes how vulnerable this old macOS is on the internet. Later versions of macOS can be described appropriately.

Another idea involves full-featured apps that can’t be in the Mac App Store—and hence cannot show up as update candidates there. For example, Carbon Copy Cloner, the full GraphicConverter and MS Office. A macOS autoscan of the Applications folder can probably tell a story about how wise it is to pressure the user into a major macOS upgrade at that very moment.

This is going to be even more critical in macOS 10.14 where, so far as we know now, 32-bit apps just won’t launch after the upgrade. Users will have to be even more prepared.

End of Rant

In summary, I find it less than tactful and overly simple-minded for Apple to assume that, at any random moment, the user should be invited in a popup notification, out of the blue, to make a major upgrade decision. Care, advice and consent are welcome here.

Just as the password analyzer shows a bar displaying the strength of the password, Apple’s macOS could periodically warn the user, in a pleasant and formal way, that an upgrade is more and more urgent as time goes on. The user then has complete control, with no confusion, as to when to make preparations and conduct a mindful upgrade. Near trickery is not needed.

4 Comments Add a comment

  1. Kelly Johnson

    I still run El Capitan. I never upgrade macOS until the end of a major version cycle of updates, and often skip a major version altogether. Why? Because Apple keeps mucking around with features in the name of security, making it less friendly; and keeps dumbing down useful utilities etc. In general, macOS is steadily become less friendly and less eloquent. But I will probably update to High Sierra when a new major version comes out just to stay not too far out from current development. But that’s the only reason. If Apple wants to encourage me to upgrade with every update, major and minor, (as I did with the way things were run pre-Cook), it should improve macOS with each version, making it more powerful, flexible, and eloquent; not making change for the sake of change; and adhering to strong, proven UI guidelines. And, while Apple is at it, fix longstanding bugs and stop introducing new ones, some of which are just plain stupid, like nobody tests macOS updates before they are released.

  2. PSMacintosh

    Apple is also very irritating when they give you dialog boxes that essentially say “Install Now or Install Later”. (And then, “Should I run the install overnight…..while you’re not looking!”)

    Apple is the new Hilter!
    They know what’s best for the world …..and you better get in lock-step with them (and stop criticizing them).

    There’s little freedom of choice anymore. That’s getting edged out.
    Power users….and individualists……need not apply. Go to another platform. We (Apple) don’t really want you around.

  3. Westfoto

    More People need to just be more responsible for their own data. For heck sake I am shocked to how many people don’t back up.

    If you have mission critical apps and or data just do your homework on your own and check if the app works! Stop blaming others

  4. banjoboye

    Yes, Thank-you Dear JM, I completely agree: I do feel a bit tricked into it.
    Having recently bench-prepped about 50 new (Summer and Fall 2017) Windows 10 Pro Dells and HPs with OS updates, I can safely say that Microsoft system updates are a sad, terrible mess by comparison, convoluted, with internal conflicts, even crashing several of these brand new, out of the box machines, before any 3rd party software is even added. Surprise, forced updates take over (‘highjack’ is fair to say) one’s productivity time with alarming frequency. My hackles are up.
    Mac OS update and upgrade routines are vastly better and more stable, but they are not very good.
    I would add and underscore:
    1. The size estimates of Apple’s (often enormous) recommended downloads seem to have disappeared from the Apple recommended update messages. (Was it 2 years ago? Please correct me if i’m wrong.) This is important information for end users. Apple keeps me in the ‘Hail Mary’ decision mode too often as a result. Worse, it adds to this vague feeling of being tricked into updating.
    2. Their important ‘More’ link is vanishingly small. -an accident?
    3. Most Macs I see are behind, sometimes woefully so, on security patches and or OS upgrades because, just as you say, the end user does not trust that it’s not going to cost $ and plenty of time to break and replace 3rd party applications, and for fears of basic hardware support and slow-downs.
    4. Your idea that Apple should furnish some kind of update estimator would go a long way toward convincing some of these lagging end users to update and upgrade. I spend too much time trying to explain and form these predictions about upgrade paths, and I just can not believe that it would be so difficult for Apple to develop a generally trustworthy system assessment tool of some kind, perhaps as an side option to System Update calls. In TDO 2017-11-15 someone says it is too much liability for Apple. That is ridiculous: this is exactly the kind of task computers are good at, much better than I am. Scanning your Applications folder and comparing it to a system requirements data base seems like a no-brainer. Recommend more RAM as applicable while they’re at it. There again it’s too much effort for a lot of folks to research. The update and upgrade estimator should also give better time estimates for how long we will highjack your productivity and communications lifeline. Naturally download speeds vary and that is highly relevant to the need here. We can’t all be full-time geeks. Folks wind up treating their macs like toasters, (Plug it in and it just works for 10 years.) They barely empty out the crumbs.

    This is by no means a comprehensive essay. I haven’t even touched iOS beefs today, which is unusual for me. It’s not even close to “insanely great,” but there’s plenty of hope.
    Apple could do more to build trust, and it would increase their standing and adoption rate. Streamlining update and upgrade paths for non-technical end-users is controversial, and complicated, but I am convinced Apple could do much better.
    -Best to you all and many thanks for all of your hard work,
    banjoboye, nola

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