As always, the new software we see on Monday won’t be rolling out to the general public until later this year, although enthusiastic software developers and beta testers can expect to access it sooner.
The latest version of macOS will be numbered 12. Its name is still a mystery, although Apple is likely to stay consistent with its current naming convention, which means it will be named after a beautiful California location. By all accounts, this year will be a year of “refinement” for macOS, not a major overhaul of the desktop operating system.
Still, there are two key elements of any modern macOS update to watch out for. The first is any sort of merger or activation of compatibility between iPadOS and macOS. In macOS Catalina, Apple rolled out Mac Catalyst, a way for app makers to more easily move their mobile apps to the Mac desktop. In recent years, Apple has also made some of its mobile apps compatible with Mac, like Podcasts, News, Stocks. Of course, the iPad and Mac are still distinctly different physical devices due to the touchscreen (or the lack of it on Macs). But now, with Apple’s M1 chip powering both new Macs and new iPads, the hardware chasm between the two is closing.
And then there’s the M1 — that’s the other keyword or phrase to listen to. This year’s macOS update might not be a massive overhaul, but you can bet Apple will want to show how app makers can continue to optimize their apps for that custom silicon, especially since some apps still require an emulator to work properly on a Mac M1.
There have also been persistent rumors that the new Mac laptop could be announced at WWDC next week, which would be a real twist at such a software-focused event. If these were to be announced, they would likely be ruggedized MacBook Pro models, machines that appease serious media professionals looking for even more power.
“I think Apple really needs to go back to its roots with MacBook Pros,” said Anshel Sag, senior analyst at Moor Insights & Strategy. “There are rumors about the disappearance of the Touch Bar, and there is always the possibility of improving security on the MacBook. But I think they could take the iPad route and build an “X” version of the M1 chip, or an M2 chip, in the MacBook Pro and make it a beefier model. “
Personally, I would be surprised if Apple announces new machines so soon after releasing its first one. MacBook M1 laptops, which arrived in November 2020. But if the rumors prove to be correct, that only shows how serious Apple is about its custom silicon and how fast it is developing these new chips in parallel with the current versions.
Here’s the first remarkable thing about Apple’s wrist computers: According to some, the Apple Watch is the best-selling watch in the world. Not only among connected watches, although this is also true, but all watches. Here’s the second remarkable thing, which isn’t necessarily a good thing: there isn’t a lot of smartwatch competition. Huawei is Apple’s closest competitor in the smartwatch market, but the Chinese device maker has been crippled by US software sanctions. Samsung’s market share has declined slightly over the past year. Google is set to launch a Pixel watch sometime this year, and its acquisition of Fitbit could help boost Google’s portable offers, but we are still waiting to see these two possibilities materialize.
So, like many of these software updates, a little tweak is revealed, a new placement of a complication, or a beta of a health app, and you think—Pffft, big problem! Except when you basically own millions of wrists, even tiny software updates can have a big impact.