I SUPPOSE I should refrain from slamming a new operating system before it’s even released, but I can’t help but wish that Apple would clean up the rest of the bugs and performance issues in Mavericks 10.9.x before announcing their next arrival. Nonetheless, OS X 10.10, aka “Yosemite,” was announced at the annual WWDC this past June and is due to arrive sometime in the fall of this year. The hardware requirements for Apple’s newest OS are identical to those of OS X 10.9 Mavericks and, like its predecessor, Yosemite will be a free upgrade for all.
There are, of course, a plethora of new features and a further extension of the “minimalist” design that characterizes the current iDevice operating system, iOS 7. Yes, they remain two completely distinct operating systems, but the lines continue to blur. Many of the new features and capabilities of Yosemite center around improving the interaction between iDevices and Macs–what Apple refers to as Yosemite’s Continuity feature set.
Specifically, the “Handoff” components of the new OS will link all your Apple tech in such a way that you could start composing an email on your iMac and finish it on your iPad without missing a beat, or check out a Web site on your iPhone and be brought to the exact same spot on that site when you return to your MacBook Pro.
AND THAT’S JUST for starters. You’ll be able to receive and respond to all text messages on your Mac, not just iMessages (the blue bubbles in the Messages app) but also standard SMS text messages (the green bubbles that heretofore didn’t appear in the Messages app on Macs). You’ll even have the ability to “hand off” phone calls from your iPhone to your Mac, essentially turning it into a giant speakerphone.
Even the new iCloud Drive feature, which brings a long-overdue “DropBox”-style service to Macs, is arguably most useful when you have an iDevice or two in addition to your Mac.
Finally, the AirDrop technology for swapping information wirelessly, which–in spite of the fact that it already exists on Macs and iDevices–has never allowed you to move your stuff between those two platforms, now makes amends for that by baking it right into Yosemite and the forthcoming iOS 8 (more on that in a moment).
Sure, there are other Yosemite features that don’t revolve around iDevices, like the option to scrawl on/annotate images or PDF attachments in Mail. But overall it sure seems like Apple is banking on the notion that most of you own at least one Mac and one iDevice, and that you’ve a hankering for them to work together far more smoothly and efficiently than they have to date.
HOWEVER, Yosemite and iOS 8 are the future, even if said future is mere months away. Mavericks 10.9 is the present, and I am compelled to state here that I still have reservations about upgrading from “Mountain Lion” 10.8 if that’s the OS you’re running and it’s working as advertised for you. In fact, the one thing that stands out to me as far as Mavericks’ new features is a penchant for breaking my clients’ ability to print to PostScript printers that worked just fine in earlier versions of the OS. So if you haven’t made the leap to 10.9 yet, I would have to recommend that you hold off for a few more months and see what Yosemite brings.
Don’t hold off on iOS 8, though, which was also previewed at the WWDC alongside Yosemite. This latest OS for iDevices brings some wonderful new stuff like iCloud Photo Library, which provides vast improvements in photo management/storage by offering a simpler and more useful alternative to the bewildering combination of Photo Stream and iCloud Photo Sharing–neither of which I can satisfactorily explain to my clients (given that I barely understand them myself).
Even more significantly, Apple is finally overhauling the way multiple Apple IDs are managed among individuals and families courtesy of the new Family Sharing options. For most of us, Family Sharing will bring an end to the heartbreak of managing purchases made under multiple Apple IDs, to Mom getting text messages intended for Dad and vice versa, and to the unintentional mingling of Junior’s contacts on his iPad with the address book on Dad’s MacBook Pro.
LET US FIRST exult in the glory of the new manner in which all your devices will handle your photos. Turn on iCloud Photo Library, and all of your fab pix and videos are stored (and backed up) on iCloud, in their original format (even RAW) so they can be accessed from anywhere. That’s it! Ah, but that amount of storage is going to cost me an arm and a leg, you say. Fear not, intrepid shutterbugs, because Apple has completely restructured their pricing for iCloud storage, veritably plummeting from the currently lofty $100/year for a mere 30GB, to an extra 20GB for the paltry sum of $0.99 per month, with 200GB going for just $3.99/mo.
It’s not only the storage that’s more convenient. When you use the Photos app on any of your devices to edit your mages, those changes will be visible everywhere. Even better, your edits are non-destructive–meaning that you can revert back to the original image if necessary. As part of all this, iPhoto on the Mac will be replaced by Photos, which will have a similar look, feel and feature set to the Photos app in iOS 8. That probably means some iPhoto features will be lost in the shuffle, but no one seems to like or even really understand iPhoto all that much, anyway…
On to Family Sharing. While I imagine that implementing this may be a bit tricky for a family of five with multiple existing Apple IDs, the basic concept is quite simple and long overdue. WIth Family Sharing. up to six family members–each with their own Apple ID–can access all purchases made under any of those IDs (assuming they’re made with the same credit card). And since the IDs are unique, each person can maintain their own set of iCloud calendars, contacts, reminders, etc. Thoughtfully, Family Sharing automatically creates a single shared Family calendar (with reminders) and a Family photo collection, assuming that there are some things you do want to share.
SO HOW EXACTLY will all of this work? Well, if Sis downloads the latest from One Direction, Dad, Mom and Junior all have immediate access to that album–regardless of whether or not it fits their particular musical tastes. And lest you fear that Junior is now free to embark on a reckless buying spree of the entire Maroon 5 catalog, rest assured that Apple has baked in what they call “Ask To Buy,” which alerts the credit card holder via text message whenever a purchase is attempted and allows for the immediate acceptance or rejection of same.
Assuming Mom is not subject to that restriction, the moment she purchases the now-classic Game of Life on the App Store, the rest of the family is free to grab it, fill their virtual plastic automobiles with virtual plastic spouse/offspring pegs, and agonize over whether or not to buy fire insurance when the opportunity arises. So whether or or not you’re a fan of this classic board game, Family Sharing represents a drastic improvement over the current “multiple Apple IDs” mess in which many have found themselves enmeshed.
LAST BUT certainly not least, iOS 8 includes two new technologies known as Health Kit and Home Kit. These are not apps but more of a central “hub” which, in the case of Health Kit, enables health information to be collected and shared among third-party apps such as those that detect your blood pressure, heart rate or glucose levels. This info could also be transmitted remotely to healthcare providers–something that could be potentially life-saving should any of those readings fall outside of their normal ranges.
Home Kit works in a similar fashion by allowing home automation apps from disparate developers to work together in such a way that you could, for example, inform Siri that “it’s bedtime,” at which point your downstairs lights would shut off, the thermostat would adjust appropriately, all the doors would lock and the garage door would close in the event it was left open. Apple has confirmed that they are partnering with companies like Cree, Texas Instruments, Kwikset, Philips, Chamberlain, and Schlage, which means that the major players in smartphone-based home automation are already on board with Home Kit.
So that’s iOS 8, coming to an iDevice near you sometime this fall. There are a few other nifty little features I could wax poetic over, but since I’ve been promising this posting for nearly a month now, let me sum it all up in as succinct a manner as possible:
iOS 8? Great.