With another boring update on the way, does Apple care about macOS anymore?
Say, did you hear the rumor about iOS 17 from, oh, perhaps five minutes ago? Your news feed probably has a recent report about what’s coming soon for the iPhone –if not from five minutes ago, then maybe from the past few hours, or at the most, a day or two.
Reading about iOS 17 is nice and all, but as a Mac editor, what I look for in my news feed are juicy macOS rumors, something that tells us what we could see in the next version, macOS 14. And if my news feed could produce special effects based on its contents, it’d play chirping crickets. Our macOS 14 news hub has nothing. Okay, not exactly nothing, but as close to nothing as we can get–the most substantial rumor is a report from Bloomberg’s Mark Gurman claiming macOS 14 won’t have anything “groundbreaking or significant” and that it will instead bring over more iOS features.
The chirping crickets just gave way to the sad trombone.
This looks to be setting up for macOS to have such a small presence at WWDC that it’s starting to feel like an afterthought. This isn’t a new phenomenon—the last several WWDC keynotes have been a veritable wasteland for Mac-only features. We understand that the iPhone, iPad, even Apple Watch are more important products than the Mac, but it doesn’t cost much to throw Mac users a bone every once in a while. Just look at the last several years of updates.
macOS 13 Ventura: Stage Manager, Continuity Camera
At last year’s WWDC, macOS 13 Ventura had some major new features, but the two marquee features are tied to the iPhone and iPad. Stage Manager is really built for the iPad and seemed to be added to Ventura out of a need to create unity between the Mac and the iPad. Meanwhile, Continuity Camera is a great feature that fixes the terrible MacBook webcams but is really more of an iPhone feature than a Mac one. Ventura also provides new support for iCloud Shared Photo Libraries and Safari Passkeys, but those were new across Apple’s platform. Even the new Clock and Home apps are basically iPad imports. Oh, and we also got System Settings, which made System Preferences worse.
macOS 12 Monterey: Universal Control
The macOS 12 Monterey section of the WWDC 2021 keynote showcased Universal Control, a magical feature that allows the user to use one Mac to control additional Macs and iPads. It’s a feature I use all the time to this day, and every time I use it, I quickly marvel at how damn cool a feature it is, because it’s so easy to implement and it just works. But it’s really an iPad feature.
But besides Universal Control, the updates in Monterey were good, but not great: SharePlay, Quick Note, AirPlay to Mac, Live Text, and others. The Universal Control presentation at the keynote actually provided camouflage for the rest of the macOS demo, which didn’t have a lot.
macOS 11 Big Sur: iOS on the Mac
With macOS 11 Big Sur, Apple put most of its effort into refining the user interface. Big Sur introduced Control Center, which originated in iOS. Apple used its Catalyst technology to bring iOS and iPadOS apps such as Maps and Messages–that unify the look and feel of those apps across all of Apple’s platforms, which is nice. But again, nothing was nothing major that was Mac-specific, and if anything it diluted the UI elements that make the Mac different and great.
macOS 10.15 Catalina: Bye-bye iTunes
The biggest news out of macOS Catalina was the breakup of iTunes into three new apps: Music, Podcasts, and TV, which would soon become the main apps for Apple’s services. It also introduced Sidecar, which lets you use your iPad as a second display. And Catalyst gave developers the ability to quickly port iPhone and iPad apps to the Mac.
macOS 14: Does the Mac matter at all?
Perhaps Apple’s seeming indifference to macOS is just because it’s Apple’s oldest operating system running on devices that don’t change much, if at all. PCs (which includes Macs) do what they do, while mobile devices like an iPhone have varied and evolving uses depending on the model and user. So naturally, iOS requires more attention and effort.
But there’s still a lot that can be done on the Mac, more than just bringing in features and tweaks that unify Apple’s platforms. I made a wish list of macOS features, but it just lightly scratches the surface. How about finding ways to implement AI into macOS beyond Siri in a real way that helps us get work done? Or optimizations with the inner workings of macOS to improve battery life? Or how about an app that can serve as a central point for managing all of our Apple devices? With cutting edge hardware and chips, the possibilities for the Mac are bountiful, and there are plenty of ways Apple can make the Mac a priority again–and it would give us something to look forward to other than a new name and wallpapers.