OS X Mavericks: Isn’t There More?

June 14th, 2013

When Apple’s Craig Federighi gave a relatively short but highly-praised demonstration of OS X Mavericks at this week’s WWDC, I had to ask, “Is that all there is?” You see, Apple has traditionally promised over 200 new features with recent OS X upgrades. Here there are a few dozen at most, including the backend features, such as compressed memory, which are designed to speed up performance and boost note-book battery life.

Considering that iOS 7 got a huge upgrade with flat icons, layers and translucency, I had to wonder whether such a look would also migrate to Apple’s desktop OS. But all the screenshots shown so far of the Mavericks beta, released for developers this week, merely revealed a look that is very much the same as OS X Mountain Lion. Sure some “real-life” or skeuomorphic elements that inhabited such apps as Calendar were removed with a humorous flourish. But otherwise, things don’t seem altogether different as far as the look and the feel is concerned.

Now the theme isn’t as important so long as it’s smooth, uncomplicated and simple to navigate. Major changes in looks may suit from a marketing point of view, because they announce difference, and the differences appear to be huge for iOS 7, although most functions work the same as they did before.

However, Apple has already been dogged with criticism over adding iOS-style scroll bars to OS X, so I can understand that some of you may prefer that things stay the way they are. Apple seems, for now, more focused on features that actually make OS X work better.

The Finder tabs are a case in point. It’s not a feature that’s unique in a file browser, but it does offer a solution to organizing the Finder that should have appeared years ago. The Tags feature expands upon the original Labels concept in a useful way.

One key question: Will such enhancements eliminate the need for third-party Finder replacements, such as Path Finder? Not completely, as Path Finder is a far more inclusive product. But it will help your organize your work more efficiently. The enhanced Multiple Displays feature, which essentially makes each screen work identically, will please content creators who were irritated over the way it was organized, or not organized, in previous OS X versions.

Assuming most of the serious bugs have been fixed, adding Maps seems to be a good concept, particularly in the way key functions are integrated into Calendar. This is the sort of thing for which Apple is famous, but they don’t always do well.

Some suggest iCloud Keychain, the ability to store and encrypt passwords in the cloud, and have them automatically update on Macs with OS 10.9 and mobile gear with iOS 7, may reduce the need for password wallet apps such as iPassword. As usual, it’s a question of having extra functions that justify the current $24.99 purchase price for a single user license for iPassword.

But the most significant enhancements may well involve what Apple calls Advanced Technologies, a title for all the stuff that’s supposed to give your Mac a performance boost. However, some of the tools are apt to require that developers get with the program and update their apps to support the key Mavericks features, and that may be a problem.

As it stands, many of the features in Lion and Mountain Lion are not supported by critical app suites such as Office for Mac 2011, the Adobe Creative Suite, and even QuarkXPress.

Microsoft promised Lion compatibility within a few months back in 2011, but the best I see is Full Screen Apps. Auto Save and Version remains missing in action.

Now with a promised fall release date, which means as late as December, it’s quite possible Apple will flesh out the feature set to be more inclusive, and provide a few things you might not expect. In a sense, Apple is four months behind the schedule of Mountain Lion, where developers had a beta in February 2012. So it’s quite possible Apple will call a media event this fall to launch the Mac Pro, refresh other Macs now that the MacBook Air has had its update, and perhaps offer a few surprises for Mavericks.

Will that mean that there will, indeed, be a new, flatter interface in our future? I wouldn’t presume to guess. It may just be that, considering all the work that had to be done to get iOS 7 ready, Apple will postpone OS X interface changes until next year. I suppose it’s also possible that system requirements will change from what developers are reporting, which essentially means that any Mac that could run Mountain Lion is compatible with Mavericks. That includes models introduced from four to six years ago.

The final question is the price. Will Apple ask $19.99 for OS 10.9? Or will they do the right thing and make it free for everyone? I would rather see the latter, which would guarantee that all or most eligible Mac users will download the upgrade quickly, particularly if there are no serious compatibility issues.

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16 Responses to “OS X Mavericks: Isn’t There More?”

  1. Darwin says:

    This is one where I disagree with you. The 200+ features were always ginned up with inconsequential stuff. These are real under the hood features and improvements of the type we haven’t seen since Snow Leopard and many of them require no action by developers. Even if they did so what..it’s how they make their living after all and this isn’t Windows where developers are too lazy and unfocused much of the time with low user expectations.
    The other big story in mavericks is more integration with iCloud and Mobile, Maps, iBooks, none of which you mention. All things people have been wanting for some time. I suggest you look more closely at Mavericks starting with the preview here http://www.apple.com/osx/preview/ and the Core Technologies Overview document. Major under the hood and user changes making OS X even more advanced than the mediocre Windows 8 and desktop Linux.

    • @Darwin, The 200 new feature claim is a matter of marketing. I agree many are usually so minor as to be insignificant. And, actually, I agree with you that the advanced technologies are actually quite compelling, and haven’t said otherwise. I didn’t intend the article to be the full list of new features, but I expect to see more, perhaps lots more.


  2. Articles you should read (June 14) …. says:

    […] “OS X Mavericks: Isn’t There More?: When Apple’s Craig Federighi gave a relatively short but highly-praised demonstration of OS X Mavericks at this week’s WWDC, I had to ask, “Is that all there is?” You see, Apple has traditionally promised over 200 new features with recent OS X upgrades. Here there are a few dozen at most, including the backend features, such as compressed memory, which are designed to speed up performance and boost notebook battery life.” — “AppleInsider” (www.appleinsider.com) […]

  3. rjz says:

    Tags and time coalescing will be enough for me…! Really, tags will be enough for me…add it to mail.app and I’m golden. (although, I hope it isn’t too expensive..!

  4. DaveD says:

    I like Apple’s focus on battery life and making under-the-hood improvements to squeeze out some more hours. Intel is also on the same band wagon. The battery life of the new MacBook Airs running Mavericks may be further extended by a few more hours. As a portable Mac user, I can recall the “good old days(?)” using a PowerBook and getting two solid hours when the battery was new.

    With iOS 7 still a work-in-progress and a higher priority, I would like Apple to take a step back on OS X and fix any existing usability issues.

  5. Gareth Russell says:

    It seems clear to me that the NEXT version of OS X (Big Sur?) will be the one that has the most visible changes, and that they will be similar to those seen in iOS 7. By then, all shipping Macs will have retina displays, so the move to thinner fonts and more ‘vectory’ graphics will work. We already know that Apple doesn’t have the resources to develop both OS’s simultaneously, at least not at full speed.

  6. BDK says:

    I don’t think it matters if it’s $19.99 or free. Upgrading is a pain in the ass and what I saw was not a compelling upgrade. If what they showed was more of a preview, that’s fine but in its current form, I would not bother upgrading.

    • @BDK, You are of course entitled to your opinion, but for most, upgrading is a simple process, a few clicks, sit back and you’re done. Obviously you want to make sure that the apps you need for your work or play are compatible first.


  7. Darwin says:

    Anyone who says upgrading is a PIA hasn’t done these upgrades and saying there is nothing new means you could not have watched the preview or read about it.
    I’m using iOS 7 on my main iPhone (Yes I’m a developer among other things) and Mavericks on my main Mac under another Apple program.
    Not going to make any comments about my experiences with them since thats under NDA but all you have to do is look at these two urls.
    The WWDC preview did not show a lot of things because there wasn’t time for everything.

  8. Darwin says:

    As to resources for developing both OS’ simultaneously….Apple of course has the money to hire huge development teams but they are smart enough to know that throwing bodies at a development program often hurts instead of helps. Look at Microsoft’s huge segregated teams and design by committee approach as an example of guaranteeing a mediocre user experience. The Start menu alone should be studied in design schools as an example of what not to do. Or the Windows 8 file explorer which they actually brag about.

  9. David says:

    I am really looking forward to the under-the-hood changes in Mavericks and the developers I know are too. The new consumer facing changes all look worthwhile to me, unlike past releases where I’ve only benefitted from a handful of the 200 and found some to be a step backward. I’ll be upgrading all our Macs to Mavericks. Currently I have two running Mountain Lion and two running Snow Leopard. One of the Snow Leopard machines is low on RAM and being an old mini is a royal pain to take apart and upgrade, but 10.6 will stop receiving updates when Mavericks ships so I need to be ready.

    I’ve heard that the Developer preview supports the exact same list of Macs as Mountain Lion. This lends credence to the theory that it’ll be a free upgrade for everyone. The question for Apple is what percentage of people won’t upgrade if the upgrade has any cost above free and whether it’s more important to nudge those people onto Mavericks or collect a bit of revenue. At this point I think moving everyone forward (like the 93% they claim for iOS) is more valuable than a bit of cash.

  10. AdamC says:

    One thing for sure who who claimed they know everything about Mavericks as as being inconsequential and would being upgrading are missing the forest for the trees.

    Get educated by downloading a preview version through torrents and test run it you will be amazed.

    But then haters will be haters.

    • @AdamC, Do as you wish, but I’d never download anything, nor trust anything from a torrent site, particularly when it comes to something as all-inclusive as an OS. Just read the stuff posted by people who have the official version, and see how it goes.


  11. Richard says:


    One thing I have been wondering about is when is Apple going to work on the file system. The last time there was much discussion about this there were apparently licensing issues and the project fell off the radar.

    I must confess that the addition of Keychain Access to iOS is long overdue as is the ability to sync it across multiple Macs and the iPhone/iPad. I am also looking forward to being able to better utilize multiple displays.

    I suspect (and hope) that there are a lot of “under the hood” improvements that are not flashy, but make things work better. There are still too many application crashes that are due to kernel issues to suit me as well as memory management issues.

    I won’t go into the things I hope are taken care of in iOS 7 because that is getting a bit far afield from the “is that all there is” topic, but I do hope they finally clean up a lot of messy issues with iOS.


  12. Louis Wheeler says:

    Apple may be pursuing a Tick-Tock scheduling, like Intel. That is, Apple’s focus shifts with each upgrade. If you intend to upgrade yearly, rather than every two to two and a half years, it makes sense to focus on surface features one year and below the hood improvements in the next. Touting features, like checklists, has always been a Microsoft thing which Apple was forced to reluctantly go along with.

    Now, with Microsoft’s increasing technical problems, the pressure is off. The desktop is not where Apple’s focus is, or should be. As the iPad encroaches on the desktop’s territory, Apple needs to improve the desktop to give us reasons to buy. More powerful hardware is not enough.

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