OS X Yosemite: A Way To Get Excited All Over Again About Macs?

June 18th, 2014

Hardly a day passes where I don’t find yet another undiscovered treasure in OS X Yosemite. At a time when you wondered how Apple could possibly come up with another 200 new features or enhancements, it seems they’ve gone way beyond that.

So just his week, Computerworld blogger Jonny Evans reported on 18 items that consist of undiscovered treasures or, in the case of Continuity, news about a possible limitation not yet mentioned officially by Apple.

Let’s look at that possible negative. According to Evans, Apple’s Continuity feature will only work with Macs that have Bluetooth LE support, which restricts it to a number of models dating from 2011 and 2012. Older models need not apply. However, he does suggest that, “It is theoretically possible that a Mac-compatible Bluetooth 4.0 dongle may enable Continuity on unsupported Macs, though this is not guaranteed — don’t invest until it’s tested.”

Or maybe not. I found one for $4.99 on Amazon that’s for a Mac, Windows and Linux, so this may be a trivial issue if you want to use that feature, but that assumes the dongle will allow Continuity to work. Before you fret over this limitation, I should mention that Apple doesn’t refer to any Bluetooth LE requirement as part of the OS X Yosemite presentation on their site, although third parties insist this is required because, “This feature of Bluetooth allows enabled devices to maintain constant connections with devices even when in sleep and other low-power modes, allowing for better use with healthcare, fitness, and security services, as well as Handoff in OS X.”

If that limitation exists, Apple should have made a more proactive effort to mention this fact. Of course, things might change, which means that the feature that isn’t supported now might be, though the possibility might be slim.

One other interesting tidbit, according to Evans, is that Dashboard will be deleted by the Yosemite installer if you’ve never used it. That means that if you have, nothing changes. But it’s clear Dashboard was on the endangered species list for a while.

The other fascinating feature is the ability to batch rename selected items via a Control- or right-click of an item in the Finder. I wonder how granular this feature might be, and how or whether it steps on the features offered by a venerable third-party Finder utility, A Better Finder Rename. Of course, you can argue that there are a whole lot more options in such apps, but adding a core function or two is apt to discourage some users from seeking out these alternatives.

iCloud Keychain, for example, is great for storing passwords and other account information, including credit cards, on your OS X and iOS device, but does it replace iPassword? Possibly for many users, but it may also create the appetite for more.

Overall, what I’m seeing essentially confirms what has been obvious since the WWDC: After claims that Apple was ignoring the Mac platform because sales are much lower than iPhones, Apple has added an extremely large number of changes, far more than any previous OS X release. In fact, perhaps far more than any release since the original switchover from Mac OS, the Classic version, to OS X. Even then, many important features of OS X 10.0 merely mirrored comparable features in Mac OS 9, or offered them in a somewhat different fashion.

Now this doesn’t for a moment mean that Apple has answered every single request from OS X users. There are still items from the Classic Mac OS that remain unaddressed, such as a highly configurable Location Manager. The Finder doesn’t get the love from some, and the Apple menu doesn’t quite have some of the extensibility of the older version, although there are extra things you can do.

However, it’s also true that the vast majority of the 80 million Mac users weren’t actually using Macs in the “good old days.” That’s one issue that old-timers might overlook. Sure, we may have followed Apple through thick and thin over the years, but most of today’s users of Apple gear never used a Mac, or don’t use one now. This is a hard thing to admit, but it’s quite true. So Apple is catering to a very mixed audience, many of whom are loyal to iOS and their iPhones and iPads. They might be new to the Mac, or they are considering one in the future as a way to get out from under the Windows 8/8.1 mess. They will expect an easy migration path, and easy switching among Apple products.

At the same time, I don’t think Apple has ignored the traditional Mac user, even if all the features aren’t quite what they want. This is a bit of a juggling match, but one that appears to be mostly succeeding.

All right, maybe I do have to get a Bluetooth LE adapter to use Handoff on my aging iMac, but I think I could swing the $4.99, if that’s what it takes.

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