As regular readers recall, while Apple was demonstrating OS X Yosemite at the World Wide Developers Conference, one of my long-time clients was freaked at the changes. Her response? “Yuk!” Maybe a little over-the-top, but it made sense if you believe Apple is busy destroying the look and feel of the Mac in favor of iOS because it’s not the company’s largest revenue generator.
But you have to consider the reality, which is that Mac sales have increased faster than the overall PC market in 32 of the last 33 quarters. Except for a certain company doing industry analysis that claimed Mac sales in the U.S. actually declined the last quarter by 1.7%, Apple reported a double-digit increase. That company has never apologized for that and a similar error published in the March quarter.
Remember, too, that Mac sales of some 4.4 million units hit a record in the last quarter. It wasn’t so many years ago that Apple was lucky to sell that many Macs in a full year. This time, the smart decision to release a minor MacBook Air upgrade, with slightly faster performance and a list price that was $100 less, helped keep sales at a good clip. That may also explain the reason for essentially giving the cheapest iMac the equivalent of MacBook Air performance for $1,099. Power users will say it’s not worth the $200 savings, but buyers on a budget who don’t use stopwatches and benchmark tools, and aren’t into high-end audio or graphics, may not care.
So Yosemite will arrive at a time when the Mac is doing extremely well, better than at any time in the history of the platform. So this justifies spending lots of money to improve the user experience, which takes us to Yosemite.
I’ve been running the developer previews since very shortly after the June 2 release. It wasn’t immediate because of an installation glitch that I managed to resolve by setting up a new partition on a backup drive.
Although there are still loads of bugs and incomplete features as of developer preview 4, the one that is reportedly being made available as the first public beta, Yosemite has become snappier, even on that slower FireWire 800 drive. What’s more, it appears developers are starting to crank out their Yosemite upgrades. I just heard from Paul Kafasis of Rogue Amoeba that Audio Hijack Pro, a key product that we use to capture audio from Skype and other apps, is now compatible with Yosemite, along with a number of their other nifty apps that include Airfoil, Intermission, Nicecast and Piezo. While he says that there may be glitches — and certainly ongoing changes to Yosemite ahead of release could cause new problems — they should be functional.
Forgetting the glitches and a few interface changes that I don’t like — such as killing the full title bars for sites in Safari except for the tabs — I never for a moment felt I wasn’t using a Mac. Understand that I have worked on Macs since the 1980s. So I have lived through every single release — sometimes as a beta tester. I have written books and articles covering many of those releases, so I think I have a fair understanding of the changes over the years.
So I feel safe in assuring you that, despite the flatter interface elements and the new typefaces, you can continue to use your Mac in much the same way as you do now without regret. As you get attuned to the new environment, you’ll be able to consider some of the more significant changes, such as the front-and-center all-inclusive Spotlight feature. It’s a natural evolution, but it also means you’ll be using it more often, even for some web searches. But since those web searches drop Google in favor of Microsoft’s Bing, the former won’t appreciate the changes. So be it.
The major tentpole feature, Continuity, has a lot of promise, and certainly it’s designed encourage a lock-in among OS X and iOS gear by allowing you to start a task on one and continue on another. But Handoff, a key part of Continuity, appears to require Bluetooth LE, a hardware feature not part of Macs until 2011 or 2012 — depending on the model — and thus many of you won’t be able to use it. Well, unless Apple allows for third-party solutions, such as a USB-based Bluetooth LE adapter. Evidently the beta versions of Yosemite do not support that scheme, at least not yet.
In Apple’s defense, they shouldn’t block a feature because it doesn’t support hardware that’s four or five years old. They have to look forward regardless, although you can be cynical and assume that they would also prefer you buy a new Mac. But why not?
Without going into detail about a somewhat unfinished product, I am hopeful Yosemite Mail will be faster and more reliable. Even after adding some accounts with large email stashes, I didn’t observe the slowdowns and hangs that plagued previous versions. That’s an improvement even before you look at Mail Drop, the ability to use iCloud as an intermediary for sending attachments of up to 5GB, or the Markup feature, which lets you annotate an attachment, such as a PDF form.
Now some are looking at the Yosemite Public Beta and comparing it to what Microsoft does with a new OS release. The difference is that Windows is a commercial product, sold for a retail price, and thus beta testers don’t routinely get the final version free. With its new beta program, Apple can also receive important feedback from a wider range of Mac users and perhaps fix early release bugs before they get out in the wild. That’s a good thing, so long as the beta testers fully understand what they’re getting and the possible nasty consequences of using a prerelease OS.