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  • OS 10.12: Running Out of Features?

    February 25th, 2016

    So OS X El Capitan has been out for nearly six months. So, therefore, it must be time to talk about its successor. Before I get started, I am not going to speculate as to which California-based scenic landmark Apple will choose next. In the scheme of things, it really doesn’t matter what name is selected, so long as it’s something that will be reasonably memorable.

    Now in theory OS X El Capitan was supposed to be the bug fix release, the one that would offer genuine performance improvements for all or most Mac users, and a greater level of stability, plus a smattering of improvements affecting the major Apple apps. There wasn’t much memorable, though it’s nice to be able to move a Spotlight window around. Wonder why that took so long?

    Yet, as Apple works on the latest El Capitan bug fixer-upper, 10.11.4, it hasn’t quite gotten the love at the Mac App Store. It’s still saddled with just three stars out of five, and the complaints are all over the place. To be fair, online reviews of apps and operating systems will always be heavily weighted towards users with problems. For people who have no problems, they’re less apt to bother.

    Still, the conventional wisdom has it that 10.12 will again be devoted to loads of new features, although I wonder just how many compelling capabilities Apple can add that would bring the numbers to 200 or more. Well, a new report speculates that Siri is at or near the top of the list.

    Siri?

    Now Siri first debuted in 2011 in beta form on the iPhone 4s. That was one of those alternate year iPhones that were regarded as insufficiently different as compared to the iPhone 4.

    In any case, Siri has come a long way. Voice recognition is better, Siri’s ability to listen to your requests and respond to them has expanded. Mostly, I use it to get directions, or just to set alarms. It’s so much better than an alarm clock.

    It would seem that Apple could have added Siri to the Mac long before now. While it may only support recent Macs, the technology has been there for quite some time, so why would Apple delay it? It may be a matter of marketing, waiting for the right occasion to make a huge push. No doubt there will be an API that will allow developers to add Siri support.

    Assuming it really happens, of course.

    When it comes to marketing, though, Apple might want to explain why Microsoft’s digital assistant, Cortana, became part of Windows 10 in the summer of 2015, yet Apple isn’t adding Siri until a year later. Apple risks being called a copycat again, just as they did when Split View appeared for both El Capitan and, for some iPads, in iOS 9. It just seemed a little blatant.

    In saying that, though, I suppose some of you would love to see Siri on your Mac, that you’ve wanted it to happen for several years. For me, I say it’s not worth the bother. I have Windows 10 running, and never felt the need, aside from testing, to try Cortana. So I am probably not the target audience for Siri on a Mac.

    As I’ve written before, a feature of this sort may be fine for the home, assuming you’re aren’t disturbing another family member, but not so much for an office, particularly when there are more than a few workers in open cubbyholes. The act of people randomly announcing directions to Siri would seem disconcerting at the very least, or downright rude. Even in an office where the front desk used Siri, such as a travel or doctor’s office, watching someone say a command, rather than just entering something on a keyboard, would also seem disconcerting.

    As to other features, I’d like to see Split View allow more windows on larger displays, say four on the 27-inch iMac, or any Mac mini or Mac Pro with a large display. Still, I don’t use it, but see where some of you might.

    When it comes to newer features, I’m more inclined to want to see edge enhancements, such as restoring the ability to change the order of your Mail accounts in the Preferences window. You could do that in earlier versions of OS X, and while I grant it can be done in Mail’s sidebar, that restriction doesn’t make sense. I could say the same for iOS, of course; Mail for iOS does give you the ability to edit the accounts and mail folders it displays and reorder them.

    I would also suggest Apple go through the Finder interface, settings and behavior and clean it up a little bit more. The Open/Save dialogs are largely unchanged over the years, but Apple would do well to consider acquiring Jon Gotow’s Default Folder X and incorporating its most significant enhancements for these dialogs. Such programming brilliance should not go unrewarded, and I’m surprised Apple hasn’t considered that move.

    But if Siri is going to be the tentpole feature of OS 10.12, color me bored.



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