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With Sierra, Apple lets the Mac be the Mac

Dan Moren | June 21, 2016
The rebranded macOS got a major addition in the form of Siri with Mac-specific features


While big updates like iOS 10 and massive rethinks like watchOS 3 may have commanded the lion's share of attention during Apple's WWDC keynote and the ensuing aftermath of discussion and Zapruder-level dissection, it's worthwhile to pause for a moment and consider the state of Apple's most venerable platform, the Mac.

No longer burdened by its increasingly dated X-laden moniker, the rebranded macOS got a major addition in the form of Siri, as well as some more minor improvements sprinkled throughout the OS.

But, to me, the big message to take away from last Monday's presentation is that Apple is all too happy for the Mac to share features and technologies where it makes sense, but to still let it stand on its own two legs and be the best version of itself.

Two roads diverged in a yellow wood

Given the rapid success of iOS in the last (almost) decade, more than a few folks were worried that Apple might decide to shift the Mac towards a stronger resemblance to its mobile sibling. The company's spring 2010 event was even described as 'Back to the Mac', the main thrust of which was bringing features from iOS to OS X, most notably a new Mac App Store and the changing of the scroll direction. That spurred fears of forced convergence among Mac fans, who didn't want the peanut butter of iOS infesting the chocolate of their Mac experience.

But, despite those changes, the iOS-ification of the Mac has never really happened. Yes, some features have been borrowed from the mobile OS or debuted in both places, but they've firmly remained two separate things, true to the words of Apple's own Craig Federighi on the occasion of the 30th anniversary of the platform:

"We have a common sense of aesthetics, a common set of principles that drive us, and we're building the best products we can for their unique purposes. So you'll see them be the same where that makes sense, and you'll see them be different in those things that are critical to their essence."

Apple seems to have followed through on that promise, and there's nowhere it's more evident than in the improvements that the company announced last week.

Sierra, meet Siri

When Apple demonstrated the addition of its virtual assistant, Siri, in the upcoming version of macOS, most of the tasks that were shown revolved around one thing: managing files. For example, Federighi showed how you could present complex natural language queries to Siri; for example, "show me the files I shared with Jony last week". In truth, that's not much more than what the company showed off last year in its improvements to Spotlight in El Capitan.


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