Why has Apple put Mac users in the Mojave desert?

Is Apple trying to tell us something?

Apple, WWDC, macOS, Mac OS, OS X, Mojave, Mac
Derek Thomson (CC0)

Dark Mode in macOS 10.14 Mojave looks really nice. I think Mac users will like it. But why has Apple chosen to leave the mountains to name the next-generation of its platform after a desert? With so many Mac users concerned about the future of the platform, is someone at the company trying to tell us something?

Your Mac life

Named after the Mohave tribe who once owned it, the Mojave desert has its own set of creation myths. The world was created there, and the brother of the subsequently murdered Creator led the people to a new way of life.

Perhaps this is what Apple is planning for the Mac? Perhaps a journey across macOS Mojave is also a route to renewal in your Mac life. A new approach.

This certainly seems to be the case.

While Apple took pains to explain it has nada, zero, zilch plans to merge iOS and macOS, (even though both are really just variants of good old Unix-based OS X), it did tell us it intends to make it far easier to port iOS apps to the Mac in 2019.

Developers working with its beta software have succeeded in porting iOS apps to the Mac in very little time — Peter Steinberger took just half a day to port PDF Viewer, he claims.

More than the sum of its parts

To illustrate the iOS to Mac app commitment in Mojave, Apple brought Stocks, News, Voice Memos, and Home over.

I’ve looked at these apps, and it’s important to note that they aren’t just iOS apps running on a Mac.

The Mac versions of each application have been tweaked to provide additional enhancements that don’t exist on their original platform. News is great on a Mac. With its inclusion of news, stock data, and other information in an attractive graphics-rich format, Stocks looks great. Voice Memos should boost iCloud subscriptions, as they devour valuable storage space.

Apple’s move to enhance these ports is quite important.

I think it reflects Apple’s claim that it sees both platforms as offering unique advantages that can’t just be mangled together. Macs and iOS devices have lots of overlap, but they also possess unique advantages that need to be maintained, the company claims.

“You can do more with a Mac,” Apple CEO Tim Cook once said.

You can, but as the inherent technologies used in mobile devices evolve, the things you really want to use a Mac for will inevitably focus around those high-end computationally intensive tasks you just can’t do on mobile devices. Apple hasn’t launched Xcode for iOS, and that's probably why.

The platforms work together well, all the same. Apple’s Continuity features, such as the ability to use your iPhone to scan items or directly capture and paste then into documents to your Mac in Mojave, show this.

A horse with no name

Despite its desert moniker, Apple’s new OS seems to accentuate changes in the way we get things done, with particular reference to how we use the Finder.

These aren’t dramatic changes — it’s not as if Apple has chosen to make the Mac more “iOS-like,” but they are improvements that seem to aid focus. I’m thinking about:

Stacks: A brilliant feature that will automatically organize your Desktop, putting things together in automatic folders where they are easy to find. To get a really good feel of how astonishingly useful this feature is, download the excellent Declutter app.

Dynamic Desktop: Your Mac’s Mojave desert Desktop picture will change to reflect the time of day.

Gallery View: This is kind of like the gallery view you can access in QuickLook (select multiple images and tap the four-square icon), but it is far better looking and easier to reach.

QuickLook: Mac users can now manipulate content in this view; rather than needing to open the original item, you will be able to use MarkUp. You can also trim audio and videos and rotate and crop images in this view.

Sidebar: You can also see metadata (creation date, etc.) in a new sidebar, and get to the seriously useful ...

Quick Actions: This is great. Quick Actions is contextually intelligent enough to provide you with suggestions of what to do next. You can create your own actions or rely on the machine intelligence inside your Mac to make some of the most likely actions you will take — available at the tap of a button from inside of the Finder.

App Recents in Dock: This will be familiar to any iPad user. It makes complete sense on the Mac.

Siri enhancements: While Siri now knows about food, celebrities, and motorsports, the important Mac updates include its capacity to find saved passwords. (I do wonder when Siri Shortcuts will work on Macs.)

Accessibility: Enhanced Switch control actions. Switch controls mean that when a user selects something, they can activate it by tapping a screen, moving their head in front of the camera, or pressing a switch on a switch interface. I applaud Apple for its focus on making its solutions accessible. I also see that commitment as a step toward gesture-based computing.

Mission Control: Apple also removed mouse options from Mission Control shortcuts.

While at WWDC, I learned that Apple’s macOS enhancements were led in part by findings from pro users it employs in its Pro Workflow team, who help it identify ways to improve and enhance its systems.

That’s important.

I think that investment suggests Apple is very serious in its ambition to identify and create “the next paradigm of user interfaces and entirely new interaction models.”

What do we know about Apple's Mac plans?

While we can see the improvements and efficiencies locked inside of Apple’s latest macOS upgrade, there’s still some weird inconsistencies between Apple’s stated support for its platform and the reality of what it is doing.

The good

  • We know the iMac Pro is a superbly powerful professional Mac that’s designed to meet the needs of the high-end market whose needs will become increasingly influential in the future of the platform.
  • We know Apple intends to introduce us to the next significant evolution of the Mac in 2019 when it launches the Mac Pro.
  • We know that Mojave will work on every Mac sold over the past five years (Hurrah!)

The bad

At the moment.

Moments change.

Here’s what I think: Mojave may be a desert, and Mac users may at present find themselves forced to endure a long dry march across its sandy ridges, figuring out what time it is with a glance at the only Dynamic thing about the platform, the Desktop, but Apple has already signaled two major events for next year:

1. The Mac Pro will ship

2. Apple will release software that lets developers easily port iOS apps to the Mac.

3. Perhaps we should watch this space. I've not lost faith yet.

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