Apple is holding its annual developer conference, WWDC today. In addition to announcing iOS 13, tvOS 13, watchOS 6, iPadOS and the completely revamped Mac Pro, the company also announced the next version of macOS dubbed macOS Catalina. While the last update was a significant one that brought with it a native dark mode to the OS, macOS Catalina is a more of an incremental update in terms of features and capabilities.
First in the list of announcements was iTunes. As previously rumored, Apple did indeed announce that the capabilities of iTunes will now be split across 3 apps – Music, Podcasts and TV. While Apple Music will be the go-to app for streaming music, the lack of iTunes means that syncing Apple devices with a Mac is now done through a sidebar in Finder.
A new search feature is making its way to Podcasts. The app now indexes spoken content in the podcast and can serve search results based on the content present in the podcast. Lastly, the TV app on the Mac can now play 4K HDR content that’s certified for HDR10 or Dolby Vision. Dolby Atmos support too is making its way to the app.
Next up is Sidecar. For those that use an external display for their Mac devices, Sidecar is an app that lets users seamlessly connect to external displays and brings with it some additional capabilities. With Sidecar, Macbook users can now use an iPad as a secondary display for their Macs. In addition to that, apps that support tablets can use the Apple Pencil as an input device. Sidecar can be used via a wired connection or wirelessly.
Voice Control, a neat accessibility feature will make it into macOS Catalina that can help users with motor disabilities control their Macs entirely with voice. The feature uses Siri’s speech recognition capabilities to help users achieve tasks that are generally not under the ambit of voice commands. A few examples include text dictation and correction, replacing the text with emojis, scrolling through apps and selecting options based on indexes placed on UI elements, controlling Music, using Mail and Maps and many more. All this processing happens on-device to respect users’ privacy. Voice control will also be coming to iOS in the future.
The Cupertino giant is introducing a few security features in its latest macOS update, first of which is Find My. A feature that is an amalgamation of Find My Phone and Find my Friends, Find My works on Macs and iOS to help find devices that have been misplaced. What’s interesting is that this feature also works when the device is offline and not connected to the internet by way of sending secure Bluetooth beacons to nearby Apple devices that are connected to the web. These devices can then relay information to the network which can be passed on to the user. This information, the company says, is anonymous and encrypted in order to avoid privacy and security concerns.
In addition to Find My, the firm also announced a new Activation Lock feature that disables unintended users and thieves from accessing the device in case of theft, unless the device has been unlocked by the owner remotely. Activation Lock will be available on all Macs that house the T2 security chips in them. Lastly, the company also announced that it is bringing Screen Time to the Mac, allowing users to keep a tab on their usage of apps, similar to what is present in iOS.
Finally, in what is definitely a step in order to bridge the gap between the different Apple operating systems and making it easier for developers to port existing apps across the OSes, Apple announced Project Catalyst. Project Catalyst is a way for developers to make macOS apps based on existing iPad apps.
The firm adds that apps such as News and Stock that were brought to the Mac last year were possible through this project and that it is now making it available to developers on macOS Catalina. The experience starts in XCode, where all that developers have to do is check the ‘Mac’ checkbox in XCode, by which the software automatically builds in controls and capabilities to the app.
However, developers can tailor the apps with their customizations. With Project Catalyst, the company says that a single dev team can build an app across the iPhone, iPad and the Mac. This is similar to what Microsoft envisioned with the Universal Windows Platform. Apps such as Asphalt 9 Legends, Twitter and Atlassian JIRA Cloud were shown off during the demo.
As for the smaller, less significant features, there are updates and improvements to the Photos app, Safari start page, Mail apps, Notes, and Reminders.
The first beta of macOS Catalina should be available soon, with a public beta sometime in the next few months. The public release, however, should happen sometime in the fall. The update should be available for Macs released from mid-2012 and later.