As with past years, Apple's WWDC 2016 keynote showcased the upcoming updates to Apple's operating systems and developer tools. It's hard to believe that iOS is now on its tenth major version, which put Apple in an interesting position since their desktop operating system has been called OS X for many years now. Given that Apple's other operating systems are named iOS, watchOS, and tvOS, the name OS X has become a bit of an outlier. This year's release comes with a new name in the typical manner that OS X releases each had a specific name, but also a new name for the operating system itself. The 2016 version of Apple's operating system for Macs is named macOS Sierra.

While macOS adopts a new name, it retains the existing versioning system, with macOS Sierra being version 10.12. This makes sense when you consider the progression from Mac OS 9 to Mac OS X, which then treated each release as a point update on top of ten and only dropped the Mac in the name in 2012. This kind of versioning is somewhat awkward, and will be more so when it gets to the point where the OS is version 10.20. It will be interesting to see if the next truly large update to macOS brings it to major version eleven, and it could be that Apple plans to keep it in sync with iOS with a new major version number each year, but only time will tell.

Like all updates to macOS, Sierra comes with a number of new features. With the bulk of Apple's device sales being mobile devices, there have been a number of features in recent versions of macOS that work to leverage how devices running macOS, iOS, and watchOS can work together. Having cloud sync across devices is one thing, but building and properly executing Apple's continuity features really requires control over the hardware and software stacks across all devices. Unfortunately it's difficult to test these features during Apple's beta period, but that just gives Apple's users things to look forward to later in the year.

More important than new features is whether or not a Mac can even be upgraded to macOS Sierra from OS X El Capitan. Apple has announced the compatibility list for Sierra, and there are some older Macs that have dropped off the list. I've put together a chart comparing the compatibility of Macs with El Captain and compatibility with Sierra.

  OS X El Capitan macOS Sierra
MacBook Pro Mid 2007 and newer 2010 and newer
MacBook Air Late 2008 and newer 2010 and newer
Old MacBook Late 2008 aluminum and newer Late 2009 and newer
New MacBook 2015 and newer
iMac Mid 2007 and newer Late 2009 and newer
Mac Mini Early 2009 and newer 2010 and newer
Mac Pro Early 2008 and newer 2010 and newer

As you can see, it looks like Apple has put the cutoff point right around the start of this decade. The old MacBook and iMac that released in late 2009 make the cut, but everything else has to be a model from 2010. The uniformity of the cutoff makes it fairly likely that this was a somewhat arbitary decision, although it's difficult to say exactly how many older Macs could have been put on the list because Apple offers many SKUs and CTO options that could make one version of an older Mac fast enough and another from the same line too slow. In any case, the easy rule with Sierra is that if your Mac is from before 2010 it's probably not supported, and if you're in that group you're probably overdue for an upgrade anyway.

With Apple having just released their public beta of macOS Sierra, it's worth going over the major features that are currently available for users to try before the OS is officially launched later this year. Features like Auto Unlock and Apple Pay on the web can't really be shown right now, but it is possible to show other features that work between iOS and macOS devices like the additions to Messages and Photos. While I think the smaller and more subtle features in software updates can be some of the most useful, It's probably best to start off with the biggest feature in Sierra, which is Siri coming to the Mac.

Siri Comes To The Mac
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  • tipoo - Wednesday, July 13, 2016 - link

    "Most important of all is that this does not count against your iCloud storage. "

    Megatonne. That's the line I've been trying to find out since they announced it. If it counted against your storage that would still be meh with the insulting 5GB free and 1TB pricey cap, but not counting against your storage is awesome.
  • Impulses - Wednesday, July 13, 2016 - link

    Hmm, seems to me there's two very different components to that feature... When it "moves" stuff like system fonts, language packs, and apps it's not really storing anything FOR you... It's just deleting OS elements like you've always been able to, rather than reinstalling from disc like in the days of yore you simply reinstall from their servers.

    There's no reason that should count against quota, they only need to keep one instance of the entire OS feature set and apps for everybody. User data on the other hand, I'd be very surprised if they're just gonna host it for free willy nilly... There's gotta be some catch there. Sync has a high server demand but storing GBs upon GBs of files for macOS users is pretty demanding too...

    Isn't it essentially free online backups?
  • tipoo - Wednesday, July 13, 2016 - link

    The store all files in icloud feature is the one that notes it doesn't' count against system storage, so I think that's user files too. The optimize storage feature for fonts and other cruft on the other hand it makes sense they don't need to store one copy for everyone.
  • tipoo - Wednesday, July 13, 2016 - link

    As I recall, not every GPU that got Metal support in El Cap was actually using it to render OSX yet. Specifically dual GPU models I think, i.e integrated and dedicated, even if the dedicated supported Metal and a desktop used it exclusively. Did any more make the list with Siera?
  • osxandwindows - Wednesday, July 13, 2016 - link

    This is exactly what we Mac power users have been wishing for.
    Next to 0 new features, better performance and stability.
  • TheITS - Wednesday, July 13, 2016 - link

    Oh good, more Apple content. I haven't been waiting for video card or phone reviews, I only want Apple content. So glad this website provides to my needs :D
  • cknobman - Wednesday, July 13, 2016 - link

    This website has continually gotten worse ever since Anand left.
    I wonder what he thinks of this these days? Probably does not care since he likely made a good chunk of change.
  • Communism - Wednesday, July 13, 2016 - link

    I would imagine Anand is quite happy with his apple golden parachute, the money he got for selling the forums to AMD along with the "AMD Sponsored" section, and money from the sale to Purch.
  • TEAMSWITCHER - Wednesday, July 13, 2016 - link

    I just want to go on the record for appreciating this Mac content. I have early access to the OS X previews through my Apple Developer account, but don't have the time. It's summer-time in Michigan and I'd rather spend it enjoying the outdoors. Articles like this are quick and fun to read, providing a glimpse of what's coming to my MacBook Pro...this fall. Thanks!
  • Teknobug - Wednesday, July 13, 2016 - link

    That explains AtenRa.

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