It won’t be long until Apple makes OS X Yosemite – the latest version of Mac OS – available to all of the Mac faithful. That may mean staff suddenly start appearing at the office with upgraded MacBook Airs and MacBook Pros – a potential issue if you run a BYOD (bring your own device) program. But should you upgrade? What’s in it for your business?
If you’ve been a Mac user for a few years, then you probably remember Apple’s iDisk, which was part of its iTools offering. We have to admit, we used it back then and it was poor – at least in this part of the world.
Back then, internet links were much slower than today and that made the service very annoying to use. But, today, we have access to dozens of public and private cloud storage options. Among the most popular are Dropbox, OneDrive and Google Drive.
Until OS X Yosemite, iCloud only allowed you to sync particular types of files across devices. But with Yosemite we get iCloud Drive. This allows you to sync any file between your Macs and iOS devices – assuming your iPhones and iPads are running iOS 8 when it’s released later this year.
In addition, AirDrop has been given a much needed boost. It now supports the ability to share files across Macs and iOS devices even if they’re not on the same network. That can be handy for ad hoc file sharing.
Are these important features for business? Neither of them is going to make a compelling case, on their own, for upgrading. But they are useful additions. In particular, if Apple gets iCloud Drive right, then being able to ditch third-party file storage services may make life a little easier for IT administrators as there’s one less username and password to manage.
Mail Drop also looks like a significant benefit. Often, we need to send large files to clients and colleagues, but some mail gateways restrict the size of files being sent. Mail Drop works in a similar way to services like WeTransfer (formerly known as YouSendIt). Large attachments are uploaded to your iCloud Drive and a link is placed in the email so the recipient can download the file rather than receive it through email.
File-sharing services already offer this, but the key is Apple’s ability to seamlessly integrate the function into its apps without the need to carry out any manual steps or accessing third-party services.
Changes to the user interface
The last few releases of OS X signalled a shift. In the past, a new OS would be released every three years or so and there would be a massive slew of changes. Over the last three releases, Apple has released updates to OS X annually with fewer changes between each iteration.
In some ways, Yosemite feels like a step back. For example, the Dock is again flat and two-dimensional.
After a few weeks of using various pre-release versions, we’ve stopped noticing the translucent menu bars. Frankly, we’d prefer them to be solid, but they don’t make any real difference to usability in our view.
The stoplight buttons in the top-left corner of most windows have been repurposed. While the red and amber retain their close and minimise functions respectively, the green is now a toggle to full-screen mode. This makes sense and means that the button now behaves consistently between applications – something many Mac users, new and old, found very annoying.
Spotlight has been changed. When you launch it from the magnifying glass icon, the search window pops up in the middle of your screen now. The new window is larger and shows more information, but it’s annoying that the window is nowhere near its launch point. We preferred the old way for Spotlight. That said, we tend to use the Command-Spacebar shortcut for launching Spotlight rather than the icon so, again, it’s not a showstopper.
This is perhaps the most significant change for many users. If your staff are using iPhones and iPads, then they’re likely to be interested in some of the iOS integration. This is all pulled together under a set of services Apple calls Continuity.
For phone calls, you’ll be able to use your Mac as a speakerphone. Calls can be made and received from your Mac.
Messages gets integration with SMS as well as iMessage. We really like the ability to send and receive all our messages while working on our Macs. Although it can be a distraction, being able to deal with all messages without having to switch devices is very handy.
If you move between your Mac and iOS devices, then Handover means you can seamlessly do so. If you’re reading a webpage, you’ll be able to continue on your other devices, right from the same spot. The same goes with composing emails.
Will the transition be painful?
Like any operating system upgrade there are some gotchas. Test all of your critical applications. With the beta, we’ve seen reports of some applications not working – which is to be expected at this stage. But even when the final release arrives later this year, there may be some lag between the release and applications being updated.
There are user interface changes, but we haven’t hit any that have left us scratching our heads with total confusion. There’s little chance this will be as jarring as the changes Windows users suffered when Windows 8 was unleashed.
With the new features, none are complex to use. If you plan to shift to iCloud Drive from another file-syncing service, then there will be the pain of copying files to the new service and then allowing the sync process to run its course.
Handover and Continuity are useful and easy to use. Although they’re new, we wouldn’t expect a huge amount of training, if any, will be needed. Our observation is that users familiar with iOS will start experimenting and figure it out for themselves quickly.