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Apple pushes privacy and data security with upcoming OS updates at WWDC


WWDC comes but once a year

Apple's Worldwide Developers Conference kicked off with a bang yesterday.  You've already seen the biggest hardware announcement the company had to make: a new Mac Pro. The truth is, though, that a Mac without macOS is just a PC, and anybody can build a PC for $6,000. More important than the (cheese grater-chic) hardware is the software, so let's take a look at what the Mac maker has announced.

macOS Catalina

Later this year, macOS 10.15 Catalina will ship to users via the Mac App Store. New to this version of the OS is the Voice Control app. The coolest demo of the whole dang show depicted how to use a Mac with nothing but your voice. Controlling a computer with your voice isn't exactly a new concept, but the level of detail in the pre-recorded demo was pretty high. It started with a command to wake up, so apparently sleeping Macs will wait for your command.

Two new security-focused features will arrive with Catalina, too. The Find My app purportedly combines Find My iPhone / Find My Mac with Find My Friends. This feature will apparently make it easier to find a misplaced or stolen MacBook. Apple says Macs with Catalina installed will send out a Bluetooth signal on occasion. Any other Apple device nearby that receives it will then anonymously phone home and let Apple know where it is. Apple says this communication is end-to-end encrypted and anonymous to the devices around the Mac and to the company itself. 

The second security app is a Activation Lock. Apple users can already remotely lock iDevices if they're lost or stolen, and the only way (the only easy way, at least) to access them is with the password for the device's associated iCloud account. The same Activation Lock feature is coming to Macs with T2 chips. The company believes this will prevent Macs from becoming the target of theft since they'll become large aluminum paperweights.

Apple has integrated iPad support into macOS Catalina in a couple of interesting ways. Folks who frequently travel with both a Mac and an iPad will probably like Sidecar mode, which turns the iPad into a secondary display. The Apple Pencil works with this duo as an input device, too, so the artistic among us can sketch out new designs with the iPad directly into an application like Illustrator. 

The next version of macOS will be the first version of the operating system to ship without iTunes since Steve Jobs used Photoshop benchmarks to "prove" the Power Mac G5 was faster than a Pentium 4 (man, I feel old just typing that). Instead, the company will ship separate Music, Podcasts, and TV apps that will replace most of iTunes' disparate features. Finder will also pick up some of the slack, as the primary OS shell will handle iPhone sync duties. 


Safari built in to iTunes? Craig Federighi (jokingly) said iTunes was so monolithic it could have happened.

No doubt those apps are made possible—in part, at least—by Project Catalyst. The current version of macOS, Mojave, shipped last fall with a framework that allowed Apple to make macOS-native apps from their iOS counterparts. The Stocks, News, Memos, and Home apps in that version were Apple's first steps into building universal public-facing applications as part of the Mac platform. This year, Catalyst will be available to developers targeting Catalina. Apple showed off a new version of the Twitter desktop app and Atlassian's Jira Cloud desktop apps that all use this new framework. 

Also using Project Catalyst is Apple Arcade. As we correctly surmised when Apple announced Arcade in March, the company's subscription-based game delivery service will include games built for macOS, iOS, and tvOS from a single project. Apple showed off Gameloft's Asphalt 9: Legends as part of the demo, and quoted Gameloft as saying it didn't take much effort to get a desktop version of the game running with the same Metal graphics engine used on iOS and tvOS.