Ah, the days before Apple’s annual developer conference, when all of our dreams of possible directions for the future of Apple’s platforms seem most vivid, before crashing hard against the shores of reality during Monday’s keynote address. WWDC is when Apple lays out its agenda for its platforms for the rest of the year and beyond. If your favorite feature is in, it’s going to be a good year. If it is not mentioned, you will probably spend at least a year in the wilderness, if not longer. At the risk of leaving next week with a whole backpack full of sadness, here’s what’s on the Mac and macOS wish list for WWDC 2021
New chips, laptops and more
WWDC is basically a software-themed event, and yet Apple often uses it as a launch pad for new hardware, especially hardware that appeals to perhaps Apple’s most important class of professional users – the software developers that WWDC is primarily focused on.
While we are well underway with the Apple Silicon transition, and the M1 processor has been remarkably well received, it is used in Macs that are not aimed at pro-level users. The implication is that there is another chip still coming that will provide the level of performance that professional users want. WWDC may be the perfect time to uncover it other Apple-designed Mac chip. (My guess: an M1X processor, based on the same technology as the A14 and M1 chips, but with even more processor cores.)
And what better computers to use that higher power processor than newer versions of MacBook Pro? Although it seems like asking a lot, both high-end 13-inch MacBook Pro and 16-inch MacBook Pro still uses Intel processors – and will benefit greatly from a transition to Apple silicon. Rumors that maybe the 13-inch model will get a redesign similar to the 16-inch model’s introduction in late 2019, bringing it up to 14 inches. Maybe it’s time for a Mac laptop to get built-in mobile network, too? I hear 5G is pretty swollen.
I know this for sure: if WWDC were still held in a conference center, there would be no larger audience appealing to thousands of Apple developers than new high-end laptops. Except maybe one relatively inexpensive external Apple display to attach to the laptops. Come on, Apple, is it not time to sell a monitor that brings some of the Pro Display XDR style to the masses who will not spend $ 6,000 for a monitor?
Some more influence from iPadOS
I would like to see the next version of macOS continue to download features and apps from iPadOS. Last year, Big Sur came up with Control Center, an iPad and iPhone-inspired feature that has a lot of potential. I would like to see Apple continue to expand Control Center and allow third-party apps to access it as well.
Apple must continue to improve Mac Catalyst, the technology that developers can use to turn iPad apps into native Mac apps. The best way to force these improvements is for Apple to bring its own apps from iOS to macOS, so I hope to see some more Apple iPad apps are coming to Mac. (Is this the year Mail and Calendar take the step? Only if they get a major overhaul to make the iPad source app more powerful.)
One feature that the Mac desperately needs from iPadOS is, believe it or not, Shortcuts. I’ve written elsewhere about this, but actually it’s easier for me to automate many tasks on iOS than it is on macOS – and it should not be. Shortcuts fulfill the promise of Automator in ways that Automator never did, and while it has plenty of room to grow, it is clearly the future of automation on Apple platforms. Add actions that can run AppleScript, Automator workflows, and shell scripts, and we’ll really get something.
Speaking of apps I want on my Mac: It’s incredibly easy to beta test new apps using TestFlight, an app owned and operated by Apple itself. However, beta-testing Mac apps can be slow and painful. TestFlight makes it easy – and developers will rejoice if they arrive on the Mac.
A couple of years ago, Apple added Sidecar to macOS so that a Mac could extend the screen to a nearby iPad. I would like to see Apple expand this feature to allow quite a bit any Apple device to power the display of other Apple devices. Consider using a large, beautiful iMac screen as a display for a Mac mini, or a MacBook Pro, or an iPad Pro.
More benefits of Apple Silicon
The first M1 Macs introduced the idea of running native iOS apps directly on the Mac. I would like to see this feature move to another level. Right now, the iPad apps I most want to run on my Mac are not available – their developers have chosen them out of use on the Mac. Apple can not force them back in, but I hope it can give the ability to run apps on Mac a little more tempting in a way. This feature is not good if no developers want to take advantage of it.
Similarly, I would like to see the ability to run iPhone apps on macOS. Yes, they are small, but so what? Let’s run iPhone apps – either via Catalyst or directly from the iOS App Store – and expand the library of Mac apps so much more.
And then there’s Microsoft. Over the past year, Apple and Microsoft have been playing a very strange game regarding running Windows on Apple silicon. It is theoretically possible, and some people have figured out ways to make it work, but everything has been weird and unofficial. I would like to see someone from Microsoft appear on Apple’s virtual stage to explain it Windows for ARM runs on Apple Silicon, even if it’s only in a virtual environment. Boot Camp support would be even better, but seems much less likely.
Keep it simple
I know it’s pretty rich for me to conclude with a long list of requirements in doing this, but I’m serious: The most important addition to macOS this fall should be a focus on stability and reliability. In recent years, Apple has been on a tick-tock approach to software updates, with a year of catastrophic bugginess followed by a year of relative calm.
With the arrival of Apple Silicon, this has been a pretty busy year – and it’s after a very tough year caused by the look of macOS Catalina. We can all take a break. Although I would like Apple to add some of the features and functionality I have listed here, I want the company to be wrong on the side of caution. Give me new Mac hardware and some nice new features, but in general I want a not particularly ambitious macOS update that lets things work out as we all prepare to move to Apple Silicon.