But no new computers today, unless you’re a developer. The Developer Transition Kit, shipping this week, is for developers only, and contains the new chips inside a Mac Mini. The idea is that there’s a few apps, at least, rewritten for the launch of the new computers.
And there’s another implication: you’ll be able to install iOS and iPadOS apps directly on to Macs. That’s going to be a mixed blessing for users: there’s a lot more apps available, but most of them won’t exactly be a pleasant experience to use with a keyboard and mouse.
Macs running Apple Silicon will be able to use apps that haven’t been rewritten for the new processors, thanks to Rosetta 2: this technology (again, Apple has already had a thing called “Rosetta”) will rewrite apps as they’re installed to try and keep performance high.
It looks like it works fairly well: the company demonstrates the very performance-intensive Maya 3D modelling tool working perfectly, and then plays through Shadow of the Tomb Raider, a popular game, in real time. “These new macs, they are fast!”
A huge point buried in a screenshot: macOS Big Sur is not macOS 10.16. It is macOS 11. After twenty years, we’ve finally hit the end of OS X.
A crucial detail: Apple is letting developers ship “Universal 2” apps. It’s a clunky name, because it’s already used “universal apps” before now for something else, but what it means is that one download can work on both the new Apple Silicon Macs and older Intel machines.
And Microsoft and Adobe have already done that work, Craig Federighi says. So we get some demoes of Office. It looks like Office. That is good!
And finally, we get Tim Cook back again, declaring today a “historic day”. “It’s time for a huge leap forward for the Mac: today is the day the Mac is transitioning to our own Apple Silicon.
“Having a world class silicon design team is a game changer,” Cook says, before introducing a very silly video transfer to an “undisclosed location” where Apple’s SVP of Hardware Technologies, Johny Srugi, explains the company’s history of building its own chips: firstly the A-line chips from the iPhone, then the AX chips for the iPads.
“The first thing this will do is give the Mac a whole new level of performance,” Sruji says. “You want to deliver the highest performance at the lowest power consumption. Our plan is to give the Mac the highest level of performance while using much less power”. Power use, he explains, doesn’t just matter for battery life: it also affects heat, which affects cooling and thus the physical constraints of the entire machine.
Apple pushing its translation feature hard: Safari now has (Google-style) in-line translation for pages in languages you don’t speak.
Safari is seeing “the biggest update since it was first introduced”. Updates here really matter: Safari is the only browser engine allowed on iOS, which means Apple and Google are basically the two companies that decide how the web works.
So what’s new? “We want to give users even more visibility into the ways sites track them, and how safari is protecting them.” Every site will get a little name-and-shame window showing all the creepy things Safari has blocked.
“If you love tabs, you’re going to love the new Safari”, as well. “The tabs get smaller.”
A very nerdy update, but: a huge swathe of changes are coming to Catalyst, the tool that Apple offers to let developers easily port iOS apps over to Mac. Which explains why Messages and Maps are so like the iOS version, Craig explains: they were made with Catalyst.
Continuing the “loans from iOS” theme, Messages gets an update that is… mostly bringing features over from iOS, and Maps gets an update that is… mostly bringing features over from iOS.
One notable iOS loan: Control Centre. The menu bar is now getting an iOS-style panel for controlling things like volume, screen brightness, and other commonly-used settings.
And, completing the circle of life, macOS is getting widgets, a feature that it first received in 2005 and lost for good in 2018.
I’m going to throw up my liveblogger hands here: Apple is running through every design change it’s making in Big Sur in one rapid-paced video, and it’s honestly too quick for me to keep up with it. Overview: it looks a lot more like iOS in terms of visual design now.
But firstly, a very silly video for introducing the name of the new version of macOS. Continuing the California theme, it’s going to be macOS Big Sur.
They did not play The Thrills hit, so I’m going to instead.