Sierra: Apple’s Latest Operating System Due To Launch With New Branding And Features

Apple’s newest operating system, dubbed Sierra, is set to launch later this year. The latest iteration of the software hosts several features and changes not seen in previous versions.

One change that is coming is a complete rebranding of Apple’s OS X. The tech giant’s flagship desktop software has been called OS X since 2001 when version 10 of the operating system launched. Before that, it was referred to as Mac OS. In keeping with the company’s evolution of software products and naming schemes, Apple is renaming OS X to macOS. This convention falls in line with the name of the company’s other software products: iOS, tvOS, and watchOS.

The Verge reported back in April that on its Earth Day 2016 web page, Apple had let slip a hint that the software may be getting a name change. On the page, the company discussed how it evaluates that lifespan of its products.

“To model customer use, we measure the power consumed by a product while it is running in a simulated scenario. Daily usage patterns are specific to each product and are a mixture of actual and modeled customer use data. Years of use, which are based on first owners, are assumed to be four years for MacOS and tvOS devices and three years for iOS and watchOS devices.”

The Verge noted that Apple would not likely make an announcement regarding a name change until the June Worldwide Developers Conference (WWDC). Making good on the prediction, Apple unveiled OS X 10.12 as macOS Sierra at the WWDC last month and released it to public beta in July.

Also shown at the conference was that the operating system was going to sport more than just a name change.

According to TechRadar, Sierra is going to be “a complete sequel to last year’s update.”

Users were rather disappointed when El Capitan was released because it did not seem like a new version of OS X. It felt more like a patch for Yosemite, but this will not be the case for Sierra.

One new feature coming to macOS is Siri. Apple’s mobile digital assistant is getting a makeover for Sierra as well. TechRadar reports that Siri will function the same way as it does on the iPhone, but it will be able to do much more within the desktop operating system than it can on an iOS device.

“Being on the Mac opens up a greater swath of options such as file searching, storage inquiries and even the ability to toggle settings on and off,” stated TechRadar.

The software will also be able to handle more complex voice commands.

Siri is already compatible with iTunes and Safari, but other apps will soon be able to implement the assistant as well. Apple already released the Siri SDK (software development kit) to developers who want to integrate the feature into their current or future applications.

Sierra will also be getting a new file system called APFS, short for Apple File System. The new APFS will replace the current HFS, which is a proprietary file structure that has been a part of the Apple operating system since 1985. The main improvement that APFS will bring is speed. The Hierarchical File System was created in the days before flash and solid state drives (SSD). The new file system was built with current technology in mind, so flash memory has been optimized, which means SSDs will function even faster.

The new filing scheme also has “improved space allocation letting two APFS-formatted disks act as one combined storage drive.”

Other features of Sierra will allow you to move seamlessly between Apple devices. You may not have known this, but you can already answer your iPhone from your Macbook. This feature is what Apple calls “Continuity,” and it gets even better on the new operating system.

In Sierra, users will be able to move something quickly from one device to the next with the Universal Clipboard.

Those tired of entering their password every time their computer goes to sleep will enjoy the auto-unlock feature. Users can set it up so that if the computer is in proximity to their iPhone or Apple Watch, it will unlock automatically.

Apple Pay will also be available in Sierra, but it will require users to use their iOS device for fingerprint authentication.

The Photos application has also been rebuilt.

It will have a new tab called Memories that provides a “Magazine-like viewing mode,” and an artificial intelligence that can sort photos by people or topic. Photos do not have to be tagged. The AI will actually “look” at the pictures and figure out who is in them, where they were taken, and roughly what is going on in them. Presumably, the AI will be able to distinguish between indoor and outdoor photos and will recognize similar features within the background to accurately group photos.

One other feature that Sierra will sport is picture-in-picture (PIP) mode. PIP televisions were a big “thing” in the 1990s, but have fallen out of style. People figured out that trying to watch two different TV shows didn’t especially work. However, bringing PIP to the computer makes a little more sense.

According to TechRadar, Sierra users will be able to open a video in PIP mode while working in other applications and the video window will stay with them “even as they rotate between desktop screens.”

Apple’s Sierra operating system is currently in beta and does not have a precise launch date set. However, the time frame for release has been narrowed down to September of this year.

[Photo by Andrew Burton/Getty Images]