Is it time to end big, annual OS X updates?

“Do we really need major, highly touted updates to software like Mac OS X or is it time for continuous updating in the background?” Dennis Sellers writes for Apple World Today.

“These upgrades will keep coming regardless of whether or not Apple makes a big public announcement about, say, Mac OS X Mojave,” Sellers writes. “My pal, J. Scott Anderson, notes that, by removing the annual-big-OS-announcement scenario, we’d get feature updates faster.”

Sellers writes, “Why not just run a continuous improvement cycle and add the features as they come on-line and are tested[?]”

Read more in the full article here.

MacDailyNews Take: As we wrote in January 2015:

Frankly, we don’t need a new Mac or iPhone/iPad operating system every year and Apple Inc. doesn’t need it, either. Annual OS releases shouldn’t be mandated. What we all really need, customers and Apple Inc., are operating systems that are rock solid and do what they’re supposed to do when they’re supposed to do it. Why not just add new features/services to existing OSes with continued point releases that refine and extend the experiences and services you want to deliver? Why not just release new operating systems only when they are rock solid and ready?


  1. I think OS XI is due. I do not foresee big UI changes. I think it should start with an internet security-centric kernel. That should then propagate outward to memory and all IO. Maybe even secure video signal to the screen. Secure keyboard and mouse activity.

  2. the primary reason to have staged events, major software release announcements and other media related functions is to draw attention to and speed adoption of new features and gain conversions and/or sales. If all software updates were just quietly released, no announcement made, no press releases written the rate of adoption would slow markedly, systems and services that might otherwise depend on the adoption of the new software or features would suffer and the tech press would have nothing to write about. It’s a silly premise.. no major releases, no news.. right.

  3. It’s the software, stupid! Updates have become nothing more than beta testing for consumers to help Apple find the bugs not found because of lack of quality control. Apple has become the new Microsuck: Thrust shit on users and let them do the quality control. Instead of worrying about pretty watch bands, how about software and an OS that “just works”. The latest release of iOS9 is a perfect example of crap that was rolled out with minimal regard as to functionality or quality. Apple is headed toward becoming Apple sauce. Name one quality OS that has been created since Tim Cook has been CEO. The dull and insipid, not to mention fugally UI, seems to have become Apple’s new hallmark thanks to Cook and his ilk. Sadly, many of us feat the end of the Mac is on the horizon.

    1. Absolutely on target, speedplay. Apple is a phone company planning on eliminating all the “trucks” that used to define the once great company.

    2. you are right on the money amigo.

      i suspect that part of the problem is that mr. apple has lost the thread…. they used to be a software company, for which they made the hardware to run it.

      both of which were, relative to all other companies, top notch.

      seems like nowadays they have transitioned into a hardware company, which still produces excellent and durable products, but have let the software portion of the business slip, as alluded to above.

      not good.

      time to refocus gentlemen.

      the term “insanely great” was meant to apply to both parts of the equation, not just half of it.

  4. The primary reason to have annual or regular major releases is not marketing but technical: it provides some degree of change control. Let’s face it, Apple’s software efforts in recent years leave a lot to be desired and many users are cautious about when they update. Those who allow automatic updates have had a few nasty surprises…

    Releases do not have to be annual – but they need to be significant.

    On an iPad it probably doesn’t matter – these are rarely used for work functions and, where they are (airlines, hospitals etc) they are presumably managed centrally. iPhone OS problems reveal themselves quickly and can be patched. But OS/X problems often seem to be major and awkward or impossible to patch – and users must live with the issue until Apple can rewrite a component (as in the network issues which plagued Yosemite).

    Please remember that some of us actually use our Macs for work, and they need to work. Don’t mess with this – the writing is already on the wall for many Mac users who are fed up with Apple’s laser like focus on the iPhone and their repeated bleatings that iPad is the future.

    iPad is NOT the future for Mac users. Much more of this and Windows will be the future for Mac users.

    1. Absolutely on target, SunbeamRapier. Apple is a phone company planning on eliminating all the “trucks” that used to define the once great company.

    2. Absolutely. Block changes are necessary.

      Call up Apple support or go to the Genius Bar and the first thing they check is what version of OS you’re using. Yosemite? El Capitan? OK. Now which Point Release of that? .2? .3? OK. Now let’s get started.

      Conversely… What version are you using? 10.12.12789. Now wait a few minutes while I pull up the specific inclusions on that and how those releases may affect your issue.

      Effectively, by putting it to a continuously rolling release Apple would be making the OS a continuous Beta (or maybe a continuous Alpha). It would also be an internal quality nightmare. Final QA (and Beta testing and external Developer testing) is with a relatively fixed set of modules/components included. If that set is continuously evolving, it will make testing virtually impossible. What do you test module xxx against? Version 10.12.1237 or 10.12.1238? Oops, the ship date slipped. We need to test it against 10.12 1239 instead.

    3. “iPad is NOT the future for Mac users. Much more of this and Windows will be the future for Mac users.”

      While I do agree with this sentiment for some specific cases, by 2025 at the latest Macs will be relegated to a niche. Just as Steve Jobs explained years ago, once almost all motor vehicles were the equivalent of trucks. Now, except in certain regions, only a small fraction of vehicles are trucks. But… Trucks still exist and are used by the general population, and they will for many, many years to come.

      There will *always* be a need for the equivalent of a desktop Mac. The requirements for users of those future machines will continue to increase just as the requirements of current desktop Macs far outstrip the requirements (and capabilities) of the original 128k Mac so too will the requirement for capabilities of a 2020 or 2025 Mac.

  5. I don’t expect Apple will change their release schedule. I used to be in denial that Apple was built around a marketing engine, but that’s exactly what they have become… all about big announcements. A more incremental release schedule would not give them that advantage.

  6. Its time to make OSX more consistant and more productivity oriented… Not add more bells and whistles..
    OSX looks cluttered.. Specially the dock….and contextual menus.
    The top centralized menu is a disaster of ergonomics. No two ways about it… I have put this through tests with many individuals… And tried hard to see its merit.. There is none.. Is plain old stupid .. Its laugable to most….
    Its inefficient to constantly move your head and mouse from one extream of monitor to the other every time one need to access the top menu. Specially on large monitors.
    Almost evertime one has to double check if the top menu corresponds to the window they are working in( one misplaced click and the top menu is off sync… For gods sake it sometimes even shows options for minimized windows… Ridiculouse!…. To correct this one has to go back to the window they were working on, Click on it and then again go back to the top menu for correct representation of options.
    Try and deal with this with multi windows open on the screen … On a large monitor… On repetitve tasks… Is massivly inefficient. ..( apple is being dogmatic and stubborn not changing this or at least giving the option to the users in setting to have windows based menus If they prefer so ) …. It the most stupid fundimental design in osx.

    Inconsitant contextual menus are frustrating and inefficient .. And they look cluttered.
    Inconsistant point and click equivalents of keyboard shortcut is frustrating and dogmatic…(memorize or you are screwed approach)..

    When one right clicks on an info item on bottom right …. The info showes up on the top left . Why…im looking at the bottom right apple. !…… And there is no way to adjust this.

    The mouse pointer is not aware of what it is hovering on sometimes …….. Sometimes one gets a text cursor when one is pointing at a menu option or other none text items… This is bs and clumsy.

    Selection methods are inconsistent..
    Sonetimes one can do nonsequential selection..and in Some areas one cant…..
    Sometimes one can draw selection rectangle to select… Sometime one cant … All depends on what software or window mode one is in…..It stupid and has zero functional advantage in any way..its clumsy.
    Its just confusing and inconsistant.

    Yes osx is safe and relatively stable… But osx is not fine tuned to productivity… Its actually pretty poor in productivity. Its designed for esthetics, bells and whistles that are mostly irritating.

    Yes rather than bells and whistles i like to see apple fine tune osx for productivity and consitancy…

    But i have a feel they wont do much here.. After all some of these are what makes windows efficiant .. And apple rather do the wrong thing to distinguish itself than fix these inefficiencies and problems. …..just not be subject to the “hey look apple is copying windows’ rant that will follow.

    Ipad pro and lack of full fledged apps and ram and user managable filesys is a victem of same kind of dogmatic and stubborn thinking at Apple.
    It will soon bite them in the ass if they dont wake up and smell the coffee…. …it already has started biting them a bit… But not too late to fix.

    Please Apple.. Get off the dogma horse.

    Im an investor and and a user of all of your products…….i am getting concerned .

    1. I radically disagree with your statement, “The top centralized menu is a disaster of ergonomics. No two ways about it… I have put this through tests with many individuals… And tried hard to see its merit.. There is none.. Is plain old stupid .. Its laugable [sic] to most….
      Its inefficient to constantly move your head and mouse from one extream of monitor to the other every time one need to access the top menu. Specially on large monitors.”
      Having a localized set of menus in a pre defined place is a benefit to many, many users.

      However, I will agree in the strongest way possible that the interface has gotten sloppy. El Capitan’s mouse pointer issue that you point out is one of many. The inconsistencies is partly due to Apple enforcing interface guidelines less and less and less over the years has gotten completely out of hand. (Once upon a time Apple had a series of hard bound books defining the user interface — and Apple strongly enforced them. Want to quit an application? Command-Q. Nothing else. Not the half dozen or more variations that showed up in the Windows OS. Closing a window JUST closed that window even if it was that last open window for that application. It did not quit the application — sometimes, other times not.)

      This consistency was one of the reasons people could pick up how to use a Mac much, much faster than Windows based systems (or UNIX or Linux or any other OS).

      The unfortunate thing is that Apple has, of recent years, stopped enforcing that consistency even internally. Apple’s products are becoming as a hodge-podge of different methodologies and screen interface nuances as applications developers. It’s not as bad as on Windows — yet, but it is clearly headed in that direction.

  7. I agree, in part, coolfactor. I used to use Apple’s website for my homepage. What do you get when you go there? Wall to wall, 24 hour a day product advertising. Apple is simply about money and greed. Have you used the App Store lately to check for updates? It used to be that you could go directly to updates! Not anymore: Like the Apple website: Wall to wall, 24 hours a day product advertising. Apple has become the new tech QVC. And what was it that Tim Cook did prior to becoming CEO. The answer to that question clearly suggests Apple’s new model: sales, sales, sales, and more sales. Gotta love – as Apple is now know – the gadget company selling as many gadgets as they can convince people they really need!

  8. I love OS X, but I would like to go back to the every 1.5-2 years schedule. It gets a little confusing for some people, especially those who came from Windows. Since I bought my latest MacBook Pro in January 2014, there have been three operating systems installed on it, and probably a fourth if I don’t sell it and buy a new one soon.

  9. I don’t mind the yearly updates. I have benefited from several of them:

    – Larger mouse pointer
    – Syncing improvements thanks to iCloud
    – Dictation
    – Photo extensions

    What I would like is better quality control – fix bugs and nuisances.

    Second, the feature set and fit and finish on many built in apps is incomplete.

    This posting is the most complete list I have seen up to this point:

    1. Those new features you benefitted from could not have been added to a point update?
      I think they should lay off the lion’s share of the marketing/branding staff who drive this unnecessary change to hire more QC engineers, add point updates to roll out new features, and STOP crippling features in the name of progress.

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