As with past years, Apple's WWDC 2016 keynote showcased the upcoming updates to Apple's operating systems and developer tools. It's hard to believe that iOS is now on its tenth major version, which put Apple in an interesting position since their desktop operating system has been called OS X for many years now. Given that Apple's other operating systems are named iOS, watchOS, and tvOS, the name OS X has become a bit of an outlier. This year's release comes with a new name in the typical manner that OS X releases each had a specific name, but also a new name for the operating system itself. The 2016 version of Apple's operating system for Macs is named macOS Sierra.

While macOS adopts a new name, it retains the existing versioning system, with macOS Sierra being version 10.12. This makes sense when you consider the progression from Mac OS 9 to Mac OS X, which then treated each release as a point update on top of ten and only dropped the Mac in the name in 2012. This kind of versioning is somewhat awkward, and will be more so when it gets to the point where the OS is version 10.20. It will be interesting to see if the next truly large update to macOS brings it to major version eleven, and it could be that Apple plans to keep it in sync with iOS with a new major version number each year, but only time will tell.

Like all updates to macOS, Sierra comes with a number of new features. With the bulk of Apple's device sales being mobile devices, there have been a number of features in recent versions of macOS that work to leverage how devices running macOS, iOS, and watchOS can work together. Having cloud sync across devices is one thing, but building and properly executing Apple's continuity features really requires control over the hardware and software stacks across all devices. Unfortunately it's difficult to test these features during Apple's beta period, but that just gives Apple's users things to look forward to later in the year.

More important than new features is whether or not a Mac can even be upgraded to macOS Sierra from OS X El Capitan. Apple has announced the compatibility list for Sierra, and there are some older Macs that have dropped off the list. I've put together a chart comparing the compatibility of Macs with El Captain and compatibility with Sierra.

  OS X El Capitan macOS Sierra
MacBook Pro Mid 2007 and newer 2010 and newer
MacBook Air Late 2008 and newer 2010 and newer
Old MacBook Late 2008 aluminum and newer Late 2009 and newer
New MacBook 2015 and newer
iMac Mid 2007 and newer Late 2009 and newer
Mac Mini Early 2009 and newer 2010 and newer
Mac Pro Early 2008 and newer 2010 and newer

As you can see, it looks like Apple has put the cutoff point right around the start of this decade. The old MacBook and iMac that released in late 2009 make the cut, but everything else has to be a model from 2010. The uniformity of the cutoff makes it fairly likely that this was a somewhat arbitary decision, although it's difficult to say exactly how many older Macs could have been put on the list because Apple offers many SKUs and CTO options that could make one version of an older Mac fast enough and another from the same line too slow. In any case, the easy rule with Sierra is that if your Mac is from before 2010 it's probably not supported, and if you're in that group you're probably overdue for an upgrade anyway.

With Apple having just released their public beta of macOS Sierra, it's worth going over the major features that are currently available for users to try before the OS is officially launched later this year. Features like Auto Unlock and Apple Pay on the web can't really be shown right now, but it is possible to show other features that work between iOS and macOS devices like the additions to Messages and Photos. While I think the smaller and more subtle features in software updates can be some of the most useful, It's probably best to start off with the biggest feature in Sierra, which is Siri coming to the Mac.

Siri Comes To The Mac
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  • TheITS - Wednesday, July 13, 2016 - link

    People are complaining because they don't want to see such a brilliant website lose its identity. I don't imagine many people care for a deep dive on the Galaxy S6 now and yet this is the direction the site is taking. Who cares about an in-depth article on a last-gen product when it isn't an unknown quantity anymore? Reply
  • Impulses - Wednesday, July 13, 2016 - link

    Phone reviews, iPhone aside (and even then) were always late tho...

    I remember bugging Anand over email about 1st and 2nd gen Android phone reviews. They might've actually gotten better at some point but it's always been a slow process to produce the kinda reviews they do and they've pretty much never been able to review ALL phones.

    It was way worse when every carrier had specific versions of various phones and basically no phone was available across more than 2 carriers... Samsung didn't start cracking down on that from their end until the SGS3 or so.

    Just saying, the HTC 10 review is still pretty darn late, but it isn't an entirely new trend.
    Reply
  • tipoo - Wednesday, July 13, 2016 - link


    I'm talking about GPU and CPU reviews, hour 1 has never been their thing, but they often bring to light new architectural features or issues others skipped.
    Reply
  • fanofanand - Wednesday, July 13, 2016 - link

    This right here encapsulates the frustration. They have lost their way. Instead of in-depth breakdowns of different technologies, we get pages and pages about Apple watches, months spent on an iPad that is 3 inches larger, crap like that. They have completely missed the boat on some of the most in-demand consumer tech products like the 960, the 1070, 1080 etc. They are barely even dribbling content out at this point if it isn't an Apple product. Reply
  • jwcalla - Wednesday, July 13, 2016 - link

    You don't really think Anand got a cushy job at Apple because they liked his hair, do you? Reply
  • Dennis Travis - Wednesday, July 13, 2016 - link

    Anand got the Job at Apple because he knows his stuff. The strange thing is this, I have been here since close to the beginning and the last year before Anand left he was always being run down the same way and called an Apple fan boy, Taking $$$ from manufactures in return for positive reviews, Late reviews.

    Amazing to me as this site and the reviews both with Anand and since he left are FIRST RATE and really help people make the right decision.

    I wish people would back off and not keep attacking everyone here. They are doing their best and the quality of the reviews are worth the wait.
    Reply
  • KoolAidMan1 - Thursday, July 14, 2016 - link

    Tech forums are filled with butthurt fanboys who only want to read things that reinforce their personal bias. They aren't unique to AT but it is disappointing given the higher caliber of reader you would hope a site like this attracts. Reply
  • xthetenth - Friday, July 15, 2016 - link

    The really funny thing is it was Anand who sold me on windows phone.

    Dat apple bias.
    Reply
  • ex2bot - Friday, July 15, 2016 - link

    I agree. People who accuse others of corruption or dishonesty should have damn good evidence. If not, then they're being unethical. Reply
  • melgross - Wednesday, July 13, 2016 - link

    Oh, BS. I mean, seriously, if you aren't happy, then just leave. Reply

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