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MacOS Big Sur – OS 11 Is Here – WWDC 20202

We’re in the midst of WWDC 2020, and one of the biggest things to slip out post-keynote is that the 20-year-old Mac OS X is dead… we are now officially in the MacOS 11 era. Like was done to Classic Mac OS 9, MacOS Big Sur is putting OS X in the pine box. We mean that literally… Steve Jobs did it on stage!

MacOS Big Sur Number Change Very Significant

To the general public, the version numbers really didn’t meant anything, it was what used to be the internal code name that was significant. But, when the tech field saw MacOS X(10) has changed to 11, we realized just how seismic this shift was. On the surface, we are getting simply a new user interface, something that relies heavily on cues from iOS. Transparencies, rounded corners, neumorphism…

MacOS Big Sur - MacOS 11 is here!

I said years ago, we are slowly seeing the merge of MacOS and OS.. we are very nearly there!

You can’t look at MacOS Big Sur and not see iOS, which isn’t a bad thing, the design is beautiful and easy on the eyes, easy on the brain. There is a more unified approach to layout, employing a universal sidebar to app windows, making it easier to find application options. A refund toolbar and overall increased spacing between elements point toward a touchable future. The dock looks more like the dock found on iPads, with the biggest change being entirely new icons. The icons are immediately familiar as iOS, with slight variations that seem to make sense on the Mac. 

Apple has included a variant of Control Centre to ensure easy access to things like screen brightness and volume control. You can add “widgets” from the control centre to your menu bar as well. The new notification centre makes heavy use of customizable widgets that give you immediate access to the information you customize. 

A very welcome return is coming as well, the Mac Startup Chime! As a lifelong Apple user, this reassuring start-up noise means so much!

Core Applications Getting New Features In MacOS Big Sur

Safari has been updated in MacOS Big Sur naturally, mostly with privacy in mind. You can now get a report card of sots on each site you visit. Click on the icon to get information on exactly what the website is doing in the background, as in, what is it tracking. You can also see what information is being spread to 3rd party advertisers. A possible negative side effect though is to web developers like me, Google Analytics data is blocked as well. This is valuable, but typically benign data that is gathered to help a website owner monitor their traffic. 

MacOS Big Sur Safari

We also get what looks like a nice customizable home screen, an evolution of my favourite “tabs view”. Giving you Site Icons of your favourites or history, even your reading lists. If you visit multilingual websites, there is a new built-in translator that will change the language of the website you are on in place and as you scroll. Apple has added a tab preview as well, hovering over the tab will show you a preview of the page, again, similar to what we see on iOS. Dare we notice a trend here??

Messages in MacOS Big Sur is now pretty much a perfect copy of Messages in iOS, taking advantage of new threaded messages, pinned messages and of course new Memojies. Group messages are improved with icons that show you exactly who is talking and when, and you can also @ people, similar to full-fledged chat apps like Slack or Discord. 


For laptops, we’ll finally be getting proper battery usage analytics and reporting similar to iOS, and the much-vaulted return to power time estimates! Maps is getting some great updates for EV drivers, showing where charging stations will be, and being able to plan trips accordingly. There is a new emphasis on cycling, but due to its limited coverage will not yet be useful for my audience.. Calgary is a beautiful city, but we are no LA or New York apparently.. but it will come. Lots of improvements everywhere, but do this seemingly surface polish justify an entirely new number for MacOS? No… but…

Apple Silicon Now Coming To The Mac

… combined with an entirely new software architecture certainly does. 

What does that mean? Well, the Central Processing Unit in your Mac is currently manufactured by Intel, based on an underlying concept known as X86. This determines how application software like Microsoft Word, Photos, iMovie, are written by the developer. They have to write it in a language that the Intel processor understands. 

But, Apple is beginning a two-year changeover to the same processors found in your iPhone and iPad. These are what are called ARM processors in the industry. This may seem to not make a lick of difference or matter to you in the least, but know this is a monumental change in the industry. This is like if car manufacturers all suddenly announced we are moving to hydrogen power only. It would require massive changes in the industry to make it work. This is what Apple is now doing, and there is lots of work ahead for developers. 

What are you going to have to change? Nothing. This transition is designed to be completely transparent to the end-user. Apple has introduced several tools for developers that will ensure in a multitude of ways that their applications will work on an Apple Silicon Mac without the user even knowing something is happening. It should be utterly seamless to you as the user.. but one interesting thing; all of a sudden your favourite iPhone and iPad apps will work on your Mac. 


There is all sorts of speculation out there as to why Apple has chosen to dump Intel in favour of their own processors. Intel has been struggling lately and frankly falling behind in the industry. Companies like AMD and TSMC are leaving Intel in the dust when it comes to technologies like circuit size, power efficiency, processing power, and more importantly quality and yield. Sticking with Intel could cause Apple plenty of issues in the future when competing against PCs running AMD processors.

The fact is that the majority of computing devices out there could soon be ARM-based. Most phones, tablets and an increasing number of computers use processors based on the ARM technology, which includes Apple of course. It’s happening at a slower pace in the desktop computer space. Interestingly, the same day Apple announced the transition to its own ARM-based CPU’s, it was announced the new fastest computer on the planet is ARM-based. Japan’s new Fugaku supercomputer is 2.8x  faster than the US-based Summit system. For the tech geeks out there, it employs 152,064 A64FX chips, generating 415,500 teraflops of processing power. That is 7.2 million processing cores! For reference, Intel’s top of the line processor is capable of 1 teraflop. 

MacOS Big Sur On ARM

…looks like I’ll have to move the couch to fit that in my living room…

The biggest reason is simple though, consistency. Apple has spent years now designing their own processors, and the results have been spectacular. They consistently outperform any other mobile processor they are compared to. They are incredibly efficient, incredibly powerful and constantly employ new technologies to lead the industry. The hope is that we will see an incredible increase in performance for the price in these new Apple Silicon systems, some industry folks are saying we could see a 50% to 100% increase in performance when the change over happens. No longer having to worry about coding for X86, Apple and their developers will be able to write their apps ONCE, and it will work on any and all Apple equipment. 

To developers this is a boon, they suddenly don’t have to write their program twice, or have to make the decision to release their app for only Mac or iOS. To you as the user, any App you purchase has the potential to work on any and all of your Apple devices. The only drawback o far is the inability to use BootCamp, the Windows environment for Mac that required an Intel processor. But, there is already an indication from emulation companies like VMWare that they will release a version allowing you to run Windows on your Apple Silicon Mac. 

This Has All Happened Before

Back in the day, Apple made hilarious ads that poked fun at Intel. 

But, then in 2005, they did this…

And now, they are switching away! The reason back then was the failure of Motorola and it’s the ability to deliver the powerhouse G5 for laptops, switching to Intel because of their better power consumption and performance. Now that Intel is starting to fall away from the pack, Apple is not sitting on its laurels, they expect to stay the leader of the pack, and with the transition to their own CPU’s, they are ensuring that. 

Apple has gone through now four major transitions in its history, from it’s original 6800 series chips in the original Macintosh to the PowerPC, then a software change from Classic Mac OS 9, to what we’ve lived on since 2000, Mac OS X. Apple then revealed the secret life of MacOS X being that it was always able to run on Intel, and made the transition to Intel in 2005. 

2020 brings the 4th major transition, this time cutting the ties to all outside umbilicals. Perhaps they got sick of being let down by their processor manufacturers, and after showing the world they can not only hold their own but in fact beat everyone, they now design the entirety of their systems in-house.  Apple informed the developers watching WWDC 2020 that MacOS X is basically dead, the future is MacOS 11 that lives on Apple Silicon. Personally, I’m really hoping they hold another funeral…


As is typical, a few systems get left behind.. and it looks like The Stem is going to have to upgrade soon himself! I for one will be looking at those ARM Macs! Here is the official list…

  • MacBook, 2015 and later
  • MacBook Air, 2013 and later
  • MacBook Pro, late 2013 and later
  • Mac Mini, 2014 and later
  • iMac, 2014 and later
  • iMac Pro (all models), 2017 and later
  • Mac Pro, 2013 and later

The Future Is Bright

There is plenty of trepidation and celebration surrounding this announcement. I’m celebrating it because I know what Apple has done with the A-Series processors we use every day in our iPhones and iPads. If they can pull it off in the Mac, we are going to have some true powerhouse systems! Making the jobs of developers so much easier is only going to attack yet more attention to Apple’s platform, end users are going to see the eventual merger of iOS and MacOS, at least on the surface. Unlike the bludgeon approach by Microsoft which resulted in the horror show of Windows 8 Metro, Apple has proceeded with a much more gradual unification of its OS, and I personally love the new User Interface in MacOS Big Sur.

For the end-user, this should be much easier to adapt to, and in the end, muckiest more rewarding since it’s so well thought out. Let’s see what the next 20 years holds!

Look for MacOS Big Sur in the fall, and contact us should you have any questions! 


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Ryszard (Rick) Gold, From Calgary, Alberta, Canada has over 20 years of experience working with Apple products in a technical capacity. Passionate about technology in general, his natural troubleshooting abilities, curiosity and appreciation of good design lead him into working exclusively with Apple Computer products.
Ryszard Gold
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