Few innovations have had greater impact on the way business users operate than tablet computers and smartphones. Professionals, previously tied strictly to desktops and laptops, now find mobile friendly devices capable of powering numerous tasks more efficiently (especially in the field) than a desktop or laptop, yet desktops and laptops remain a necessary constant. Mobile devices have become so pervasive, however, that desktop and laptop environments need to evolve to enable better efficiencies, synchronization, and integration.
Apple gets it. Yosemite, its new OS X operating system, delivers new features that, in retrospect, seem inevitable. Here are some highlights. Also, be sure to check out the Yosemite screenshot gallery.
Yosemite, Apple's 10th iteration of its OS X operating system, is almost immediately recognizable from its airy, simplified interface. Instead of leveraging its well-publicized high-resolution displays by packing its OS full of complicated, richly detailed and potentially distracting icons and windows, Apple's Yosemite instead features refined, simplified elements. The look is no accident. Apple designers worked stridently to incorporate simplified user interfaces popularized within iOS on tablet, smartphone, and mobile devices. Users have a more unified experience, as a result, when using their smartphones, tablets, and computers in the course of a given business day.
Enhanced window translucency makes it easier to locate apps that might previously have been hidden. Rounded windows and smoothed buttons provide less stark and abrupt transitions, making it easier to navigate between email, web pages, documents, spreadsheets, telephone calls (yes, even telephone calls — more on that in a moment) and other items, especially with the introduction of streamlined toolbars.
Use the new OS for only a few minutes, and you immediately come away feeling as if the environment is cleaner. Windows seem to open faster. Navigation between apps is smoother. Working with Yosemite, as a result, is a pleasant experience that feels more efficient.
Improved Notification Center
A new Today view collects critical information regarding the day's planned activities within a single pane. A simple two-finger swipe from the TrackPad's right edge summons the new time-saving view that can be customized using a variety of third-party widgets. Extensive customization is what makes Notification Center so helpful; the information harried professionals require is quite different depending upon whether one works as a journalist, marketing executive, sales professional, financial consultant, IT professional, or building contractor, for example.
Spotlight, OS X's integrated search, now returns relevant information from beyond a user's laptop or desktop. In addition to automatically including contextual results from Wikipedia, Spotlight searches files and information outside the local computer (including on iCloud Drive). Spotlight now publishes relevant results (including restaurants, businesses, and locations) front and center as opposed to off to the side. Searching is a much more purposeful process that returns more relevant data as a result.
Tightened integration is also evident in Yosemite's new Handoff capability, which enables business users to begin drafting a file, such as an email message, on one device (an iPhone, for example) and make additional edits and send the message when complete using another device (such as a Macbook Pro). Such a process more readily matches the way contemporary business users work than previous methods, whereby a user read, wrote, and edited an entire file or message on a single device. Rarely is one device used exclusively, anymore, for all tasks.
The feature, which will change the way business users draft and read files and web pages, works by displaying a corresponding icon in the Mac's Dock or on an iOS device's lock screen. Handoff automatically works with all the following, including applications whose providers code Handoff compatibility within their programs: Calendar, Contacts, Keynote, Mail, Maps, Messages, Numbers, Pages, and Safari.
Never before has smartphone and desktop/laptop integration been as tightly knitted as with Yosemite's new Phone feature, in which users can leverage a Mac to receive and send phone calls. Simply connecting an iPhone via Bluetooth to a compatible Mac and double-clicking a Contact's telephone number enables placing a call to that individual using the Mac's microphone and speaker (or headphone jack) via the iPhone. In the same way, clicking a telephone number found on a web page enables placing a call in the same manner.
This might seem inconsequential at first, but such integrated call management ability is typically only available with expensive phone systems and threatens to contribute to the extinction of traditional landline telephone platforms. Think about it. There's no need, now, to dial a meeting from a calendar appointment or dial a landline phone when placing an order using a telephone number found using Spotlight; just click on the number to place the call.
Here's another real world example. I work in an open office environment with few walls separating numerous workers. Occasionally, numerous competing conversations can be distracting, so I've taken to wearing a pair of noise-isolating headphones. With the integrated microphone, I can now answer and make calls through my iPhone using my Macbook Pro. I no longer need to remove my earbuds, pick up my phone, and perform the gesture required to answer the call. One click, and the Mac accepts the call, which I hear via the earbuds.
Sending and receiving text messages directly from the desktop or laptop is just another sign that the convergence of workstations and iOS 8 mobile devices has arrived. Messages that appear on your iPhone also appear on the Mac, making it easier to pick up a conversation or research a previous thread without having to reach for the device where the message originated.
Mobile business users don't typically possess the time or desire to navigate complicated processes previously necessary to securely share a file. Yosemite's AirDrop service now makes it easy for two professionals to quickly and securely exchange files between Macs and even between Macs and iOS devices. Sharing documents, spreadsheets, PDFs, presentations, and other files, which is a common everyday practice, is simple. All users have to do is share the file using the Share option within the app or from Finder. The recipient subsequently receives an instant alert. The process remains secure, as the recipient must accept the transfer (purposefully initiated by the other user) for the process to work.
What is your favorite feature of Yosemite? How do you think Apple could further improve on its OS X operating system? Let us know your thoughts in the discussion thread below.
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Erik Eckel owns and operates two technology companies. As a managing partner with Louisville Geek, he works daily as an IT consultant to assist small businesses in overcoming technology challenges and maximizing IT investments. He is also president of Eckel Media Corp., a communications company specializing in public relations and technical authoring projects.