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Apple Unveils OS X Yosemite, Promises "Continuity"

Apple promises that your Mac and iPhone will play much nicer together with OS X Yosemite. Just don't call it "OS X Weed."

Apple today showed off the latest version of its Mac operating system, Yosemite OS X, which includes a Dropbox-like “iCloud Drive” that syncs content from apps running on Apple mobile devices, a “mail drop” feature for sending big files in email, and more continuity between Mac and iOS devices.

Some icons, windows and utility apps have also been redesigned in the new OS, making the interface more mobile-like.

The company’s senior vice president of software engineering, Craig Federighi, appeared onstage at the annual Worldwide Developers Conference to demo Yosemite.

Finder windows, sidebars and the dock now have a translucent design, so users can see their desktop wallpaper through windows. Some native app icons have been refreshed. “You wouldn’t believe how much time we spend crafting a trashcan,” Federighi said.

Apple’s new iCloud Drive feature takes direct aim at cloud storage services like Dropbox, by backing up content across various apps (not just photos and music), and syncing up edits and changes to that content in real-time.

Most significantly, the company focused on “continuity” features in the Yosemite OS that enable greater interoperability between mobile and desktop.

For example, AirDrop, a native mobile app for sharing content like photos between iPhones, now works between iOS and Mac. If users are composing an email on the iPhone, and are near a Mac, the Mac will pick up the email. There is greater compatibility between SMS (“green” messages from other devices for iPhone users) and the Mac desktop running iMessage. Users can also cue their iPhones to make phone calls from the Mac desktop.

“We believe you should be able to use the right device at the moment,” Federighi said. “But the transitions between these moments should be natural and seamless.”

Some smaller features that got a few “oohs” from the audience of over a thousand developers: The “spotlight” tool now brings up a giant, Google-like search bar in the middle of the desktop. Markup in Mail now includes photo editing, commenting and captioning with the body of an email. And Yosemite will allow up to two hours longer battery life when streaming video like Netflix — without needing to install a plug-in, Federighi said.

Early on in the presentation, Federighi joked that the company avoided a naming-convention disaster by calling the new OS Yosemite — after dismissing “OS X Rancho Cucamonga” and “OS X Weed.”

OS X Yosemite is the first significant update to Apple’s Mac OS since the company unveiled OS X Mavericks last fall (reviewed in full here). Mavericks has not been without its glitches, especially with Mail, but Apple CEO Tim Cook said early on in the WWDC presentation that 50 percent of Mac users are running the latest software on their machines, compared with just 14 percent of Microsoft Windows users who are running Windows 8.

OS X Yosemite is available to developers today and will be available as a public beta this summer. It will ship to consumers in the fall. As with last year’s OS X release, the software update will be free.

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