Apple Debuts Mac OS X ‘Maverick’, New Haswell MacBook Airs, and a Mysterious Cylindrical Mac Pro at WWDC

As expected, Apple unloaded a slew of announcements at its WWDC today, including an update of the venerable Mac OS X, a couple of refreshed MacBook Air notebooks with Intel Haswell processors inside, and a totally redesigned Mac Pro.

In OS X Mavericks, Apple is eschewing the big cat-themed naming scheme while adding some new features. First, there’s Finder tabs, so when you have multiple Finder windows open, you can just group them together into one windows with multiple tabs; additionally, you can drag items between tabs, which is a nice touch. Another nifty new Finder-related feature is the ability to add tags to a document when you save it, which makes for much easier searching. The tags work across anywhere you save an item, including on your local hard drive or in iCloud.

Apple Mac OS X Maverick
Mac OS X Maverick

There’s also better support for multiple displays; now, users can view docks and menus across more than one display, and you can hook up an HDTV using AirPlay and Apple TV as a secondary display as well, which opens up some interesting viewing options in the living room. Other miscellaneous features include support for OpenGL 4, an “AppNap” function that suspends apps that aren’t needed at the moment, and an effort to reduce the overall CPU load with more intelligent power states.

The Safari Web browser has a redesigned sidebar with improved scrolling, and a new Shared Links feature lets you see items your friends have shared from the likes of Twitter and LinkedIn--it sounds like a backdoor sort of social networking. iCloud Keychain will now remember your website logins, WiFi networks, passwords, and other online information that you’d want to have handy for more convenient browsing, and it syncs across your devices.

iOS push notifications are now available on the Mac desktop, Maps is on the desktop and more integrated across devices, iBooks is available on the Mac, and your passwords are now available on all your Apple devices. Maverick is available in a preview version today for developers, and the consumer version will come later this year.

Macbook Air
New Apple Macbook Air Notebooks

On the hardware side, Apple is updating its two new MacBook Air devices; both the 11-inch and 13-inch versions will enjoy better battery life (up to 9 hours and 12 hours, respectively), thanks in no small part to having Intel’s new Haswell chips inside. They’ll also have 802.11ac WiFi on board. Both models have 1.3GHz Intel Core i5 or i7 (Haswell) processors, Intel HD Graphics 5000, 4GB of RAM, and has 128GB or 256GB of flash storage.

They’ll enjoy the support of a new AirPort Extreme and AirPort Time Capsule base station that will rock 2TB or 3TB of storage have 802.11ac speeds. Shipping today, the 11-inch Macbook Air starts at $999 while the 13-inch model starts at $1,099.

Mac Pro
New Apple Mac Pro

Arguably the scene stealer on the Mac OS X and desktop side of things is a completely redesigned Mac Pro. The 9.9-inch tall cylindrical computer boasts a new “unified thermal core” which is designed to conduct heat away from the CPU and GPU while distributing it uniformly and using a single bottom-mounted intake fan. It rocks a 12-core Intel Xeon (256-bit) processor, dual AMD FirePro GPUs (standard), 1866MHz DDR3 ECC memory (60GBps), and PCIe flash storage with up to 1.25GBps read speeds. The system promises 7 teraflops of graphics performance, supports 4k displays, and has a host of ports including four USB 3.0, two gigabit Ethernet ports, HDMI 1.4, six Thunderbolt 2 ports that offer super-fast (20Gbps) external connectivity.

Brilliance -- A PCI Express Flash SSD Is Standard In The New Mac Pro

AMD Takes Another Win - Dual FirePro GPUs Inside

Update - 6/11/ - Editor's Note:  What's perhaps most impressive about Apple's new Mac Pro is that finally we're seeing direct-attached, PCI Express Solid State Storage in a desktop/workstation solution from a major OEM.  We've been proponents of getting rid of the translation and latency associated with adapting Flash-based storage to legacy SATA interfaces and then attaching it all to a PCI Express link anyway.  Apple had the foresight to jump on the bandwagon earlier than any other manufacturer yet again, and the new Mac Pro has a true PCI Express SSD (no SATA bridging thank you) on board for a serious throughput and raw bandwidth advantage in its storage subsystem.  It will be interesting to find out what manufacturer Apple partnered with on this one.

Another highlight is the system's dual AMD FirePro GPUs. It's a little surprising to see AMD took the design win here from NVIDIA but it's all about design cycles and the window of opportunity.  Perhaps we'll see NVIDIA variants coming down the road.

Apple appears to have done a good job of drilling deep into the sort of upgrades that affect people’s day to day computing, and those are very welcome indeed.