Apple’s Successful Beta Season

Hooray! It’s macOS Sonoma release day. This new operating system has some great features, including better dictation, small (but nice) improvements to the Apple productivity apps (Kanban in Reminders!), a bunch of messaging and video conferencing updates, PDF tools, and desktop widgets. Stephen and I will cover them in depth on this weekend’s episode of the Mac Power Users.

But there is a more significant point here. Apple had an extraordinarily successful beta season in 2023. They promised some solid updates in June at WWDC and delivered on them from the beginning. None of the new features required a “boil the ocean” effort by Apple, but all of them provided a lot of bang-for-the-buck, quality-of-life improvements.

Moreover, they got it all out with very little drama. They didn’t have to delay the iPadOS launch until weeks (or months) after the iOS release. Moreover, this macOS version is shipping just a week after the iPhone. At the same time, they are also going full tilt at an entirely new operating system with visionOS.

I am impressed with the effort all of that took. I would love to know the story behind all of this. I’ve got four pet theories, none of which have a lick of evidence:

Apple is getting better at this

They’ve been updating multiple major operating systems for over a decade now. I expect they’ve learned quite a bit.

Labor and Management Improvements

That experience also gives management a better idea of what to expect and aim for while giving engineering a better idea of what they can pull off in the time allotted.

A Lot of the Heavy Lifting is Behind Them

Apple has taken on some big tasks over the past decade as they’ve moved to SwiftUI and made significant architectural changes to the programming interface and the chipset. All of that is behind them now, which should make things easier from this point.

Forced Constraints

This theory is probably a stretch, but I think the fact that Apple has looming deadlines related to visionOS gave the company even more focus across the board. That showed up in the decisions and work done on everything else.

I expect all of these factors (and probably a few more) played a role in Apple’s success this year, but I hope their management is paying attention and figuring out how to make this the new norm.