macOS 13 Ventura: The Ars Technica review


If you asked me to tell you all the most exciting things that happened to the Mac in the last two years, I’d start with hardware, not software.

The transition from Intel’s chips to Apple silicon has been transformative, ushering in huge battery-life boosts and allowing MacBook Airs and Mac minis to do the kind of work you would have needed a MacBook Pro or 27-inch iMac for a few years ago. The Mac Studio ably fills the longstanding gap between the Mac mini and Mac Pro in Apple’s desktop lineup, and new function-over-form redesigns for the MacBook Pro and MacBook Air seem purpose-built to address criticisms of the Mac hardware lineup circa 2016. These Macs would be exciting upgrades whether they were running Big Sur or Ventura.

On the software side, it’s not as though nothing has happened to the Mac in the last two years. It’s getting new features. I still find it comfortable to work in, even as Windows 11 has introduced some genuinely handy window-management features that I miss when I’m not using it (especially in multi-monitor mode).

But it does feel like the software side of the Mac is lacking its own unique direction and identity lately. Overwhelmingly, new features for macOS merely help it keep pace with what is happening on the iPhone and iPad. That feels doubly true in Ventura, where a core system app has been rewritten from the ground up to mirror its iOS counterpart, where a new window management feature is being implemented in the same way on the iPad, and where new apps and updates to old ones are increasingly just iPad apps running inside macOS windows.

The throughline for all these features is about making the Mac more welcoming and comfortable for people who come to it through one of Apple’s mobile platforms. This makes some sense. The Mac is Apple’s most powerful, extensible computing platform, both in hardware and software. It’s also the smallest, by shipping volume. Maybe some of the first iPhone buyers were Mac users first, but the balance surely flipped years ago.

But when was the last time that the Finder, the Dock, or the Menu Bar was given a substantial, non-cosmetic rethink? When did Apple last make major improvements to the way that windows coexist on a given screen? The Mac does get new under-the-hood features that are specific to it, but the headline features are mostly iOS and iPadOS imports, especially this year.

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