Apple releases OS X Yosemite for Mac for free; iWork updated

Apple's latest desktop operating system lands on existing and new iMacs and MacBooks for free. Also updated, the company's iWork productivity suite.

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Image: CNET/CBS Interactive

Four months after Apple announced its next-generation desktop and notebook operating system, the company is ready to set it free.

At an event at Apple's headquarters in Cupertino, California on Thursday, the iPhone and iPad maker revealed something for its Mac lineup, too.

Meet the latest version of the Mac's software: OS X 10.10, dubbed "Yosemite."

The tenth iteration of the popular Mac software since 2001, and the second in the California-focused naming scheme after OS X 10.9 Mavericks, Yosemite lands with a number of visual improvements.

iWork has also been updated, including a new user interface. The office suite, which includes Pages for writing, Numbers for spreadsheets, and Keynote for presentations, comes with iCloud integration.

But the star of the software show was undoubtedly Apple's operating system.

Yosemite's user interface is familiar but improved. Users will see a redesigned Dock menu bar, "dark mode" for night-time working, a new system-wide font, and other user interface and experience tweaks, which give the software a "fresh lick of paint" feel.

Yosemite also comes with a bevy of new features designed to bridge the gap between its desktop and mobile users.

Featured in the new operating system, its flagship Continuity feature , which essentially provides near-infinite connectivity and seamless productivity between its Mac, and iPhones and iPads.

Part of Continuity, a feature Apple calls Handoff, allows iPhone and iPad users to work on one application and carry on working on the Mac, so long as the devices share the same iCloud account.

Continuity also allows iPhone users to share their connection with their Mac when there isn't a Wi-Fi connection nearby. And, if you receive a phone call from your iPhone, you can pick it up from your Mac and carry it on from your iPhone or iPad without missing a beat.

Of course, these features have yet to be widely documented because, until Yosemite's release, iPhone and iPad owners running the latest iOS 8 version haven't been able to use it.

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Now that the remainder of iOS 8's unreleased features — arriving thanks to Yosemite's support — will complete the mobile software, it's hoped this will boost usage figures.

Apple's share among existing iPhone and iPad users remains stale, almost a month after it first launched. With an install rate of just 47 percent — the exact same share of its older iOS 7 mobile operating system, with the remaining for much older devices — it failed to immediately take off.

Many suggested it was due to iterative update problems with iOS 8.0.1 , putting many users off upgrading to the software. Others believed it would slow down their older devices. Others, notably Apple watcher John Gruber, believed it was due to the amount of storage space the upgrade required.

There remains a strong case, however, that many were waiting for the final bits of iOS 8 to land — features which coincide with Yosemite's launch.

Apple's recent third-quarter earnings (its fourth-quarter earnings are later this month) showed the company has more than four million Mac sales each month, accounting for about 4.1 percent of the overall market share for OS X Mavericks, latest NetMarketShare statistics show.

Both OS X Yosemite and iWork are available for free for immediate download on Thursday through the Apple App Stores on Mac and iOS.

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