WWDC 2017: Apple reveals macOS refresh, High Sierra

Apple's anticipated yearly update to macOS has landed. It's called High Sierra.

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(Image: Sean Hollister/CNET)

Apple has announced a fresh update to macOS, called High Sierra, which comes with a range of improvements and refinements to the operating system.

On Monday, Apple announced at the firm's annual Worldwide Developers Conference (WWDC) in San Jose, Calif., a long-awaited update to macOS, High Sierra.

During the week-long conference's keynote speech, Apple head of software Craig Federighi said that the latest, updated OS improves the Safari browser to make it the "world's fastest desktop browser," with an "80 percent faster performance than Chrome."

In addition, the latest OS includes auto-play blocking and intelligent tracking prevention for enhanced security, using machine learning to keep your browser history safe -- rather than as a way simply to block advertisements.

"Do you ever have this experience where you go to buy something on the web, you complete a purchase, and everywhere it seems to follow you around?" Federighi said. "That's because you are. No longer, Safari has intelligence tracking prevention."

MacOS High Sierra also includes split-view features for composition windows, a new persistent sidebar, and a new view that has all of your photos in chronological order for photography fans, as well as improved Faces software.

"When you put efforts into naming people, that's now synchronized automatically across your devices," the executive said.

The Apple File System (APFS) has also been added to macOS as a new default. This includes instant file and directory cloning, built-in crash protection and native encryption, as well as up to 40-percent better compression when video coding, otherwise known as High Efficiency Video Coding (H.256).

Taking over from OS X El Capitan, macOS Sierra (version 10.12), revealed at WWDC 2016 and launched in September, is the first rebranded version of the Mac operating system, resulting in tvOS, watchOS, macOS, and iOS becoming the four main Apple developer platforms.

The newest Macs will also enjoy hardware acceleration via Metal 2, an upgrade to the Apple's API for high-performance graphics.

Virtual reality support is also being brought to Metal.

MacOS Sierra brought Apple's Siri to the desktop, allowing the voice assistant to perform similar tasks to the iOS version including conducting web searches, sending messages, and updating your calendar and events schedule. The update also supports Apple Pay on the web and auto-login across multiple devices.

The name of the latest macOS version was likely to be a Californian landmark. The iPad and iPhone maker has long abandoned using the names of big cats -- such as Puma, Jaguar, and Leopard -- and instead moved to names that point to the company's headquarter locations, such as El Capitan, a summit in California, and Sierra, named after a county in the region.

Read also: Apple announces new iMac range

The name, High Sierra, is a continuation of Sierra, perhaps as a hat-tip to users who wanted to see improvements to the OS, rather than a completely new setup altogether.

MacOS High Sierra is available to developers today and will be released as a public beta in June.

During the WWDC keynote, Apple CEO Tim Cook said there are now 16 million Apple developers registered worldwide.

Read also: WWDC 2017: Apple reveals macOS refresh, High Sierra | WWDC 2017: iOS 11 revealed with more Siri smarts, AR support | | WWDC 2017: Apple positions Mac updates, Mac OS High Sierra for VR developers | WWDC 2017: Apple gives Siri top billing on watchOS 4, Apple Watch

In related news, Cook also revealed that Amazon will be joining tvOS later this year, and the company has upgraded watchOS with new faces, improved fitness tracking, and a more efficient music-streaming service.

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