It is almost here! Apple’s Worldwide Developers Conference (WWDC), and with it will come the announcement of the new version of macOS 14 Redwood. (Of course I’m guessing about the name). A lot of enterprises are now fully on macOS Ventura or have most of their fleets on the latest OS. This is the time when the Engineering teams are well versed in the new features and bugs and are also starting to look ahead at what is next.
We all have a wish list for what we would like to see in the next version and, while plenty of blogs focus on the consumer features, I thought I would share what I’m looking forward to and really wishing for.
Two Words: Software Update
It is no secret that the Software Update process for macOS could use a revamp. For a normal user, a simple upgrade button, some options to install later and a couple of password prompts are probably enough. But for an enterprise, not so much. We require far more flexibility and customization. Proof of this are projects like Nudge, Super and mUU that have become verbs as common as “google” in the mac admin community.
What I need:
- Reliability. I need the softwareupdated process to work reliably. I don’t want to have to restart it every X amount of days, or to wonder if it is working.
- Customizability. Apple has done a great job so far with the MDM keys for SheduleOSUpdate, but even that process is not entirely reliable.
- Bandwidth Management. Not everyone has Fiber Internet, or a reliable connection.
- Install and restart hours
- Personalization - IT Branding and messaging
Let’s break the wishlist down.
Installing an MDM profile that checks for updates every 12 hours, then downloads and installs any available update, and then prompts the user should be enough, right? It should, but it rarely works as expected. Users tend to leave their devices on for as long as possible without rebooting. And while this is a testament to how reliable the OS is, it is not good for security. The softwareupdated process tends to hang and the system never sees the update.
In the enterprise it gets worse. With many devices in this state, you quickly end up with a very fragmented environment.
Running a dozen devices in a school lab is one thing, tens of thousands spread out all over the world is a different story. One size does not fit all. Different personas have different needs; from a knowledge worker who can take an update within a couple of days to a developer who cannot afford to interrupt a process on short notice.
This means that the installLater and deferrals process need to work correctly and reliably.
Try downloading a 14GB update in the middle of a video call where you are presenting while working from a location with questionable internet service.
Administrators should have the ability to customize bandwidth utilization as a percentage of what is available, or perhaps have the ability to allow end-user to select. For example, allow 95% usage during my lunch hour and temporarily pause during an important presentation.
Install and Restart Hours
Similar to the bandwidth dilemma is when we can actually install and reboot. We tend to procrastinate, and sometimes this means that we missed the last deferral window, and the system decides it is time to update right before that important call. While we will never truly be able to avoid this situation, we can at least train our users on what the “maintenance window” is. Of course, we need to take into account different time zones. So there has to be some flexibility there… (I’m looking at you declarative management.)
Last but not least, personalization. Again, borrowing from tools like Nudge, it would be nice to be able to include company branding and messaging, including being able to link to Intranet sites or How-To articles to provide a better update experience.
Many of the features above are halfway there, others are provided by MDM vendors or Open Source products but they are too disparate and unreliable to provide the level of service and user experience that we expect from an Apple device. In the end, for this to really work, it needs to be baked into the OS, it needs to start from within.
But these are not just wishes tossed out into the ether like a message in a bottle. If you feel the same way, please file a Feedback with Apple, talk to your account team and make sure that they know this is important to you and your organization. This is the time to do it, before the OS is released in the fall. Now is our chance to make a difference!
I know, I may be asking for the impossible, but hey, one can always wish…