A one word review of macOS Sierra

Hi! That new macOS X Sierra thing is almost out! There are so many new cool features. You can talk to your computer in humanish language. You can pay for stuff with your iPhone because if you have a Mac and an Android phone what are you doing with your life? There’s a thing that your friend’s TV had where you can watch two footy games at once but that he never really used. There’s a new file system that is super frickin’ cool and could eliminate data loss forever but is not really even implemented yet and you don’t even know what a file system is.

And Siri really is useful as heck on Sierra. Even though it’s running on the “first gen” Siri engine and not the Siri 2.0 that iOS uses, the customized interface and ability to use modifiers to continually refine commands and searches is a huge deal and will be used by millions. It’s the best new feature by far.

But let’s have some real talk for a minute. The only thing that really matters to most people is this: Will this new software screw up my computer if I hit the “update” button? Yes or No.

Look. I am absolutely, 100 percent all about over-analyzing things.I once wrote a report on the difference between vibration engines in iPhones. I once wrote a review of Apple’s iOS that was 24,000 words long. No one read all of it. I can’t even be sure I read all of it. I wrote it on an iPad at the beach. My life was simpler then.

I love to dig deep and to really pull the thread on the motivations and implications of software, which affect all of our lives in deep ways — either for the good or for the bad. But over the last few years, several industry forces have altered the fundamental equations of “reviewing” operating systems.

First of all, they’re mostly either cheap or free. The market forces here are multitude, but security, interoperability between mobile and desktop devices and the fact that upgrades weren’t really contributing much to the bottom line for companies like Apple has taken a lot of the monetary impact out of upgrading an operating system.

Another is the move toward all devices becoming thin clients that are front ends for cloud services. This trend has a lot of origins, but one of the most powerful causes is probably Google Chrome. The browser, not the OS. As people have moved largely to services, switching from computer to computer has become a matter of logging in to Chrome, rather than putting down roots.

These factors, and more, have relegated the upgrade to a much more binary choice. Either upgrading is going to improve your experience a bit and not bollocks up your daily routine, or it’s a hot mess and you should wait a bit for some bugs to get fixed.

Any more, OS reviews have become ad hoc user manuals with an op-ed spin or hyper technical dissections for the obsessed. With the right balance, there are still those audiences who prove willing to dig in — if the feast is presented in a compelling way. But bloviation or parroting the feature lists found on manufacturers sites (but with gifs!) doesn’t help anyone.

This isn’t about the end of technical journalism. There is a need, more than ever, for clearheaded analysis delivered in a pragmatic, humanistic way. And unraveling those skeins can help people to come to a better understanding of the stealthily pulsating systems that guide their electronic lives — whether they realize it or not.

But, mostly, people just want to know whether to click the button.