What Companies Appreciate from Big Sur, Apple’s Latest macOS Release

Mac users are not the only ones that were excited about the new macOS release, Big Sur. Organizations also benefit from several new features. 

The new version’s reworked user interface is its most easily discernible difference. Program icons now have rounded corners, the Control Center menu for changing basic settings can be found in the upper right corner of your screen—that would make you think of iPad OS and the Control Center looks like the one on a tablet’s display. So, Apple users will need some adjustment to the new user interface. 

More safety 

Much more important, however, is that Apple has changed several details of how organizations can roll out and manage Macs. One of the changes most relevant to security is that infiltrated configuration profiles are outdated. Downloaded profiles are singled out and must be installed by hand. This prevents adware programs from installing themselves using malicious configuration profiles. At the same time, this means that the enterprise package will not allow to install configuration profiles using the command line. With Big Sur, installing a configuration profile will always require active user intervention.  

Other aspects of managing Macs will also change. Examples are that administrators can decide to enforce system updates to be installed at a system reboot and that user updates cannot be postponed to “later”. In addition, company IT departments can remove applications from managed Macs.  

iPad-apps on Macs 

Many Mac applications are already based on those running on their mobile siblings. This is where Apple’s “Catalyst” helps. Catalyst apps coming from iOS already include Apple Maps, the official Twitter app, and the integrated Calendar. With Big Sur, this is expected to be extended significantly in future. On the one hand, Apple is pushing software developers to produce cross-platform applications. On the other, future Macs based on “Apple Silicon” (instead of Intel-processors) will even be able to support iOS apps natively—provided the manufacturer will permit that. This can possibly save software costs. 

Higher level of data security 

From macOS 10.15 Catalina onwards, system files have already been stored in a separate partition, which, as a rule, only offers read access. Big Sur comes with a further improvement of system security: A Signed System Volume (SSV). In practical terms, this means that each system file is signed using an encrypted hash code. Malware will have a much harder time than before trying to manipulate system files. If macOS detects at boot time that files have been compromised the system will not start anymore. 

Updates installed in the background 

IT departments set great store by all the company’s devices being current in their patch status and all system updates being duly rolled out. The update process of macOS has always been quite invasive, however. The system cannot be used while an installation is in progress and the Mac will reboot several times. Starting with Big Sur, updates can now to be installed more unobtrusively and in a less disruptive way. 

Good bye OS X 

Not a new feature but a noteworthy change: The new macOS release is a leap ahead for Apple not just in a technical way. Big Sur takes leave of “OS X” and the “10.x” version number. Instead of counting on to 10.16, Big Sur continues with macOS 11. In all, Mac OS X accompanied Mac users over a period of two decades, from the PowerPC architecture to x86 on to x64. 

At least since Apple has been releasing updates on a yearly basis and free of charge, the previous way of counting releases has led to an inflation of release numbers as the current Catalina release of 10.15 clearly shows. A new naming system was no less than logical given the operating system’s redesign and its additional support for future ARM-Macs. 

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