While we all await the arrival of macOS Big Sur, it seems that Apple has pulled another fast one on beta software releases, pushing out macOS Big Sur 11.0.1 to registered macOS developers.
While the move would have been unheard of even two short years ago, by now it’s becoming old hat. Last year, Apple surprised everyone with a mysterious iOS 13.1 beta that arrived at least two weeks before the actual public release of iOS 13.0 and Apple’s iPhone 11 lineup.
Then there’s this year’s iOS 14.2 beta cycle, which came out days after iOS 14.0, skipping over iOS 14.1 entirely. Apple subsequently dropped iOS 14.1 without much fanfare earlier this month, confirming what we had suspected from the beginning: that iOS 14.1 was going to be the version pre-installed on Apple’s new iPhone 12 devices, and therefore couldn’t be in beta while those devices were still in production.
A very similar scenario likely applied to last year’s iOS 13.0/13.1 releases, where Apple needed to “lock down” iOS 13.0 to have it ready to be installed on all of its iOS 13.0 modules, but knew that it had too many problems to fix not to get to work on iOS 13.1 as quickly as possible so that it would be waiting in the wings.
Big Sur Joins the Party
So now that we’re seeing the same thing happening with macOS Big Sur, it’s fairly easy to make an interference as to the reason.
At this point, we pretty much know that new Macs are coming next month, almost certainly in the form of Apple’s new 13-inch Apple Silicon MacBooks, although there’s also the possibility that one last 16-inch Intel MacBook Pro could be showing up too.
Since of course all of these Macs are going to have Big Sur preinstalled, much like the iPhone 11 and iPhone 12, Apple has reached the point where it needs to have macOS Big Sur 11.0 ready and locked down to put onto these new MacBooks.
However, clearly Big Sur isn’t as polished as Apple would like it to be yet, but since Apple has always been driven by hardware releases over software releases, it’s going to forge ahead with Big Sur in its current form for the sake of its new MacBook lineup next month, and then likely have a Big Sur 11.0.1 patch waiting to go.
What This Means
The good news, however, assuming that it’s possible to infer anything from version numbers, is that the issues with Big Sur 11.0 may be considerably more minor than the debacle with iOS 13.0 last year. In the case of Apple’s iPhone software release, it was iOS 13.1 — a full point release that suggested a much bigger jump between the two versions — while with macOS Big Sur, the 11.0.1 beta suggests that it will simply incorporate a few more minor fixes and patches that Apple didn’t have time to address before having to green-light Big Sur for installation on the new Macs.
As John Gruber of Daring Fireball points out, it really does make Apple’s hardware secrecy seem “nutty” these days, since the company has basically been telegraphing new product releases by virtue of its software release cycles, but we also think that Apple has long taken a somewhat “wink-and-nod” approach to this as well.
After all, it’s not about whether any new hardware is coming — Apple releases new iPhones and MacBooks at almost the exact same times every year — but rather what that new hardware is going to entail, and Apple still likes to take the stage with a lot of enthusiasm every year to announce its new product lineup, and people still watch in rapt attention, even after the rumour mill has already effectively pre-announced all of the new features already.