AWS launches EC2 computing instances running Apple MacOS

Andy Jassy, chief executive officer of web services at Inc., speaks during the Amazon Web Services (AWS) Summit in San Francisco on April 19, 2017.

David Paul Morris | Bloomberg | Getty Images

Amazon’s cloud division on early Tuesday announced the availability of new virtual computing instances for software developers that run Apple’s MacOS operating system, representing an alternative to Microsoft Windows and open-source Linux.

Amazon Web Services controls the cloud infrastructure market, and it has sought to keep its lead against the likes of Google and Microsoft in part by regularly adding to its wide assortment of tools. No major cloud provider to date has brought about a means to rent a remote computing infrastructure with MacOS from their clouds. As a result, at least initially, Amazon has an advantage that can attract customers to AWS, which is the main source of Amazon’s operating income.

Rather than run MacOS on its standard computer servers, AWS is drawing on Apple’s Mac Mini computers, featuring Intel Core i7 chips, to deliver EC2 virtual-computing instances with MacOS, according to a statement. The instances run on bare metal, meaning that a developer will get the full power of a Mac, rather than virtual machines, which deliver small virtual slices of physical computers, a spokesperson told CNBC on Monday. Instances of Mac Minis feature Apple’s M1 Arm-based chips will arrive in 2021, AWS said in a blog post.

Developers can put early versions of their applications on the instances to run necessary tests before rolling out updates to the end users. The instances provide a way to remotely use Mac-specific software such as the Xcode integrated development environment. Through Xcode, developers can upload apps to Apple’s App Store. Developers can alternatively do that with existing Mac computers, or by relying on Mac specialists such as MacStadium.

Intuit, a major AWS customer, has started using the new Mac instances, and Amazon’s Ring subsidiary plans to use them. The instances are available from five of AWS’ 23 data center regions located around the world, according to the statement.

Amazon and Apple have a close relationship. Apple’s iCloud services rely on AWS. As of last year Apple was spending over $30 million on AWS. AWS is buying the Mac Minis from Apple to provide the Mac instances, the spokesperson said.

AWS’ annual Reinvent conference, normally a gathering of customers, software makers and employees in Las Vegas, kicked off Monday as an online event because of the coronavirus pandemic.

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Safari refinements justify setting the browser as default in macOS Big Sur

If Safari isn’t your default Mac web browser, it should be when Apple releases macOS Big Sur. Here’s how Apple developers have readied the browser for adulthood and the demands of the workplace.

Although it’s just 17 years old, Apple’s Safari web browser sure is looking like a full-grown adult. With macOS Big Sur improvements on the way, there’s no doubt that Safari can handle responsibility. Safari should be your default browser if you’re using a Mac. Here’s why.

Craig Federighi, Apple’s senior vice president of Software Engineering, confirmed Apple’s commitment to its web browser at 2020’s digital-due-to-the-pandemic WWDC. “This year we’re building on Safari’s amazing performance, elegant design, and pioneering privacy protections to deliver the biggest update to Safari since it was first introduced.”

Safari is a performance beast, as Federighi noted. Apple reported performance running JavaScript is better than ever, and the browser boasts 50% faster page loading than Google Chrome. In the real world, that means you’ll spend more time reading content you seek instead of waiting for pages to load.

Not only is Apple’s browser fast, it also uses less energy. Thus, your Mac’s battery will last longer, which means you can work longer from your back porch, kitchen table, or local coffee shop without having to stay in range of a power outlet.

SEE: macOS Big Sur: A cheat sheet (free PDF) (TechRepublic)

At a time when everyone, from marketers to government agencies, are tracking users and their data, Safari prioritizes privacy. At WWDC Apple’s Federighi celebrated the fact Safari is the first browser to introduce private browsing, cookie blocking, and intelligent tracking prevention. With Big Sur, Apple Safari will give users more visibility into the ways websites track them, while also alerting users to the ways the browser is protecting them. A new Privacy Report button in the toolbar enables learning how each site a user visits is treating the user’s privacy. Besides monitoring unwanted tracking of the user’s web activity, Safari also securely monitors the status of passwords stored within the browser for additional protection. 

Safari’s start page already learns from user behavior and adds helpful shortcuts to commonly visited sites, which speeds access to frequently used resources. With Big Sur, users will also be able to customize the browser launch page. Big Sur introduces the ability to add favorites to the start page and add curated wallpapers and personalized background images simply by dragging the images onto the Safari page. It’s easy, and there are no multiple menus to navigate in search of the corresponding buried Settings pane. Such personalization assists configuring branding elements that could prove handy when hosting Microsoft Teams and Zoom sessions and sharing out one’s display and fulfilling other sales and marketing actions.

With the Big Sur release, you’ll be able to access your Reading List directly from the Safari Start Page, too. If you aren’t using Reading Lists, you should. How many times have you come across an article that presents intriguing information or statistics for your industry or professional role, but you didn’t have time at that moment to review or digest all the information? Take a moment to add those items to your Reading List, and then get caught up when appropriate. 

Siri, which is receiving its own robust improvements, presents suggested sites, too. The feature will continue in the Big Sur Safari release, so there’s no worry that functionality will be lost. 

But that’s not all.

If, like me, you regularly read and review foreign news, articles, and reports in order to keep pace with world news, industry trends, and career information, you may find your high school and college foreign language skills have developed rust. With Big Sur’s new inline translation capabilities, you’ll be able to read translated text as you scroll. Viewing the translation feature in operation during the WWDC demonstration by Beth Dakin, Apple’s Manager of Safari Engineering, I felt as if I was witnessing the equivalent of the Babel Fish real-time translation phenomena famously celebrated within Douglas Adams’ Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy series. (For the record, I happened to be wearing my Hitchhiker’s T-shirt while watching WWDC 2020, and I even wrote “Babel Fish-like” in my notes to ensure I remembered to mention feeling that sensation.)

With Big Sur, Apple’s making a more aggressive push by encouraging Safari extension adoption, too. Extensions, built properly, can provide powerful assistance when surfing the web. Whether you’re seeking to add a task to your to-do list (Todoist), confirming you’re writing properly (Grammarly), or simply blocking unwanted ads (Adblock Plus), extensions quickly extend Safari’s capabilities in very useful and time-saving ways, hence the name: Extensions.

Apple is making it easier for developers to support Safari by extending the web extensions API, which simplifies porting extensions from other browsers. Apple is also building a new category in its App Store to showcase Safari extensions, which will make them easier to find. The change is welcome, as locating reliable extensions currently requires scrolling through a seemingly haphazardly curated list.

Safari’s extension behaviors are more secure than competing options. Whereas other browsers’ extensions can access each page users visit, as well as the text users enter, Safari permits users to specify which sites extensions can interact with and when.

All told, macOS Big Sur’s coming Safari improvements are welcome and timely. All you need to do is set the browser as your default to ensure you’re working with the browser that’s come of age.

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Craig Federighi, Apple’s senior vice president of Software Engineering, speaks at WWDC 2020.

Image: Apple Inc.

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