macOS Monterey’s headline feature, Universal Control, was originally slated to launch nearly two months ago. Craig Federighi gave a mesmerizing demo of the feature at WWDC over the summer and to the viewer’s eye, it appeared nearly ready to go – it was seamless. But we quickly learned that behind the scenes, that wasn’t necessarily the case. Now here we are, six months after the formal introduction of macOS Monterey and Universal Control is still nowhere to be found. What’s going on?
When Apple dropped the first developer beta of macOS Monterey, it wasn’t necessarily surprising that some features were missing – that’s usually the case with the first developer betas of any Apple operating system. We just expected that they would add Universal Control in beta 2 or a subsequent beta release.
In late August, developers learned that there was a workaround to enable the feature in the beta 5 of macOS Monterey. It was hidden deep within the OS, still clearly a work-in-progress but technologically functional. Think of it like a Chrome flag that Google has turned off by default. 9to5Mac even created a guide that walked you through how to enable the feature.
Enabling the feature through the workaround even forced System Preferences to show a new display dialogue with settings options for Universal Control.
In beta 10 of macOS Monterey in mid-October, Apple quietly labeled Universal Control a “beta” feature in that hidden System Preferences menu. We speculated at the time that Apple may release the feature with the first shipping version of Monterey, albeit with a few bugs and that the beta tag was to warn users.
After Apple’s October MacBook Pro event, the company confirmed via its website that Universal Control was no longer shipping with the first release of macOS Monterey but would rather be available “later this Fall.” The feature wasn’t even shown off again during the event, something Apple likes to do with flashy new OS headliners.
Now we are here in mid-December and Apple has pushed the release of Universal Control farther back to “Spring.” Spring of 2022 spans the time between March 20th and June 21st – that’s a long way off, but not so far off that it would cause concern to the average user. There are three possibilities that I see here.
The first is that Apple is planning to hold Universal Control for release alongside some new hardware, like that new iMac Pro that’s been rumored for so long. The second is that the feature gets pushed to macOS 13 and ships with the first developer beta at WWDC 2022. Both a Spring Apple event and WWDC 2022 would fall within the new scheduled timeframe. But what about the third option?
What if Universal Control is the next AirPower?
Yup, I went there. What if Universal Control just never ships? The way that Apple has hidden the feature from us and continuously pushed back its introduction feels eerily similar to the experience of waiting for AirPower in 2018. Like Universal Control, the company kept iterating internally, but continued delaying the public release. Eventually, they decided they couldn’t ship the product because it didn’t meet their standards. They ultimately shipped a compromised product in the form of the MagSafe Duo Charger in 2020.
There is something that’s a bit different about the current Universal Control situation compared to the AirPower one. We’ve actually seen regular people use the feature, and we know that it works –members of the 9to5Mac staff have used it on their own machines. And while Apple has so far kept any trace of Universal Control out of iPadOS, it’s worked between Macs running Monterey developer betas.
Apple may be having issues with macOS and iPadOS properly communicating. While universal apps between the operating systems use the same file formats and the two are even built on the same foundation, it’s possible that there was some unforeseen compatibility issue.
Another possible scenario is that Universal Control has some kind of privacy related hiccups. What Apple is trying to do here with multiple platforms isn’t new, but their approach is likely different.
Other companies have done similar things. In fact, you can go download software called Synergy that enables many of Universal Control’s core features on macOS today; their website even states that Apple and Pixar employees are users of the product.
But the security of wirelessly connecting several devices and transmitting private data is a tricky business – Apple is more than likely trying to integrate their very serious privacy controls and standards into Universal Control. Wireless exploits aren’t uncommon these days, so Apple doesn’t want to accidentally let some stranger take control of your Mac or iPad.
Because Apple has been completely silent on the reasons for the continued delays, we’ll just have to wait and see if or when Universal Control is actually released. Since we’ve still got at least three more months until Spring, you should check out Synergy if you are particularly anxious to get your hands on some of these new features.
Are you looking forward to Universal Control? What do you plan to use it for? Let us know in the comments below.
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