Tuesday, June 7, 2011

OS X Lion

Amongst all the E3 (Electronic Entertainment Expo) press conferences and electronics coverage, Apple’s Worldwide Developer’s Conference, stubbornly demanded the attention of the technology industry yesterday. Apple kicked things off with Senior Vice President of Product Marketing Phil Schiller showcasing OS X Lion. The new Apple operating system will be available in July for $29 (Lion server will be available for $49) in the Mac App Store, the 4GB download, installs in-place without needing to reboot. When Microsoft announced that it’s Windows Phone 7 Mango update would include 500 new features and updates some people where a bit skeptical, postulating to have 500 updates is quite a claim to go on without providing an actual list to examine. Apple, followed suite, it announced that it’s OS X Lion update would come stocked with over 250 new features and like Microsoft of course there’s no fact sheet to actually confirm and compare these features and changes to, we’ll just have to take their word for it. Instead like, Microsoft, Apple decided to focus on a few changes that they considered major and describe at length what Lion will offer the consumer this summer.
With the majority of Mac sales being laptops (73%), Apple figured that Lion needed to have multitouch and gesture controls deeply integrated into the OS. Apple has been using gestures and multitouch in their operating system for quite some time now, the new gestures in Lion though are some I think all Mac consumers have secretly wanted for quite some time. New gestures include momentum scrolling, tapping or pinching your fingers to zoom in on a web page or image, swiping left or right to turn a page or switch between full screen apps and the desktop, and applications like Safari have the ability to interpret a two-finger swipe to browse forward or back in a webpage. While Macbook Pro and Air laptops all come with a multitouch trackpad Mac Pro or iMac owners will have to pony up cash for Apple’s Magic Trackpad if they plan on taking advantage of the new gesture features in Lion. Lion requires an Intel-based Mac with a Core 2 Duo, i3, i5, i7 or Xeon processor and 2GB of RAM.
In Lion Exposé, Dashboard and Spaces, will be combined into one interface named Mission Control. A simple three-finger upward swipe brings up a screen that shows all your open windows. Mission Control gives you a birds eye view of all your open windows grouped by app, thumbnails previews of all open full screen apps, and your Dashboard, all accessible to you instantly and can be opened with just a tap. Apple was pretty pleased with the idea of full screen apps and it’s collaboration with gesture controls. With a single click an app can go full screen and you can swipe from one window to another, between full screen apps, or back to your Desktop, Dashboard or Spaces without ever leaving the full screen view. Noticeably removed is the option to use the scroll bar, with momentum based scrolling replacing it. Of course all Apple products such as iWork, iLife, Safari, iTunes, Mail, FaceTime and others, take advantage of Lion’s system-wide support for full screen apps.
Apple introduced the Mac App Store into Snow Leopard back in January, since then according to Apple the Mac App Store has become the number one PC software channel surpassing Walmart, Office Depot, and Best Buy. Lion works a lot closer with the App Store, utilizing push notifications, sandboxing applications and using delta (smaller app) updates. The Mac App Store will be taking a cue from the iOS Apple App Store and feature In-app purchases, which will be routed through the Mac App Store.
Another new feature borrowing some of that iOS magic and sprinkling it on Apple’s latest desktop OS is called Launchpad. Launchpad allows you to arrange apps as icons and be placed and grouped in folders, similar to what can be done in iOS. By pinching your fingers on the touchpad the Launchpad opens and all your Mac apps are displayed in a full screen layout allowing you to scroll through pages of your apps until the desired app is located and opened with a tap.
The last bit of feature’s announced for Lion were “Resume”, “Auto-Save”, “AirDrop” and an update to the Mail application. “Resume” is a new function that allows you to start applications in the same place/state they were left in when you quit, it also remembers all the windows that were open. Resume, works even after you’ve restarted your computer or completely shutdown, allowing you to pick right up where you last left off. “Auto-Save”, in Lion adds the auto-saving ability to the entire system, all the saved states of a file are saved in a log allowing for multiple versions of a file to be saved and recovered. Applications will have a new menu option to allow users the ability to lock documents so that aren’t automatically saved, alternatively the option to duplicate, revert to the last version opened, or browse all versions of the file exist as well. When choosing to browse all versions of an auto-saved file it initiates a Time-Machine-esque view where the current version is displayed along side the saved ones, probably the most unique feature in auto-save is the ability to copy and paste between all versions of a file (current and all saved versions).
AirDrop, was created to make sharing files between Macs easier. Users connected to the same WiFi network and have AirDrop enabled, automatically establishes a peer-to-peer wireless connection. Through this connection pictures for each user connected are shown and files can be shared simply by dragging and dropping files onto their pictures. If accepted by the recipient, the shared file is securely (encrypted) downloaded to their computer. Rounding out the last feature previewed at WWDC for OS X Lion, the Mail app now features a conversation view feature that groups related messages into a scrollable timeline, similar to what Google currently allows in Gmail. Mail now allows for two or three-column views and includes built-in support for Microsoft Exchange 2010.