Is This Mac OS X or iOS?
The newest release of Apple's desktop operating system incorporates the best features of Mac OS X and iOS trying to capitalize on the success of both. Now, don't get me wrong… the operating system is still mostly OS X, but you can definitely see the impression iOS has made on how people think about computing in general.
Many users have expressed concerns that Lion would end up being far too much like Apple's mobile interface, which was designed with a smaller screen in mind, but others are very excited that they will have the power of Mac OS X with a few of the more popular features of iOS. In the end has Apple found that balance between the two to satisfy all users? Lets have a look…
Full Screen Applications
This is a very cool idea and will work well for some applications (iPhoto) and be virtually useless for others (iCal, Address Book). As an example, opening my Apple address book full screen on my 27" iMac would make very little sense to me. To each their own though, and for applications such as iPhoto, Safari and iTunes this is a godsend. As any Mac OS X user knows, maximize on a Mac has never meant full screen, and it will be nice to finally have this option built-in to the operating system.
Launchpad in Mac OS X Lion brings iOS to the desktop… This interface for launching and installing applications from the Mac app store mimics iOS almost exactly. With Launchpad you get a centralized location for launching your applications, installing new applications, and folder management. It is yet to be seen whether users will abandon the dock and spotlight for launching frequently used applications but I would guess that new Mac OS X users and iPhone users will love this new interface.
Mission Control is basically a unified interface for two of my favorite desktop features, Spaces and Expose. If you are a frequent user of these two features, Mission Control will be a fantastic addition for you. However, if you are a user who has become accustom to using the command-tab keystroke for switching between applications this may be a hard habit to break, making Mission Control less useful for you.
Application Management (Multitasking)
In Mac OS X Lion Apple has attempted to let the operating system manage system resources when it comes to open applications. The operating system will have the ability to sleep an application, close an application and even kill an application when it sees fit. In theory this should make for a seamless multitasking environment for users but we will have to wait and see how well it works in practice. Will the operating system manage your resources as well as you could manually? Will there be bugs that cause this new system to close applications that are still in use or haven't been idle for long? Again, we must wait until Mac OS X Lion hits the Mac App Store and millions of eager users upgrade before we will see any potential fallout with buggy features. A system may work well for a few using the developer preview but the real test is will it work well for the masses?
In the same vein as the improved application management is the new resume feature. This feature allows the user to pick up applications where they left off each time they re-open an something that was closed either manually or by the new application management system. How this feature will work with memory hungry applications is the big question. If it works smoothly once we become accustom to this functionality we will wonder how we ever managed without it.
Any user of iOS will love the addition of many of the gestures found on their smartphones and mobile devices. It was bound to happen and now it's here… gestures for the desktop. Tap, pinch, swipe and scroll your way through Mac OS X and navigate your operating system in a way that was previously unheard of. Many of the gestures made popular by iOS on your mobile device will now be found on your desktop, resulting in a much more streamlined way to control your computer. That is, after the fairly steep learning curve for those of you who have never experienced the power of gestures.
Auto Save and Versions
The applications in Mac OS X Lion now have their own little Time Machine built-in. As you work away on that text document or spreadsheet your work will be auto-saved and when you need access to a previous version you simply open the Time Machine like versions interface and restore your file from any previously saved version. I imagine this function will be particularly useful for smaller files and work well but I'm curious to see how it works with larger files such as video file edits. Regardless, this is a major addition to Mac OS X and combined with Time Machine (which backs up your entire operating system) you should never be without a way to recover a previous version of a file when needed.
Perhaps not a huge addition for some but one of the features I'm looking forward to most in Mac OS X Lion is AirDrop. This new feature allows any WI-FI enabled Mac to transfer files quickly and easily through a centralized interface to any other WI-FI enabled Mac. This is particularly useful for houses, schools and office buildings with several Mac computers. When the AirDrop interface is activated on a Mac the machine then becomes "discoverable" to all other Mac machines in the area. Then you are transfering files with a simple drag and drop interface: very cool.
The new operating system from Apple, OS X Lion, will bring an entirely new way of computing to the Mac. Users willing to modify the way they compute on a daily basis will be pleasantly surprised at how much improvement they see in their workflow as they adjust to the new interface and features. That being said, the changes from Mac OS X Snow Leopard to Mac OS X Lion are not so major that users stuck in their ways and unwilling to change are left scratching their head when they first log into Mac OS X Lion. The old ways of Mac OS X are still there, the stability, the functionality and even the old way of handling applications (if you want)… but now we have the option of making use of these new features to improve our day-to-day computing environment.
Have any experience with the Mac OS X developer preview? Tell us your thoughts below…