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Apple's Lion: A marriage of iOS and OS X

Is bringing iPad features into Macs a good thing?

We take a look at how Apple's renewing its love for the Mac and dig into what the new version of Mac OS X, Lion, may mean for Mac users going forward.

Enter the Lion

The big news, of course, was Mac OS X 10.7, aka. Lion. Scheduled for a release next summer, Apple's preview of its new desktop OS focused mostly on features borrowed from the company's iOS devices:

  • More advanced use of multi-touch gestures
  • A Mac App Store
  • The ability for apps to auto-save work and auto-resume to their last-used point when re-launched
  • Apps that operate in full-screen mode rather than in windows
  • A feature called Launchpad with functionality similar to an iPad's home screen
  • A feature called Mission Control that combines elements of Exposé, Dashboard, Spaces and full-screen apps

Judging from tweets sent during the launch event, I'm not the only one who had some misgivings when Jobs said that part of the meaning of 'Back to the Mac' was bringing iOS components into Mac OS X. The rest of the demo left me feeling somewhat confident that Apple is doing this in a smart way, although I'll hold off any further endorsement until I can spend some serious time with these features.

Multi-touch gestures

Apple believes that users don't want to interact with their desktop and laptop computers via a touchscreen as they do an iPhone. It's not ergonomic, Jobs said, and most desktop applications are simply not built for that kind of input.

Instead, the company is focusing on the multi-touch interfaces it already makes for Macs: the larger glass trackpad in MacBooks, the year-old Magic Mouse that blends a touch interface with a traditional computer mouse, and the more recent Magic Trackpad. I think this makes a lot of sense; Apple's proven that it can incorporate multi-touch effectively using these types of devices.

My concern is that multi-touch gestures (as well as some of the other interface changes planned for Lion, which I'll get to shortly) may seem overly complicated to new Mac users. If the new users come with experience using an iPhone or iPad, they shouldn't have problems, but I'm worried about less tech-savvy individuals who buy a Mac thinking it's just easier than Windows (and who can blame them, given that this has been Apple's marketing stance for some time now?). Admittedly, Apple's retail stores are great at user education and may be able to absorb some of the challenge.

I'm also concerned how multi-touch gestures will play out with users who prefer non-Apple input devices, as well as for those who use older MacBooks that don't include the current large multi-touch trackpad. (Apple continued to sell such laptops into 2009.) If significant multi-touch features in Lion won't be supported on these systems, it could certainly add fuel to the fire for those who complain that Apple creates closed ecosystems that force upgrades.

NEXT PAGE: The Mac App Store

  1. Macs get iPad features
  2. FaceTime
  3. Enter the Lion
  4. The Mac App Store
  5. Auto-save and auto-resume
  6. Launchpad and app home screens
  7. Mission Control
  8. iLife '11: Evolutionary, not revolutionary
  9. Conclusions


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