First Thoughts on Mac OS X Lion
Wednesday, July 20th, 2011
The past few years have brought tons of change to the world of computers. The iPhone showed us how great touch screen computing could be, and the iPad showed that sometimes, new interfaces can make apps much nicer. Today, Apple has released the latest version of their flagship product, Mac OS X Lion. It's the first major OS that shows how much mobile computing has affected the computer industry, and brings many of the things Apple has learned from touch screens and iOS to the Mac.
So what's in Lion? Beyond the already popular features in OS X, Lion has added a number of new enhancements that bring the best of iOS style to the desktop. I personally have only ever had limited exposure to OS X, but am looking forward to using Lion much more extensively. Here's my quick thoughts on it so far.
First, the Mac App Store and its Launchpad sidekick are a brilliant move for Apple. I've bemoaned for some time the increasing lack of new, innovative apps on Windows. There's just so little new stuff to be found. Apple is making it so much easier for new developers to target Mac users with apps, that there's simply an explosion of interesting and high quality apps on OS X today. Plus, Apple has brought it's own iWork apps to the App Store, which effectively gives you a high quality Office suite with most of Office's features for $60. Better still, you can run all App Store apps you purchase on all of your computers. Suddenly, just with the cost of Office and a couple more apps, PCs start sounding more expensive.
Second, the pervasive use of multitouch gestures is a great way to let normal users get more power out of their computers. Most people find keyboard shortcuts very confusing, but multitouch gestures are, for the most part, very natural. One thing I'm less sure about is the new reversed iOS-style scrolling, but you can always change that if you want. One thing about it: if you get Lion, make sure to get a Magic Trackpad as well to take advantage of the new touch gestures.
Third, the bundled apps are again setting the bar way above Windows. Mail, for example, supports Exchange by default. In Windows, you have to purchase Outlook just to receive mail from an Exchange account. There's another way Macs are seeming cheaper. Then, the new full screen apps look beautiful, and it'll be interesting to see how developers use these going forward to make new immersive app interfaces.
So, that's a quick breeze through my thoughts on the new features. I can't wait to get my hands on it, and will definitely write more about it then.
Apple has been working for years to get us to quit using CDs and DVDs. The iTunes store lets you get your music and movies without disks, and then the App Store brought program installs without disks. OS X Lion now brings your new operating system without a disk, too.
This is actually not the newest thing. I personally installed Windows 7 and Ubuntu on my PC with a USB flash drive, and hardly ever use the DVD drive on it. I've installed Office, Photoshop Elements, and almost everything else from downloads instead of disks. It's been slightly more difficult for some things, but it just feels better to install software without using a DVD. Plus, it takes one step out of the process.
So Apple is now making this mainstream with Lion. If you have a Mac running Snow Leopard, you can purchase a Lion upgrade in the App Store for $29, and upgrade today. Then, all new Macs now come with Lion preinstalled, and the newest Minis and Airs also include a new feature Internet Recovery feature that can let you download and install Lion if you replace your hard drive or have some other critical problem. That is a very, very neat feature in my opinion. Finally, later this year, you'll be able to purchase Lion on a USB drive if you want a physical copy. One thing missing: optical disks.
The tech community has outdone itself this time with OS X Lion reviews, so if you'd like to dig deeper and see more of what's new in Lion, here's the best articles so far for your reading pleasure:
- Cody Fink at MacStories: A New Cat to Tame: Mac OS X Lion Review
- Shawn Blanc: + OS X Lion
- Ben Brooks at TBR: Time for the Big Cat
- Jason Snell at Macworld: Apple Mac OS X 10.7 Lion Review
- And, if you'd like to really dig deep into OS X Lion, you can't miss John Siracusa's 19 page in-depth review of Lion at Ars Technica. It's an impressive article that digs into the most geeky parts of OS X, and shows why they matter. It also included perhaps the best ending, that summerizes what Lion is all about:
“Over the past decade, better technology has simply reduced the number of things that we need to care about. Lion is better technology. It marks the point where Mac OS X releases stop being defined by what’s been added. From now on, Mac OS X should be judged by what’s been removed.”
Best of all, if you're an Ars Technica subscriber, you can download it as a PDF or ePub eBook. Alternately, you can purchase it a copy of the full review from the Kindle Store for $4.99.
I can't wait to try it out, and let you know my own thoughts on it. For now, though, there's more than enough written about it to know Lion inside and out before you upgrade or buy a new Mac. Apple is really on a roll, and they're not stopping yet. Best of all, they're actively working to make computers simpler for anyone to use, and that's a policy I can easily get behind. Bravo.
Microsoft, Windows 8 had better be really good.