Apple Mac OS X Lion: what you need to know (so far)

Apple Mac OS X Lion: what you need to know (so far)

Summary: Apple CEO Steve Jobs has unveiled the latest version of its desktop operating system, Mac OS X 10.7 Lion. Here's what you need to know.

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Apple CEO Steve Jobs on Wednesday unveiled the latest version of its desktop operating system, Mac OS X 10.7 Lion. Here's what you need to know.

While the Cupertino, Calif.-based company gave only a preview of the operating system, the theme is that the desktop operating system found on MacBooks, iMacs and Mac Pro computers is taking steps toward its newer mobile operating system, iOS, found on iPhones, iPods and iPads.

That means Apple is even more apparent in its decision to play the platform and tighten the integration of its product portfolio, instead of supporting two distinct development paths. That also means Lion is in a way a transitional release for Apple -- in direct contrast to 10.5 Leopard, which set the modern standard, and 10.6 Snow Leopard, which refined it -- and has an odd marriage of desktop and mobile features.

The biggest indication of this shift is the inclusion of the company's wildly popular (and wildly lucrative) App Store on its Mac platform. Running as a separate application with a dock icon, the App Store is a window into a new category of apps: desktop apps. (Some of you tech-inclined folk would call this "software"; GDGT's Ryan Block was indeed correct in saying that this spells the end, finally, of boxed software.)

The App Store works the same way that it does on an iPhone, iPad or iPod: find what you want, download it and install it in one step. It's a lot like iTunes in this regard, but it's an important step in moving toward a single, curated, pay-to-play (unless it's free) portal for (approved) content.

Apple also introduced Launchpad, which it calls "a new home for all of your Mac apps." It displays them much like an iPad does: as spaced out applications in an invisible grid that opens on the screen, organized as pages to move (on an iPhone, iPad or iPod, swipe) through.

You can also create folders of apps, which are managed in a gray strip, just like the latest version of iOS.

That feature dovetails with another called Mission Control (paging NASA...), which combines the Exposé, Dashboard and Spaces applications of OS X with full screen apps. If that doesn't make sense, consider that when you trigger Exposé, you can see distinct selections for your open windows and your open apps in one place.

Apple also declared that Lion has full support, across the entire system and including gestures, for full screen apps.

Finally, Apple added Mac support for FaceTime, which you'll remember is the company's Wi-Fi-only videochat application.

That means Mac users can videochat with iPhone 4 and iPod touch users, as well as other Macs. The program automatically uses Address Book contacts, but oddly operates distinctly from the OS X's own iChat program.

The application is downloadable now for Snow Leopard users or higher.

The company didn't reveal much more about the operating system. Jobs pitched these features as "fresh" and "new," but they're really rather necessary to wed the two concepts of Mac OS X and iOS together. But it's clear that Apple has tried, to the best of its ability, to fuse two product lines together. It's the company's first foray into this, and it will no doubt be a rocky one as users get used to the idea of these distinct platforms operating as one. But, in a way, it portends the next phase of computing.

The App Store will be available for Snow Leopard within 90 days. It will be included in Lion when it ships in summer 2011.

Topics: Operating Systems, Apple, Software

Andrew Nusca

About Andrew Nusca

Andrew Nusca is a former writer-editor for ZDNet and contributor to CNET. During his tenure, he was the editor of SmartPlanet, ZDNet's sister site about innovation.

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90 comments
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  • Once again, Apple digs deep into the photocopier

    The App Store:
    [i]find what you want, download it and install it in one step[/i]

    Oh, you mean exactly like Steam on Windows?

    Launchpad:
    [i]spaced out applications in an invisible grid that opens on the screen[/i]

    HAHAHAHAHAHAHA!!!!!!!! Have any of you ever seen a screen shot of Windows 3.1? Why that looked like spaced out applications on an invisible grid that opens on the screen!!!!!!! HILARIOUS!!!!!!

    [i]You can also create folders of apps[/i]

    Wow. Folders of apps. Just like... Win 3.1!

    [i]Apple also declared that Lion has full support, across the entire system and including gestures, for full screen apps.[/i]

    Oh. Just like Vista. Good job Apple!

    Facetime:
    Oh, just like Skype on Windows. Cool.

    Apple, you truly have outdone yourself. I'm not sure there has ever been a release of OS X that was based so heavily on stuff copied from MS!
    NonZealot
    • Ok...Ok

      @NonZealot Time to let your mom have her e-Machine back.
      rag2
      • Good rebuttal!

        @rag@...
        Oh, wait, no, it wasn't.
        NonZealot
      • RE: Apple Mac OS X Lion: what you need to know (so far)

        @SuperZealot... Its a great rebuttal! You're obviously a M$ plant. For a Windoze Zealot, you spend 90% of your time commenting on Apple stories. Are you in tech or not?
        I12BPhil
      • RE: Apple Mac OS X Lion: what you need to know (so far)

        @rag... Now that was funny... great rebuttal to such a ridiculous post!
        JoeDaddy
      • RE: Apple Mac OS X Lion: what you need to know (so far)

        @Non Zealot@... yes it was- :))
        It seems as though you're fond of Windows 3.1- if that's the best you can run, I say go for it! :)
        But, I'm really not being a smartass here- (meaning: yes, I am being a smartass here) I know that Windows is the single greatest innovation... nay, INSPIRATION that has happened in the 19th AND 20th centuries combined!
        That being said- if you like Windows so much, stick with it! Now, you've had your turn to talk- the grownups are talking now... if you hurry, you might be able to catch a Spongebob rerun! :)
        www.dfwsupergeek.com
        unclefixer
    • Pathetic..

      @NonZealot
      HA... HA... HA... trying to be funny, huh?
      mamouneyya
      • Good rebuttal!

        @mamouneyya
        Oh, wait, no, it wasn't.
        NonZealot
      • actually....

        @mamouneyya yeah he was kinda funny
        Techloaded
      • RE: Apple Mac OS X Lion: what you need to know (so far)

        @mamouneyya Yep- this one was a good one too! :)
        www.dfwsupergeek.com
        unclefixer
    • RE: Apple Mac OS X Lion: what you need to know (so far)

      @NonZealot <br>It's really crap to say that Apple is STEALING ideas FROM Micro$oft. What a bu**sh**..
      mamouneyya
      • I fixed your post

        @mamouneyya
        [i]It's really true to say that Apple is STEALING ideas FROM Microsoft.[/i]
        NonZealot
      • RE: Apple Mac OS X Lion: what you need to know (so far)

        @NonZealot I don't want to talk out of my a** here... but I remember reading something about how the buttons ended up on the right side of the Windows frames...
        unclefixer
      • RE: Apple Mac OS X Lion: what you need to know (so far)

        @mamouneyya <br><br>Unfortunately some people like NonZealot (see Internet Troll) can't see the truth past what they wish to portray. They ignore little truths that get in the way - such as the fact that Bill Gates was employed by Apple (pre-Windows 3.1) to work on a GUI for one of their apple machines, or that the GUI he (Bill Gates) assisted writing never got out as it was superceded by the Lisa (again pre-windows 3.1) before he (Bill Gates) had finished it.

        Oh - and the GUI was also pretty much copied from an unpatented one developed by Xerox<br><br>Also regarding gestures - I'm pretty sure that these first came out on Palms before anything else.<br><br>Steam - isn't that a pretty much a games only distribution channel?
        Parbold
    • Gods...

      [i]"Oh, you mean exactly like Steam on Windows?"[/i]

      Or like the App Store on iPhone.

      [i]"Have any of you ever seen a screen shot of Windows 3.1?"[/i]

      I'm trying to forget.

      [i]"Why that looked like spaced out applications on an invisible grid that opens on the screen!!!!!!!"[/i]

      Actually it looked like someone vomited on my computer screen. Maybe you mean the Xerox Alto and Apple Lisa.

      [i]"Wow. Folders of apps. Just like... Win 3.1!"[/i]

      Or like the iPad.

      [i]"Oh. Just like Vista."[/i]

      Or not. Windows 7 was the first version Windows to bring system wide multi-touch, which was spurred by development on the iPhone.

      [i]"Oh, just like Skype on Windows."[/i]

      Or Skype on Macintosh.

      [i]"Apple, you truly have outdone yourself. I'm not sure there has ever been a release of OS X that was based so heavily on stuff copied from MS!"[/i]

      Microsoft invented the app store, application grid overlay, multi touch, and Skype? When did this happen?
      olePigeon
      • LOL!!!

        @olePigeon
        [i]Or like the App Store on iPhone.[/i]

        No, that was stolen from Handango InHand on Windows Mobile. When it comes to application stores on the desktop, this idea was stolen from Steam.

        [i]Maybe you mean the Xerox Alto and Apple Lisa.[/i]

        Nope, I meant Windows 3.1, the OS that popularized the GUI.

        [i]Or like the iPad.[/i]

        Are you suggesting that the iPad was the first implementation of application icons in folders? Well, you probably would suggest that. Sorry bud but this one came straight from the implementation that MS popularized in Win 3.1

        [i]Windows 7 was the first version Windows to bring system wide multi-touch[/i]

        Nope. The OS codebase underneath MS Surface is Vista and we all know that Apple copied its multi-touch implementation from that.

        [i]Microsoft invented the app store, application grid overlay, multi touch, and Skype? When did this happen?[/i]

        I just laid it out for you. So sorry you weren't able to follow along!
        NonZealot
      • In your own little fantasy world...

        [i]"Nope, I meant Windows 3.1, the OS that popularized the GUI."[/i]

        In your own little fantasy world, maybe. Meanwhile in reality, it is commonly held that the Apple Macintosh popularized the GUI.

        [i]"Are you suggesting that the iPad was the first implementation of application icons in folders? Well, you probably would suggest that. Sorry bud but this one came straight from the implementation that MS popularized in Win 3.1"[/i]

        No, I didn't suggest that. The style and implementation obviously comes from the iPad. The icon and folder motif was popularized by Macintosh Toolbox and Finder on the Macintosh. Susan Kare designed the original icons, she also went on to design the icons for Windows 3.

        [i]"Nope. The OS codebase underneath MS Surface is Vista and we all know that Apple copied its multi-touch implementation from that."[/i]

        No, we're talking about system-wide integration, the feature you [i]just[/i] quoted about. Windows 7, according to Microsoft, is the first version of Windows to include system-wide multi touch integration.

        [i]"I just laid it out for you. So sorry you weren't able to follow along!"[/i]

        Except, you just stated, "I'm not sure there has ever been a release of OS X that was [b]based so heavily on stuff copied from MS![/b]"

        You can't even follow yourself. How the hell do you walk and chew gum at the same time?
        olePigeon
      • Just in your reality

        @olePigeon
        [i]Meanwhile in reality, it is commonly held that the Apple Macintosh popularized the GUI.[/i]

        Just in your reality. If we were to count the number of people who have used a Windows GUI and compared it to the number of people who have used a Mac OS GUI, Windows GUI is [b]by far[/b] the more popular GUI. Therefore, it is MS that popularized the GUI.

        Same goes for your grid of icons claptrap. It was MS that popularized it. Interestingly enough, it is also MS that is getting us [b]away[/b] from that 20 year old design!

        And so sorry but I've proved you wrong about multi-touch. It was available in MS Surface which used the Vista codebase. So you are wrong. Again.
        NonZealot
      • You're completely lost.

        <i>"If we were to count the number of people who have used a Windows GUI and compared it to the number of people who have used a Mac OS GUI, Windows GUI is by far the more popular GUI."</i><br><br>Way to move the goal posts. First you're talking about Windows 3, now you you're talking about all versions of Windows.<br><br><i>"Therefore, it is MS that popularized the GUI."</i><br><br>Windows 3 did not exist in the 1980s, ergo it did not popularize the GUI. Now you're changing your claim to fit your new argument, and it isn't even supported by <i>any</i> published material.<br><br>If you were to make any claim remotely relevant, you could argue that Windows 95 was the most important release of Windows, which helped secured Microsoft's desktop dominance by making it more Mac-like.<br><br><i>"And so sorry but I've proved you wrong about multi-touch. It was available in MS Surface which used the Vista codebase. So you are wrong. Again."</i><br><br>You don't read, and you certainly don't comprehend; as I just stated not two minutes ago that this is in regards to <i>system wide integration of multi touch</i> which <b>you</b> originally quoted, and which I replied quoting <i>Microsoft</i> stating that Windows 7 is the first version of Windows to include system wide integration of multi touch.<br><br>Surface ran applications with a special set of libraries to demonstrate multi touch. It was not integrated system wide into the operating system, which is the argument you originally made, which is wrong; quod erat demonstrandum.</i>
        olePigeon
      • LOLOLOLOLOLOLOLOLOLOL!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

        @olePigeon <br><i>Windows 3 did not exist in the 1980s, ergo it did not popularize the GUI.</i><br><br>But the iPhone didn't exist in the early 2000s, ergo it did not popularize the smartphone.<br><br>But the iPod didn't exist in the 1990s, ergo it did not popularize the MP3 player.<br><br>But Mac OS did not exist in the early 1980s, ergo it did not popularize the GUI.<br><br>You were talking about moving goal posts? Yeah, you are the master at that.<br><br>MS Windows, all versions, popularized the GUI, starting at Windows 3.1. Now, if you want to put an artificial end date of April 5, 1992 for the declaration of an OS to popularize the GUI, feel free to do so. Just realize though that you've done exactly what I did above, chosen a date to suit your argument.<br><br>My argument is far simpler: <b>what is the most popular desktop OS GUI in the world?</b> No dates, no cherry picking numbers. What is the most popular desktop OS GUI in the world? That would be Windows. Therefore, MS popularized the GUI with Windows. And no amount of latin can change that. :)<br><br>As for Vista and multi-touch, argue all you want, the facts simply don't support you. Vista was the first popular multi-touch desktop OS in the world. Apple copied MS, once again, on this one.</b>
        NonZealot