Apple takes lessons from iPad for OS X Lion

Steve Jobs has previewed the next Mac OS, which has an app store and other mobile-like features, and has launched two new models in the MacBook Air line of laptops

Apple has presented a preview of 'Lion', the next build of Mac OS X, which brings some of the main features from iPad to the desktop operating system.

The upcoming OS X 10.7 made its debut on Wednesday at an event in San Francisco, which also saw Apple launch a refresh of its MacBook Air line-up. When it arrives in summer 2011, the Lion platform will include a Mac App Store much like that for the company's mobile iOS operating system, a Launchpad home screen for grid display of applications, and a Mission Control overview screen of running software, Apple said.

"Lion brings many of the best ideas from iPad back to the Mac, plus some fresh new ones like Mission Control that Mac users will really like," said Apple chief executive Steve Jobs at the launch event.

The new Mac App Store will play host to desktop applications, which can be downloaded and installed directly via iTunes in one step. As with the mobile app store, it will deliver updates automatically, to ensure that the owner always has the latest version of software.

"As we see more of a blur between what a tablet and a PC can deliver I would expect other vendors to expand their app offering," Carolina Milanesi, research vice president of mobile at Gartner told ZDNet UK on Thursday.

While the app store was introduced as part of the Lion preview, Apple said it will also deliver it to people with the last update to Mac OS X, Snow Leopard, within the next three months.

Also migrating over from iOS is Launchpad, which displays all the items found in the application folder in a grid on the screen. Users can organise applications in folders within the grid and create multiple screens.

Mission Control is aimed at making navigation easier, according to Apple, by providing a single view of every open application and window on the system. In addition to these, it brings together Expose, which allows users to view all open applictions with one keystroke; Dashboard, which displays widgets; and Spaces virtual desktops. The unified view shows clusters of related windows as well as full-screen applications in a line of thumbnails at the top of the screen.

At the event, Jobs also showed off the first major refresh of Apple's MacBook Air line, which will now come in two sizes of display — 11.6 inches and 13.3 inches. The laptops will ship with a solid-state drive (SSD) rather than a traditional hard disk for storage, whereas their predecessors provided a choice of SSD or hard drive. The new MacBook Airs are available to buy now directly from Apple and its retail partners.

Both of the new Air models are a slimline 0.11 inches at the thinnest point and 0.68 inches at the thickest. They also use the older Intel Core 2 Duo processor rather than the newer Intel Core i3 or i5 chips. Pricing for the smaller model starts at £849, which gets potential purchasers a 64GB SSD, 2GB of RAM and a 1.4GHz Core 2 Duo. An 11.6-inch version with 128GB of flash storage is also available, priced at £999.

The larger 13.3-inch model packs in a 1.86GHz Intel Core 2 Duo, 2GB RAM and 128GB flash storage and costs £1,099, with the 256GB version priced at £1,349.

Both Air models offer the option to upgrade the processor — to 1.6GHz on the 11.6-inch model and to 2.13GHz on the 13.3-inch — and to boost RAM up to 4GB.