OS X Lion Thoughts

OS X Lion had some major surprises to it today. MoD is going to skip the Mac App Store since that doesn’t appear to be reliant on Lion at all.

So let’s talk about the major ones discussed or implied

1. Launchpad- This feature pulled over from iOS is perhaps the biggest surprise. We can see the utility in it for users with a bunch of seldom used applications. It can free up space on the dock. But to what end? For many folks a “document” LaunchPad would be much more helpful. Something showing the last 20 documents opened. Could we being seeing the end of the Mac desktop as we know it? What use is the Dock if you access your applications via the Dashboard? Lots of interface, usage questions surrounding this move.

2. Mission Control – The only issue that we have with this change was that in the demo performed, we saw Apps in full screen mode, Apps with multiple windows open, and regular OS X apps. We didn’t see multiple desktop spaces being presented. And Mission Control is the replacement for Spaces. So it’s unclear if Spaces works the same way, but can be accessed via Mission Control. Or if Space is gone. There’s also an almost 3D feel to the way the different elements are grouped around that screen.

3. Full Screen Apps – This is going to be an interesting element in the development of Lion. Full screen apps are awesome on the iPad. So this transition to full screen mode is pretty obvious. It is a different way of working, and Apple needs the transition from full screen to classic screen to be fast and intuitively obvious to avoid user confusion. The potential for this feature is huge especially for system applications.

4. Auto Save – Not a huge feature for power users, but a lot of Mac users will probably like this feature. It’s unclear to what degree developers will need to upgrade their applications for this feature.

5. Application saved state – A number of applications already do this today.It’s unclear if developers will need to update applications for this feature or not

6. Return of Dashboard – Dashboard has been kind of floundering the last couple of years, but it seems like with the App Store and Multi-touch that Dashboard is going to be given a huge push by Apple in Lion. Also, is a dashboard type screen coming to the iPad? It seems like a natural step.

What wasn’t shown/talked about at the event

1. Mail – Specifically we were not given a preview of full screen Mail. Mail on the iPad is superior to Mail on OS X, mainly due to the ability to see a 3 line summaries of messages in addition to sender information. In order to have that kind of 3 column functionality on the Mac Mail you have to use a Mail plugin that doesn’t provide the clean interface as the iPad.

2. iCal- Same thing. iCal for iPad is awesome.

3. Address Book- Same thing

4. Finder – This is the massive glaring omission. We were not given a single shot of the Finder for Lion, almost deliberately. Is there also a full screen finder coming that will help non power users manage files? A full screen finder might have a search window like the iPad, and built in QuickLook, prebuilt searches for most recent files, and ability to quickly find most recent documents by application. A very easy way to copy documents to the cloud or to flash drives.

5. Search/Spotlight full screen application – One of the things from the iPad that wasn’t shown was the search screen which is much more useful on the iPad. Imagine a Mac version with QuickLook built in.

6. The Dock – If there’s a full screen Finder, and there’s a new LaunchPad, what does the Dock become? Could the Dock becomes simply a way to launch LaunchPad, Dashboard, MoD’s suggested “document” pad full screen app, Search feature application, and system preferences.

7. Developer Beta – We got an announcement of a Summer 2011 launch which means anywhere from June to the end of August. WWDC gold master launch in July seems like Apple’s unannounced target. But when will developers get a beta? January? And once that Beta is released how much more of the OS do we get to see. Apple was careful to talk about features, but not give too many specifics. Does a wider view into Lion deserve a media event or does simply put up a video on apple.com when the Beta is ready. Jobs obviously does not want to give MS much time between debut and official release to copy features (right now though no one has any real cue where MS is going with their next generation OS efforts). Although so much of this is coming from the iPad, you have to wonder how relevant that worry is, but Apple certainly is worried about Google copying features into their Chrome OS.

One last thought. It’s going to be interesting to see if Apple can make their summer release date for Lion with the expected announcement of iOS 5 for iPhone/iPod Touch and iPad expected next March. Does Apple have enough key personnel to develop both OS X and iOS at the same time? It didn’t back in 2009 when Snow Leopard has to be delayed due to the development of the iPhone OS. Also, an SDK for AppleTV has to be in some form of development as well to create applications for that device should sales momentum create the proper environment (jailbreaking is already occurring on the AppleTV, as we have learned on the iPhone apps are the next step).

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