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Apple Unveils OSX Lion


Apple Unveils OSX Lion

At its World Wide Developer Conference (WWDC) in San Francisco, Apple has unveiled the latest version of its desktop operating system, Mac OSX Lion. It packs in a host of new features and a tweaked look, yet is set to cost just £20.99 and will only be available as a download from the App Store. Here, then is the full low down on what you can expect to get for your money.

New Multi-touch Gestures

Mac OSX Lion 6

With all Macbooks now shipping with multi-touch touchpads and desktop Macs having access to the Magic TrackPad, all Macs are now multi-touch ready, so Apple has bolstered these abilities. Now animations are smoother and slicker while some new gestures have also been added. The new gestures include momentum scrolling, pinching or tapping to zoom into webpages and images, and swiping left or right to turn a page or switch between fullscreen apps.

Fullscreen apps

Though it seems crazy to laud such a basic feature, easier access for developers to create fullscreen apps is an important part of OSX Lion, especially as it's integrated into other new features that make it even easier to navigate your Mac.

Mission Control

Mac OSX Lion 1

One such new feature is mission control. This combines Expose, full screen, Dashboard and Spaces to create a sort of super bird's-eye view of the apps you're running. A single gesture opens the mission control view to give you instant access to your open windows - grouped together according to app - thumbnails of fullscreen apps and widgets, and across the top, your Spaces (different desktops). With all the fancy gestures, it's supposed to be very easy to organise and navigate even the busiest desktops.

Built-in App Store

Since launching, the Mac App Store has, according to Apple, become the number one channel for buying Mac software. So, keen to leverage this, Apple has fully integrated the store into Lion. It's also adding in-app purchases, delta updates (you only download changes not full versions of updated apps) push notifications, and a built-in sandboxing mode to aid security. It may be galling to know that you're paying Apple directly simply for the privilege of downloading apps through its app store but at least it will now be even easier to do so.


Mac OSX Lion 7

To make it easy to keep track of all these apps, Launchpad provides a very iOS-like interface for keeping things organised. You can have multiple pages of apps arranged in any order you like, and put them into themed folders as well. It's nothing ground breaking but adds further to the slick and easy-to-use appeal of the App Store concept.


Taking a leaf out of mobile phone OS design, Resume automatically stores everything that you were doing in an app prior to shutting it down. So when you open it back up, everything's exactly as you left it, right down to the text you had highlighted. It works system-wide and completely automatically.


Mac OSX Lion 5

Yes, it does what it says on the tin but there's more too. As well as providing a system-wide auto-save feature, you'll be able to call up old versions of files through a very slick looking interface, easily duplicate them, or even turn off auto-save if you so desire. You can copy and paste between different versions and generally just have a ball going back and forth through (virtual) time. What's more, only the deltas are save, so you don't end up with hundreds of the same file.

Air Drop

Mac OSX Lion 2

Air drop automatically detects any nearby Macs and allows you to instnatly setup an ad-hoc peer-to-peer wireless network so that you can exchange files. Again, it's no revelation but it saves you having to grab a USB stick or having to signup to an alternative cloud-based sharing service just to swap a few files.


Mac OSX Lion 3

The default Mail app has been given a complete overhaul with it taking on a more iOs style interface. You can arrange emails into conversations, with repeated text automatically hidden and pictures and other attachments shown as they were orignially sent, making it much easier to keep track of a conversation and all the key information exchanged within it. Microsoft Exchange 2010 support is also buit in, while there's also a new search that will suggest results by person, subject or label as you type - again like iOS.

All told, there's nothing wildly revolutionary here but Apple has certainly demonstrated it is staying ahead of the curve, plus there are apparently another 240 tweaks and additions that make up the full update. So while we were enthused by what Microsoft revealed about Windows 8 a few days ago, Apple has shown it'll take more than a few live tiles for Windows to fully catch up to the slick user experience Macs offer. Moreover, with Apple charging just £20.99 for this update, Microsoft may even have to rethink its entire business model.

What are your thoughts on the updates? Excited? Non plussed? Let us know in the comments.

Also, stay tuned for more news on the latest iOS and iCloud updates.

Go to comments


June 7, 2011, 12:53 am

Not excited, but it's a solid release. The fact Apple are charging just £20.99 partly reflects the lack of eye-catching new features in this version. I'll probably get it soon after release - the price and the convenience of getting it from the App Store will see to that.

Chris Hamer

June 7, 2011, 1:45 am

Well seems like a good update but in my opinion this is just a glorified service pack which Microsoft gives for free. Microsoft probably charges more because they are much more of an upgrade every 3-4 years instead of every year.


June 7, 2011, 4:45 am

Um - "it'll take more than than a few live tiles for Windows to fully catch up to the slick user experience Macs offer". Strange, because it looks to me like the best feature of this update (mission control) is only following Windows 7 in the control that gives you of the open windows/apps on your desktop, not leapfrogging it. What they're offering looks elegant enough but is hardly in a different league. I have idealogical concerns about Apple's commercial conduct, but I'm no Microsoft fan, and I try to keep an open mind about the actual virtues of their respective software. So in the real world and in many important respects Lion is playing catch up with Win7, and the question about Win8 is a different one. Jobs is saying that the device is no longer important - what matters is service ubiquity and quality. Microsoft is is assuming that ubiquity and trying to say that it can offer a unified experience at a better level than anything we have now. I don't know who will be right, but I do know that even if the functionality isn't there yet the WinPhone 7 interface is already superior to iOS or Android (I use Android because I don't want to be tied to Microsoft but I know good innovative design when I see it). So let's give proper credit where it's due. Apple has proved a far shrewder commercial operator in recent years, successfully positioning Microsoft as a dinosaur, but ironically it's Microsoft that's been making all the running in UI design.


June 7, 2011, 12:34 pm

The only time Microsoft ever added more functionality into a service pack was with Windows XP SP2. Due to these functionality changes so much business software broke, without warning, that Microsoft had to then revert to their previous and more sensible approach.
Thus Microsoft service packs will only ever include all the hotfixes released up to that point.

Then there is the case of Windows Vista that upon release offered the end user no reason to upgrade. While there were a large number of back-end changes, so many people expected more 'bling' and were sorely disappointed with what they got that Vista got tarnished (somewhat unfairly) with all the bad press .

Microsoft learned from its experiences with Vista and making the pre-order for Windows 7 only £45 was a more to push initial adoption. A move that worked.
While Microsoft could look to bring the regular price of Windows down, they have so little competition in the desktop/laptop market, despite the inordinate amount of press Apple achieve, that they can easily continue their current pricing structure.


June 7, 2011, 12:50 pm

Microsoft are definitely trying to force a sea change in user experience to wrestle back some of the market they lost. While I can see the benefits of the Metro UI on mobile devices (phones, tablets and to some extents laptops), but for the desktop environment I am worried.

The changes Microsoft are planning will allow 'casual users' an easy interface to access the functions they use most. A similar move that which helped push the iPad from a device initially dismissed as a niche product into one of the most sought after consumer devices of the moment.

For the desktop user I'm concerned they will not be able allow a similar ease-of-use without annoying the users who want to then push beyond this simplified interface.
As a software developer I cannot see any way that the new Metro interface will be usable for my day to day productivity. In fact it looks like something that I will have to disable at the earliest opportunity. While my PC usage may not be typical, I am sure there are many businesses looking at Windows 8 with similar concerns. Whether businesses choose to roll-out Windows 8 in the corporate environment, or not, will be the main issue for Microsoft.


June 7, 2011, 3:15 pm

@Evilpaul: I agree. It seems that Microsoft are trying to leverage a common interface between form factors, so users have a familiar experience regardless of what device they pick up. That's a laudable goal, but in reality I don't think it works. Microsoft tried it before with their early versions of Window Mobile, complete with Start button and Task Manager. It didn't work, and now the interface is going in the opposite direction, from phone to desktop. Yes, things have moved on since, but the practical differences between form factors still remain.

The desktop version will suffer the most, as users might be better served by a more complex interface.


June 7, 2011, 10:14 pm

Looks great. I just wish Apple would be more competitive with the pricing of their hardware or at least allow other hardware vendors to use Mac OS X on their systems.


June 7, 2011, 10:34 pm

As a long time "hackintosh" user (I refuse to pay an extortionate premium for standard hardware when I can happily build a more capable machine for half the price, but I like apple software), I am concerned about this move to "App Store Only" purchase. While I am always confident in the abilities of many talented hackers to find solutions to the barriers Apple puts up, I am increasingly hacked off with Apple's continued efforts to drive all Apple-related transactions through their own proprietary systems, happily creaming off a tidy fee with every purchase. While I like using the App Stores given the pain free experience, I have some ethical reservations about the direction of Apple's business models. How many years until virtually all machines are running an Apple OS bought via the App Store, at which stage they will have us by the proverbial short and curlies, able to exert increasing control over everything in the Apple ecosystem? However nice their design and slick their software & user experience are, I really don't like where this is heading.


June 8, 2011, 2:06 pm

I believe its simply an extension and assertion of Apple's desire to keep their unique and proprietary works within the community that contributes to it.

If their software is a loss-leader (see £20,99 for new major release) they need to recoup the money somewhere.

If they believe (AS THEY HAVE A RIGHT TO) that their software is best married to their hardware for the correct delivery of the desired user experience, their efforts demonstrate their desire to maintain this consistency of experience.

In no way am i trolling or attempting to piss you off @arcticfox, but Apple decides how best their work is experienced (as is their right as developers) - they happen to believe certain bits of their software is best enjoyed on some sort of Apple hardware, hence moves like this

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