At the Apple WWDC keynote today in San Francisco, the company unveiled its brand new operating system for Macs – and it looks a little familiar. Mac OS X Lion, which will be available to everyone sometime in July, strongly resembles recent iterations of the iOS, especially when it comes to web browsing and running applications. How will a platform designed for mobile use translate on a notebook or Mac? The keynote speaker, Phil Schiller, filled the crowd in, highlighting some of the major new features of Lion.
Multi-touch gestures will be a major way that users will interact with Lion. For now, this will be done using the track pad, but it’s probably a safe bet that we’ll see some touch-screen notebooks from Apple sometime in the near future if we’re seeing this kind of functionality. Familiar gestures like swipe and pinch will work exactly as they do on the iOS. Another small reflection of the iOS will be the small disappearing scroll bars when using all apps, rather than the space-taking ones you see in current versions of the Mac OS.
Applications will be able to run in full screen mode (again, as they would on an iOS device). These will integrate the new multi-touch gestures – a swipe gesture in one direction will bring you back to the desktop, while a swipe in another direction will switch between full screen applications running concurrently. From the demo, it looks like this process will be extremely quick. There’s also LaunchPad, which will resemble the iOS home screen – a display of icons of all apps installed on your Mac.
Auto-saving will be universal on Lion, much to the relief of any student who has been nailed by a computer freeze right before finishing up their term paper, and neglected to save beforehand. All applications are auto-saved on a rolling basis, and can be resumed, even after a reboot, exactly how they were when they were closed. Exactly means exactly, too. Even selected text will remain selected when the app is reopened. A robust version control system that resembles Time Machine is also present, making it fast and simple to revert to previous versions of documents.
AirDrop is a fast document sharing service that works on a peer-to-peer Wi-Fi based network. Within the interface, you’ll see icons of your own computer, along with the computers of other people nearby who are connected to the network. Sharing documents is as easy as dragging icons to the other person’s computer, which will then receive a prompt asking to accept or deny the document before downloading the file to the downloads folder.
Schiller wrapped up with a new version of Mail, which, in keeping with the theme of the speech, looks a lot like the iPad’s Mail UI. It features a multi-column and conversation view, with attachments shown in line. Search also promises to be a lot more robust and intelligent, and searches can be combined quickly and easily.
Lion will be available in July only through the Mac App Store. It will be 4 GB, and will cost $29.99. Buying and installing the OS will be the same process of buying and installing any other app on your computer, meaning you can just buy Lion once, and install it on all of your Macs without needing to buy a separate copy for each computer. As it always is with Apple, speed and ease of use were the keywords of the day, and Lion promises to deliver heartily on both. You can check it out for yourself in a little more than a month.