Mac OS X Lion: Sneak Peek Analysis

Mac OS X 10.7 Lion is here. As we predicted, Apple's operating system is going in the same direction as the iPad - and for good reason. Here is a visual guide to the main features unveiled today.

This article will give you live analysis of the Mac OS X Lion features unveiled today.

Mac OS X Lion is another step in the road to a new - or better said, renewed - computer interface paradigm: modal computing. And along the way, Apple is taking some of the most successful parts of iOS, like the App Store - with automatic installation of applications - and the springboard - rechristened launchpad in Lion. They are also introducing new user interface elements, like Mission Control, to help solve the problems that modal interfaces may bring.

Fullscreen Mode

Fullscreen mode is, for me, the most important aspect of the new operating system. All apps would be able to have a fullscreen mode. That doesn't mean windows are disappearing (yet), but it is clearly a big step towards enabling full modal computing in the future - something that is also indicated by the user interface in iLife '11.

Not only iLife'11 has stages that take completely over the screen to perform an specific function, but they have also rolled in elements like context-aware inline palettes to change text styles. These elements are designed to avoid the need for floating palettes. It's only logical to think that these new interface elements will be included in the application developer arsenal for Mac OS X Lion.

This user interface approach will greatly simplify the use of the computer, getting it closer to the same user experience that 95 per cent of the consumers out there like in their iPhone (or similar smartphones), iPod Touch and iPad. This doesn't mean that the computing experience will be less powerful than today. All the contrary, in fact. Apple is empowering users to more effectively tackle their tasks.

In fact, if you look at high-end professional apps - like Final Cut Pro - you will see the same behaviour: The ability of software to take over the whole screen to perform an specific task, with no floating windows. I've no doubt that windows will eventually be completely replaced, even for applications like Photoshop.

Modal computing can bring some problems, however. You need to give the user an effective way to switch effectively between tasks, fast and without confusion. From the demo today, Apple may have found an elegant solution - Mission Control - to both managing modal apps and multiple windows apps.

The good: Simplify the computing experience, centre it around the task, which is what the user is interested on. Pave the way to full touch computing (which, have no doubt, will come in the next generation - you just have to look at those iPhoto screens).

The bad: None that I can see. It seems that Apple is taking steps to avoid the potential problems that fullscreen computing may bring.

Launchpad

Launchpad works exactly like in the iPad. It shows all the applications installed in your computer, which are managed by the App Store, with multiple pages to navigate using gestures.

Mission Control

Mission Control is actually a new Exposé, integrating the Dock, Dashboard and views from all open apps, both windowed and fullscreen.

Mac App Store

The Mac App Store works exactly like the iOS App Store. Same main navigation bar and same managing, which is to say: no managing at all. When you buy an app through the store, your Mac will automatically install that app in the Launchpad.

This may seem stupid for power users, but if you have ever deal with normal computer users, installing apps is a nightmare even with the Mac drag-and-drop system.

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