Apple’s announcements about Mac OS X Lion didn’t come as a surprise to some of us. I’ve been preaching the concept to my friends that Apple will start to merge OS X and iOS. Apple went a little farther than I expected this soon with the iPad’s application launcher and folder manager, LaunchPad, however I think for novice users this will be a welcome user interface.
I love how they defocus the background to try and make the application icons pop.
Ground Control to Major Tom
Along with the LaunchPad, Apple has begun a hard core push for full screen applications. It appears that OS X Lion has better mechanism for going full screen which are supported by Apple’s new “Mission Control,” which is a new application and window manager that utilizes Exposé, Spaces, Dashboard and these new full screen applications. I really like this actually as the typical Macintosh user did not have a clue as to how to utilize Spaces. It appears that each fullscreen application gets its own space, as well as the Desktop and Dashboard. This allows the LaunchPad to swipe right to show the dashboard from the Desktop and then swipe left to get right back to the Desktop.
In the image above, you can see full screen applications across the top, your windowed applications in the middle with their windows stacked in piles and the dock across the bottom.
Mac App Store
Apple also announced the Mac App Store, something I had written to Steve Jobs about quite awhile ago and Apple delivered on every feature. Applications will be checked by Apple for crashes, viruses and trojan horses. You will be able to run a purchased application on any of your personal Macs. You will be able to update your software in one click.
There are some downsides to the Mac App Store, albeit small ones. First off, if you update a application and the new version has a unforeseen bug, you are kinda stuck. Unless Apple gives developers to push out signed, licensed versions, you will have to wait for Apple to approve the update before you can get it. Ken Case of Omnigroup makes the point that developers can still deliver betas the old fashion way, however I think that many customers won’t know what the old fashion way is before too long.
Finally, not all software will be available via the Mac App Store. Software that need to install kernel extensions or plugins will have to wait. My hope is that Apple makes these types of software easier to install by having the operating system find the software, instead of the software needing to be installed in a specific location. I would like to see a signed application announce it has kernel extensions, iPhoto plugins, etc and the operating system just handles it, with permission of course. If you download VMWare from the Mac App Store, the OS should install and activate VMWare’s extensions to the OS. This would require Apple to make it possible to install and uninstall this type of software without a reboot, which is technically possible today, if not a tad dicey to do. When you were done with VMWare, you could simply delete the application via the LaunchPad and VMWare along with its remnants would disappear forever, never again to silently confuse the next OS update. A geek can dream, can’t he?
Cost of Software
I would not count on getting super cheap Mac applications. Macintosh software is far more complex to develop than iOS software. There is a broader range of devices to test on as well as several major OS releases to support, if a developer chooses to do so. Users of Macintosh software are much more abusive of the software, so the software has to be hardened even more. On a Mac, it is much easier to get that 96 megabyte image onto the clipboard to try and paste into an application.
I’m interested to see how far Apple goes with this. As I have posited at PMUG in the past, the Mac as we know it could cease to exist within five to seven years. The computer may become a more powerful, capable iPad. Apple lent further evidence of this with the introduction of the new MacBook Air, asking “what would happen if an iPad and MacBook hooked up?” Macs will always be more capable devices, but the days of running DiskWarrior might be over soon, as Apple will lock down the system so users can make fewer and fewer decisions about how their computer operates.