Apple’s annual WWDC conference for 2011 kicked off with the usual fanfare we’ve come to expect from the cult of Mac. As well as the launch of the iCloud service and iOS 5 update for mobile devices, OS X Lion for Macs was also demoed by SVP WW Product Marketing Phil Schiller. Stating that PC growth is declining by 1% every year while Mac sales grow by 28%, he stated that it wasn’t just the hardware catching consumer’s eyes, but the Apple software too, with OS X Lion hopefully continuing the trend.
Over 250 new features will hit OS X Lion, of which Schiller showed off 10. First up was improved multi-touch with gestures, giving tap-to-zoom, pinching and two finger swiping “an incredible, physical realism that’s never been possible in a PC operating system before.” Apple have learnt a lot from iOS it seems and are looking to integrate as many suitable IOS features as possible to Macs for an increasingly converged software ecosystem.
Full screen applications were then demoed in OS X Lion, with Safari (now featuring iOS’ tap control), iMovie and dozens of others packing out a screen with a simple swiping gesture.
Mission Control too was demoed, accessible by a single gesture and allowing for multiple desktops and dashboard widgets. Gestures let you swipe through each separate element and app displayed by Mission Control, with animations seeing them cascade off the screen. From what was shown, it seems a more fluid way of scrolling through your applications and desktop content than ever before, with gesture controls that genuinely seem intuitive.
The Mac App Store also gets a revamp with OS X Lion, with Schiller stating it’s quickly become the number one online portal for buying PC software. The store is now built directly into Lion, with updates including in-app purchasing and push notifications. Delta updates, allowing for easier app patching, will also be included.
The new Launchpad gesture was also demoed. For those who are now more used to iOS than OS X, a simple pinch of a touchpad will pull all your apps and applications into a grid-like display, further showing the convergence between Apple’s mobile and desktop software.
A new Resume function for apps was shown too, bringing you right back to the exact point or function of an app you were last at when the app was closed. Likewise, auto-save functionality will now come as standard, allowing you to browse multiple versions of documents as they are incrementally saved. Allowing for simple “versioning”, you don’t end up with multiple files either as only the deltas are saved.
Airdrop was another new feature introduced. It acts as a replacement for Sneakernet, allowing for peer-to-peer sharing and ruling out the need to courier thumb drives between pals’ houses. Working a lot like Dropbox, the application will let you see a list of your pals, allowing you to quickly share files, fully encrypted with next to no set up needed.
The final addition is a totally revamped Mail client, which received rapturous applause. Two or three column views as well as full screen are now available, with a favourites bar for quick access to regularly viewed contacts, messages and folders. Search is also improved, recognising repeatedly used subjects or contacts, allowing you to build rules for specific search criteria too. Just like text messaging or the Gmail client, a conversation view is now available in the OS X Lion Mail tool too, hiding all the FWD and RE clutter that lengthy messages create.
Other features mentioned but without any details being revealed were a Windows Migration assistant, FileVault 2, built-in FaceTime and a Lion Server add-on.
Pricing comes in at $29.99, which is remarkably $100 cheaper than previous upgrades, with the whole package around the 4GB download mark. Interestingly, OS X Lion will only be available via the Mac App Store, so be prepared for a hefty download unless Apple ever decide to ship a boxed version. It’ll touch down in July. The iCloud features also revealed will be supported by OS X Lion too.