Unsurprisingly the news around the Apple world has been centered firmly on the announcement of the second generation iPad. With the release of iOS 4.3 coinciding with it’s release, iOS is taking as many headlines as the hardware – bringing more functionality to the device than before, all while the device gets a huge bump in specs.
At the keynote speech, Steve Jobs, Phil Schiller and Jonny Ives made a big point to announce the iPad as a “post-PC” device, and put Apple at the core of the “post-PC” revolution. This came mere days after the official release of the 2011 Macbook Pro line – which, like the iPad 2, got a big bump in specs. Part of this “post-PC” discussion has focused on the fact that customers want to ignore specs and just buy a device that simply works. People want something affordable, sensible and in exchange not have to worry about maintaining a computer while having a unique and easy interface. iOS is that interface, and the iPad is that device. But Apple aren’t forgetting about the Mac, by any stretch. This “post-PC” talk is a PR bubble to sell more iPads and iPhones. Make no mistake, Apple are serious about the Mac.
In the summer, Apple will release the next version of OS X. Snow Leopard is a stunning OS, and it’s hard to think how Apple could top it. Snow Leopard is stable, fast and feature packed. So much so that it actually released hard drive space when you upgraded from Leopard. With Lion (they’re running out of cat names!) Apple is raising the bar far further than the jump from Leopard to Snow Leopard. Adding to the features brought about by 10.6, 10.7 will integrate a huge swathe of features normally exclusive to iOS.
Notable additions from iOS include the way iOS displays applications on your iPhone/iPad/iPod home screen. In the same manner, Lion can show your apps this way, group them together into folders and navigate them using your trackpad. Except here’s it’s called Launchpad. There are two ways to access it, one is via a dock icon (akin to the one you can use for exposé now) or by using four fingers to pinch on your trackpad. Another huge addition that is very obvious is the way you scroll on pages, in apps, etc.
The scrollbar is no longer the clickable blue bar on the side of pages. Now it’s exactly like the iOS bar: grey, dynamic in size and will only appear when required – allowing for a good 10-15 pixels to be free on the side/bottom of your screen. However the most notable thing about scrolling is you now have to use gestures in the opposite direction. Instead of scrolling like you would before, up is now down on a page/app, while down is up. The notion is baffling at first, but it does make sense in the context of dragging a page up or down – exactly like iOS.
One of the main features I use on OS X daily is exposé. Two issues arise as a result though, one is that it’s often a muddled mess if you have as many apps open as I do normally, particularly in work. This, too is now change in Lion. Rather than just ‘exposing’ your open applications, it will also show you your desktops (normally reserved for spaces in previous OS X versions). This makes it easier to manage your various desktops and view everything.
In Snow Leopard, four-finger swipe down was exposé by default. Here, though, exposé is four-finger swipe up, while the down swipe shows all open windows for the same application. So, if I have 15 Safari windows open, I can see all of them in one screen easily.
Talking about Safari, it’s very different. My default browser has been Chrome for some time (I know, I know… boo, hiss) because it’s fast, got a neat UI and works very well. Safari, however, is built from the ground up with Lion and gestures in mind. Swiping back and forth with two fingers allows you to move forward & backwards between pages, but the animation is beautiful. Think of sliding cards being revealed and you’ve got it. Safari is also super fast, which is nice!
Another huge application overhaul is mail.app. It’s laid out more like the iPad app (messages on the left, content of emails on the right) and also has a very, very sleek way of threading the applications. The animations throughout the OS are a splendor to watch but on Mail there are brilliant. Opening up a new compose box ‘pops’ out and it lifts off when you click send. The application also feels a lot lighter than its predecessors, making it much more likely to be used over third party applications that do essentially the same job (that said, I don’t use mail for RSS).
OS X has always been famous for not forcing users to worry about file management. This is even more prevalent in Lion. Finder has been revamped to display what you need in a more obvious way. The first tab (“All My Files”) will display all the files on your system by file type. So, it will couple together all of your presentations, spreadsheets, PDF’s, etc. It doesn’t matter where on the system they are – just that they are on the system! Add to that AirDrop, a huge overhaul of dropbox. Your Mac will now use bonjour (the network protocol Apple uses for wireless devices) to find other Macs on your network where, with a sleek UI, you can drag & drop files onto their system. It’s very similar to dropbox, but more integrated and of course – doesn’t share the name with the online data storage service (which, believe it or not, confuses a lot of people).
This is the first build of Lion I am using from the developer program. One huge thing to note is that on my 15-inch Macbook Pro (mid-2010), Lion runs smooth as butter. Only one application has ever thrown up errors, but it is very specific and work related. Anything built on cocoa runs faster then ever, and big apps like Photoshop run just fine!
Undoubtedly big changes will come down the line as we near the full release of Lion, but check back for more in future as we are likely to keep you all updated with them…