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Lion Details Revealed with Shipping Date and Price

We already knew quite a bit about what made Mac OS X 10.7 Lion tick from previous, sometimes relatively exhaustive descriptions from Apple (see “Apple Offers a Glimpse of Mac OS X Lion,” 20 October 2010, and “Apple Reveals More about Mac OS X Lion,” 24 February 2011). During its Worldwide Developer Conference keynote, however, Apple provided a bit more information on stage, and posted a list of 250 features it describes as new to Lion.

Lion isn’t just borrowing from iOS as part of the Mac OS X refresh. It’s also providing a skin that can hide the most confusing parts of a desktop operating system from either users who don’t want to learn one or those who cannot master it. We all know people in both categories.

Let’s take a look at the known and previously undisclosed features in Lion. We’ll try to avoid focusing on the same ground we covered in those earlier articles, but this will be a recap on some features.

For Whom and When -- Lion may boast 250 new features, but Apple highlighted a handful in a few important categories relevant to snagging new Mac buyers and improving the overall experience for veteran Mac users. Phil Schiller said that there are 54 million active Mac users worldwide, which gives Apple a huge audience to tap.

(To be fair, some of those 250 “new” features are already available in some form in Snow Leopard. For instance, FaceTime counts for seven features, and the Mac App Store counts for four. And Apple is pushing it a little to count things like the capability to cancel an incoming AirDrop transfer as a “feature.”)

Mac sales are skewed heavily towards laptops, with 73 percent of Macs sold now in that form factor, Schiller said in his presentation. Those laptop Mac owners will already have gesture-friendly trackpads, while desktop owners can purchase a Magic Trackpad to take full advantage of new features.

Lion will ship in July for the low, low price of $29.99, the same as Snow Leopard, which was considered more of an update to Leopard than a full-fledged new operating system version. Before Snow Leopard, Apple charged $129 for new OS releases. You don’t pay any more to run Lion on as many computers as you want, so long as they share the same iTunes Store account. This is a huge change, as Apple used to charge extra for a five-machine family pack.

Unlike all previous releases, Apple currently says that Lion will be available only as a download from the Mac App Store. We can’t quite believe that’s true, and we’ll be looking into it more soon. Apple also said that Lion Server would be available as an add-on through the store, costing $49.99.

Don’t Worry, Be Appy -- Multi-touch gestures, full-screen apps, Mission Control, and Launchpad are all aimed at bringing the iOS experience into Lion. Gestures existed in previous Mac OS X releases, but Lion adds momentum-based scrolling, multi-touch tap, and pinching for zoom and expansion.

Full-screen mode requires apps to be rewritten. Scrollbars disappear and the screen becomes immersive, as with the larger screen of an iPad. Apple has already rewritten many of its apps to take advantage of the full-screen approach, including Safari, Mail, iCal, Preview, Photo Booth, iPhoto, iMovie, and iTunes.

Mission Control is essentially a mashup of Spaces and Exposé, providing an overview of everything going on with your desktop apps and windows. This may be too much for some users who want simplicity, but it might also answer the question of “where did I leave my car keys” when you have a million windows and programs open.

Launchpad, finally, is an application launcher that displays all your apps like the home screen in iOS; you single-click to launch one. Launchpad eliminates having to explain to people why you have to double-click to perform an action. Of course, your (fill in your relative here) will still double-click in Launchpad; we hope Apple has taken that into account.

Get Back -- A second group of features is clearly aimed at both new users, who won’t know anything different, and those grizzled veterans who have lost documents far too often. Resume, Auto Save, and Versions combine to let you quit (or crash) and relaunch software without making you reopen your in-progress files, and it does this all while never requiring you to remember to save and back up work in progress. This is much how BBEdit has worked in the background for us for years, and similar features can be found in Adobe InDesign as well.

Resume simply stores an application’s state, so that when you return to a program, it is precisely as you left it; Apple has encouraged iOS developers to support resuming since the release of iOS 4. After you restart your Mac, Lion will also bring you back exactly to the state you left it, unless you chose a “clean start.”

Auto Save and Versions enable you to avoid saving and managing versions of files manually. Auto Save saves continuously as you work, while allowing you to undo changes and, if necessary, revert to the state of the document when it was last opened. Versions stores a new snapshot every hour, and provides a Time Machine-like view of past versions, which you can compare to the current one and from which you can even copy and paste.

Developers will need to support these features explicitly, which means that we’ll start having two types of software — those that require us to save manually, and those that don’t. That could prove confusing.

Drag and Fling -- File sharing is always a pain, no matter how you go about it, especially for users who aren’t used to company networks. The closest solution we’ve seen to ease file transfers for Macs on the same local network is the third-party application DropCopy, which creates a kind of virtual hole on the Desktop into which you can drop a file to send it to another Mac. AirDrop offers a similar feature for Lion users, but is relatively limited.

With AirDrop, you click an icon in a Finder window’s sidebar, and your machine and all others with AirDrop enabled appear. You then drag a file onto another computer’s icon, and a secure transfer is initiated, with the other person having to click to accept the file. Lion can use the sender’s Apple ID, if they’ve associated that with their Mac OS X account (a new option in Lion), to authenticate that person to the recipient.

AirDrop requires Wi-Fi, and not just any Wi-Fi. You’ll need a Mac with a relatively recent Wi-Fi chipset, although we have yet to find out which models qualify. We’ll repeat this, because colleagues have been flabbergasted when told that Ethernet won’t work. Wi-Fi is required for AirDrop.

Apple uses a special peer-to-peer Wi-Fi mode, so that you don’t need to be connected to a Wi-Fi network to make AirDrop work. It’s much more like Bluetooth file transfers, though without any setup required.

Other Features of Note -- Mail also receives a nice upgrade with a new interface allowing two- or three-column views, borrowing a bit from Mail on the iPad. A conversation view like Gmail has sported for years places related messages into threads, while automatically removing quoted content that’s repeated from other messages in the same conversation. Mail has a host of other improvements, too.

Apple didn’t mention FileVault 2 in the keynote, but it’s a significant security enhancement providing full-disk encryption. Without a startup password, your drive looks like it contains random junk data. You can turn on FileVault 2 without reformatting or reinstalling a disk. It also allows a secure wipe, in which the encryption key is destroyed, rendering the data irrecoverable, followed by a laborious overwrite of the actual data on the drive for additional security in the unlikely event the NSA is after you.

While Snow Leopard added Wake on Demand to let certain kinds of remote network requests — like screen sharing — poke a stick into the side of Mac OS X over Ethernet and Wi-Fi (models from 2007 and later) to wake it up, Lion adds a new option. Low-power wake will allow file sharing, backup, and other operations (like iTunes Home Sharing with an Apple TV 2) without activating attached monitors or USB devices. (Please do not poke actual snow leopards or lions with sticks.)

Among other screen sharing improvements is the capability to have something akin to Fast User Switching for remote access. If you want to control the screen of a computer you’re away from, you can now log in using an account other than the active one, allowing a current user of that remote machine to continue on his or her merry way while your session runs under another account in the background.

Time Machine now gains local snapshots, which will let it continue to run and make backups on your Mac when you’re away from the drive or network on which you normally use the backup feature. These backups are then available while disconnected from the regular system, and appear in a combined view when you’re back on the network or plugged into the drive.

Hear Me Roar -- There’s a lot to process here, both new and old. Lion presents a number of new ways of thinking about Mac OS X, and the more we learn about it, the more subtlety we see in how new Mac users will approach the platform afresh.

More interesting will be in seeing how existing Mac users take to Lion’s new features — many people may find that they aren’t in need of new ways of working, even if those new approaches are better for new users or those accustomed only to iOS. But as always, it will be hard to resist the siren song of certain features, even if not all of them are equally compelling.


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Comments about Lion Details Revealed with Shipping Date and Price
(Comments are closed.)

As someone who runs a Mac support business, I find it hard to believe that Lion will only be available as a 4GB download via the Mac App Store. What about my clients who are offline, or have slow internet connections, or have a 2GB monthly data cap, or have 12 Macs on an office network? Let's hope Apple offers another solution.
Dennis B. Swaney  2011-06-06 20:41
What happens if you have to reset the admin password? That requires booting from an Install Disc.
Ted Stoffers  2011-06-07 00:34
What happens if you want to perform a clean install of Lion? Do I have to find a Snow Leopard disk and wait 30+ minutes to get to an UPGRADEABLE state?
Chris Pepper  An apple icon for a TidBITS Staffer 2011-06-07 07:06
Apple *must* have boot media -- systems released after Lion will almost certainly not boot from Snow Leopard DVDs.

But perhaps the Lion installer will be available as a thumb drive or SD card (like current MacBooks). Apple might provide 4gb SD cards for new Macs, and provide a tool to create your own in Lion. They could also use a smaller installer which fetched most of Lion from Apple servers.

I thought someone said Lion was 4gb, which would be substantially slimmed down from Snow Leopard at 6.1gb. Presumably they stripped out extra images now that size suddenly matters again. For DVDs, there's no real difference between 5gb and 8gb...
Glenn Fleishman  An apple icon for a TidBITS Staffer 2011-06-07 07:38
You say this, but Apple is notorious for the my way/highway option.

Windows systems for many years have shipped with a recovery partition and no media. (Although, of course, you could pay them a modest fee and they would send you the disc.)
Ted Stoffers  2011-06-07 17:11
Perhaps if you have no OS on your Lion machine, you'll get a stripped down App Store and the basic utilities. You'll need to dl the Latest OS from Apple.

It looks like Apple is trying to make pricing so everybody runs the same version. Better for developers.
Greg C  2011-06-06 22:15
Any news on Rosetta? I can't upgrade without real pain if Rosetta is no longer alive.
Glenn Fleishman  An apple icon for a TidBITS Staffer 2011-06-06 22:34
No mention, and we expect none. Rosetta is dead unless Apple listens to those of us with a few pieces of software that we can't replace with equivalents. (Mine is Quicken 2007.) I fear it's truly dead, as expected.
Gary Coyne  2011-06-07 10:29
Hi Glen. Just called Intuit. The function-retarded Quicken Essentials 2010 will be fixed with Q 2011, but that will not be released until September the earliest. It is in beta now.
Glenn Fleishman  An apple icon for a TidBITS Staffer 2011-06-07 12:32
You are awesome.
Thanks Gary!

I've read the Essentials would remain the only Mac product for now, but that may not have been accurate. Of course a lot of reviewers and bloggers may have assumed that is the case, since the last "regular" Quicken for Mac version came out in 2007.

My impression is that Intuit hasn't "officially" stated whether they would maintain/update a separate Quicken or "Quicken Deluxe" package for Mac.

Quicken for Mac has always been way behind its Windows counterpart, and Essentials was a step in the WRONG direction. I really hope they make some major (and long overdue) improvements with a separate Q for M, but I'm skeptical because of Intuit's abysmal track record here.

Amazing that Bill Campbell of Intuit can in good conscience stay on Apple AND Intuit's Boards, and not encourage Intuit to at least make an adequate version of Quicken for Mac. It's been a ridiculous situation for years re Intuit and their Mac software. We can all hope that it finally improves.
FWIW I haven't found any clarification from Intuit, whether they will only continue with Essentials, or if they will come out a new version of Quicken or Quicken Deluxe for Mac.

There is some vague info at their site, but they don't commit either way. FWIW this info from them is listed as being "updated" a couple of weeks ago:

What is the Difference Between Quicken Mac 2007 and Quicken Essentials for Mac:

Note that question #9 there is:

"Are any of these features coming in future versions of Quicken for mac?"

…and there they have a "Feedback" link. So you can submit suggestions/concerns to them there.

I did just find this article from last year, where their product manager is quoted as saying that they would release an updated version of Essentials and a true Quicken Deluxe version:

...but that's from 16 months ago.
sgtrich  2011-06-07 00:08
Am I the only one who REALLY dislikes the fact that Apple is making us use iOS features on a desktop computer? For instance, in Mail, I currently have my folder list on the left and my message list on the right, with no preview whatever set up by default. When I want to read a message, I double click the message in the message list, which opens the message in its own full screen window. With the "iOS version" of Mail that they're forcing on us, will I still be able to view my messages in full screen windows or will I be forced to read messages on the right of my message list, which is only a very narrow strip on the left side of the screen? I resent being forced to use my large screen iMac as though it's an iPhone!
Joan Tennant  2011-06-08 20:36
I completely agree! I find the iOS interface somewhat clunky and more time consuming. In fact, I found a lot of the SL "improvements" to be disimprovements. For instance, the ridiculousness of having an EXTRA pull-down when you right click on an icon on the dock. What a waste of time! What was wrong with the simplicity of the way it worked in Leo? Was it too un-groovy? Sheesh!
Jim Rea  2011-06-07 09:40
You mention that BBEdit and InDesign already have capabilities similar to Resume and Versions - our Panorama 6 database package does also. In fact, the idea of implementing versions in Panorama was suggested by none other than TidBITS's Matt Neuburg.
Adam Engst  An apple icon for a TidBITS Staffer 2011-06-07 09:43
Yes, and in fact, I think Panorama 6 does the best job of auto-saving and maintaining versions that I've seen - the only reason we didn't mention it in the article was that it's a relatively new feature that few people would be familiar with, in comparison with BBEdit and InDesign.

I have come to rely on Panorama's versioning in particular - it's not uncommon that I do something that is clearly a mistake and need to revert to a previously saved version, perhaps the version yesterday at 5:12 PM, or even last month on the 17th. Both are easily done, and I'm not certain Time Machine would be a good interface for comparing versions of a database.
Fritz Lang  2011-06-07 11:16
I don't suppose Auto-Save will work with 3rd partys ....... Like the one in Redmond
Adam Engst  An apple icon for a TidBITS Staffer 2011-06-07 11:43
Developers must support Auto Save and Versions explicitly, so Office will have Auto Save only if Microsoft adds it.
skeezix23  2011-06-08 05:59
What about those of us who never installed Snow Leopard. Will we have to buy it in order to buy Lion?
Berend Hasselman  2011-06-08 08:16

The description of what Versions will do makes me conclude that it is not particularly useful.

When I'm editing something (code, scripts) and do something silly between two version "saves" it may be impossible to revert to a previous sensible state of the file. A version could easily be an incomplete state of a file.

It would be much nicer if a shortcut was available to make the current state of a document a version (like a versioning system such as SVN or Mercurial).
kpwilson.triple7  2011-06-10 18:38
I downloaded the Flash Player update but I find that Real Player Downloader no longer popped up when I open a video on youtube. I updated Real Player but with no luck. What did i do?