Apple’s Lion ready to roar – Jobs previews Mac OS X’s next big cat

21 Oct 2010

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As Apple CEO Steve Jobs revealed one technological marvel after another, you couldn’t help but feel the real star of the ‘Back to the Mac’ event was the iPad and the lessons Apple has learned from the breakthrough device.

It would come as no surprise to Apple aficionados or fanbois that iOS 4 and the upcoming iOS 4.2 which drive the iPhone, iPad and iPod touch families, began as a sliver from the mighty OS X operating system which has worked its way from Kodiak to Cheetah to Puma, Jaguar, Panther, Tiger, Leopard, Snow Leopard and in summer 2011, Lion.

From some of the marvels displayed, there can be no doubt that when Mac OS X Lion debuts it’s going to be one cool cat. But the real star of the show was the iPad, and what Apple has learned from the device and introduced on the new versions of the MacBook Air.

Last night, Jobs described the new MacBook Air – which comes as super slim and ultra light 13.3-inch and 11.6-inch notebooks – as “what would happen if the MacBook and iPad hooked up.”

“The new MacBook Air is the future of notebooks,” Jobs proclaimed as he unveiled the first device, a 13.3-inch device with a LED backlit display that weighs just 2.8 pounds but comes with a high-resolution 1,440 x 900 display – more pixels than on a MacBook Pro. Introducing the second device he said: “The 13.3-inch Air isn’t the whole story,” Jobs said. “It has a younger brother with an 11.6-inch screen weighing just 2.3 pounds. It has everything the other one has, except its high-resolution display is 1,366 x 768 pixels.”

Prior to unveiling the new MacBook Air devices, Jobs revealed a number of exciting new software products, including iLife 11, iMovie 11 and a new version of GarageBand that teaches you how to play guitar, piano and other instruments. He also revealed Facetime on the Mac, as well as a new App Store, specifically for Mac users.

Core lessons

But it was the preview of Mac OS X Lion that revealed the core lessons that have been learned.

“What is the philosophy behind Lion?” Jobs asked. “That’s where Back to the Mac comes from, it started with the Mac OS X and created from it was iOS which we used in the iPhone and we invented some new things and perfected it and now it is used in the iPad, as well. Inspired by these innovations, we wanted to bring them back to the Mac.

“In effect, OS X Lion will be where OS X meets the iPad,” Jobs said. “Every app on the iPad is a full-screen app – sometimes that works great on the Mac. Apps on the iPad auto save and automatically apps resume where you left them. So we’ve been inspired to bring these back to the Mac.”

New features that will thrive on the Mac OS X Lion will be multi-touch gestures. “Touch surfaces shouldn’t be vertical because after a short tune you start to fatigue, they are ergonomically terrible. Touch surfaces want to be horizontal, hence we perfected track pads to get multi-touch to the notebook.

“The Apps Store has been huge and on the iPhone, it completely revolutionised mobile apps. Over 7 billion apps have been downloaded from the Apps Store and we’ve seen nothing like it in our careers. As part of Lion, we’re going to have a Mac Apps Store with one-click downloads and free and paid-for apps, automatic installation and licensed for use on all your personal Macs.”

In order to avoid desktop clutter that will no doubt come with the multitude of traditional applications, windows, spaces and now downloadable apps, Jobs revealed the new Mac OS X will boast the same foldering system as on the iPhone 4 and that will soon feature on the iPad, as well as a really cool new feature called Mission Control.

Mission Control gives users a bird’s eye view of everything happening on their Mac and navigate to anywhere they wish.

Apple vice-president Craig Federighi gave a demonstration of downloading apps for the Mac and showed how the apps directly jumped into the LaunchPad once a user clicked once inside the Store. He also showed how users can zoom between windows and spaces and photos with a simple flick of their hand.

Smiling like a proud father, Jobs marched back on the stage. “We’re bringing these things back to the Mac and know this will delight users. There’s now a whole new way of getting apps with Apps Stores, working in full screen effortlessly and of course, Mission Control.”

He said Apple plans to release its Lion in summer 2011.

But the best news, as usual, he kept till later: “The Mac App Store is going to be great for users and we don’t want to wait until Lion. So we decided to put out the Mac App Store for Snow Leopard and open the store within 90 days.

“Developers can go to our site and learn about it today and we will be receiving applications from developers in November.”

Below: Jobs on stage last night

Jobs launches MacBook Air

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Editor John Kennedy is an award-winning technology journalist.

editorial@siliconrepublic.com