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Apple unveils new direction for OSX

Mobile & TelcoFeatures
, 21 Oct 2010Features

When Apple announced that last night's keynote event was tagged 'Back to the Mac', we all assumed that the fruity gadget maker would be focusing its attention on its grown-up computers rather than the iOS devices which have been hogging the limelight lately.

That's partly true, but Steve Jobs' sneak peak at the forthcoming OSX 10.7 Lion owed more than a little to the company's mobile operating system.

It seems that everyone is so enamoured by the simple functionality of Apple's portable, proddable devices that the company's engineers have decided to take all of the best bits from iOS4 and add them to the full-blown operating system.

App Store for Mac

Probably the biggest development is that the Mac will soon have its own App Store. That means 600,000 Apple-registered developers are beavering away on software which, starting in November, can be automatically downloaded and installed using the same simple user interface beloved of iGadget owners.

Whether the quality of those offerings goes very far beyond the usual fart Apps and soft porn twaddle remains to be seen, but if a Mac App Store can do for OSX what iTunes App Store has done for iOS4, then the rest of the industry had better sit up and listen.

Sourcing and buying Mac software has always been a pain, and the source of much amusement and derision for PC-toting detractors - but this could actually change the game, literally.

Purchasing Apps through an Apple account will be a one-click affair, and Apps will automatically update whenever a new iteration is released. What's more, you can install those Apps on as many Macs as you own and we suspect that a large proportion of the software on offer will have an iDevice equivalent built into the purchase price.

Anyone willing to cough up $99 a year will have access to a full suite of development tools for the platform, pre-release software, technical support and developer resources.

Apple is currently signing up 30,000 new developers every month and we can only see that number growing, especially now that Apple has made its much-maligned approval process a little more open and transparent.

Launchpad

Taking another cue from the iPad, Launchpad is a new way of getting at all of those new Apps in a simple user interface. Clicking on the Launchpad icon in the Dock brings up a grid view of all of the items in your Applications folder, much like the iPhone and its ilk. Applications can be sorted into categorised folders simply by dropping one App onto another, again, just like in iOS4.

Full screen Apps

The iPad displays every active App in full-screen mode, and Apple seems to have taken this on board with OSX Lion. Most application will now have a full screen mode which lets the topmost software hog the whole screen removing other distractions from view. Most of this funcionality relies on multi-touch gesture so we are assuming that once Lion has been released into the wild, all new desktop Macs will come with either a Magic Trackpad or Apple's swipeable Magic Mouse.

Mission Control

Another new feature rolled out in last nights preview of OSX Lion was Mission Control, another gesture-based widget which allows users to easily see everything that's going on on your crowded desktop. Open application windows are grouped together and can be un-nested with a single click. It's all simple, elegant, and very Apple.

So Apple has spent the better part of a year concentrating on iOS4 - some might say to the detriment of OSX - but all of that seems to have run full circle. Lessons have been learned from the way millions of users interact with their portable Apple hardware, and those lessons have been applied to OSX in an intriguing way.

OSX 10.7 Lion will arrive in Summer 2011 and will be bundled with all new Macs. Upgrade prices were not mentioned, but the Snow Leopard upgrade is currently £25, which sounds reasonable to us.

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