Apple previewed the next version of OS X during its Back to the Mac event in Cupertino today. The eighth major update to Mac OS X was christened Lion - following the big-cat nomenclature that has been used since 10.0 Cheetah was released in 2001 - and is said to be "inspired by many of iPad's software innovations
." A host of new features were announced, including Launchpad, the OS X equivalent of the iOS Home screen; full screen apps a la iOS; and Mission Control, which is sort of a mash-up of Exposť, Dashboard, and Spaces that allows you to navigate your Mac with multi-touch gestures. In an interesting - and potentially alarming - development, Apple also announced a "Mac App Store
" along the lines of the iOS App Store. It's unclear at this time if earlier reports that only Apple-signed apps
will be able to run on 10.7 will pan out; though Steve Jobs reportedly denied this, he also denied that there would ever be a Mac App Store.
The "Back to the Mac" theme apparently encompasses both a renewed focus on the Mac OS X platform and the process of how iOS innovations have filtered back into Apple's desktop operating system. "We're inspired by innovations in the iPhone and iPad," said Steve Jobs from the stage, "and are bringing them back to the Mac." Following a trend that has been underway for some time with products like the Magic Mouse and Magic Trackpad, multi-touch interaction is getting a major boost with Lion, which will feature iPad-like full-screen mode for apps. However, he downplayed any expectation of touchscreen Macs. "Multi-touch on a laptop doesn't work," Jobs asserted. "Touch surfaces don't want to be vertical, like on a desktop monitor. After a while, your hands get fatigued." Therefore, the new functions will continue to be controlled from mice and trackpads.
The Launchpad seems to be more an homage to the iPad than a productivity feature: one click on the icon makes all of your windows disappear and a gridded view of all your apps comes up. Like the Home screen, you can swipe through multiple pages of apps. It's not clear how this is better than the Dock, or scrolling through items in the Applications folder; again, this seems more aimed at people who like their iDevices and never used Mac OS X before.
Sticking with the "space program" theme, the new program manager is called "Mission Control." It reminds me of nothing quite so much as a desktop version of Multifl0w
. In fact, like that app switcher, Mission Control is inspired by Exposť, bringing a unified view of all your open windows and incorporating Dashboard and Spaces into the same interface as the Mac OS X full-screen switcher. You activate it with a swipe gesture, tap to bring up a particular element, and swipe again to return to Mission Control.
The Mac App Store sounds potentially like a plus for Mac OS X developers, giving users a single location to download programs, which are automatically installed and added to the Launchpad. The only potential hazard here is if an unsubstantiated report from earlier this year turns out to be true. The renegade OS X programmers at Rixstep (developers of the Xfile
Finder replacement) claimed in a blog post back in April that "10.7 will have kernel support for ('insistence on') binaries signed with Apple's root certificate," emphasizing that "no software will be able to run on Mac OS X 10.7 without being approved and signed by Apple, Inc.
" An Italian dev wrote Steve Jobs to ask about the report, saying that "There's a rumor saying there will be a Mac App Store and no software without authorization from Apple will run on Mac OS X. Is that true?" In his typical laconic style, Jobs replied "Nope
." But here's the rub: the question asked two things, will there be a Mac App Store and will unauthorized software be blocked. We already know that there will be a Mac App Store, so either the "nope" referred to unauthorized software or Steve was just lying. And even if the former was the case... it could be that unauthorized software will run, but only signed binaries will be allowed on the App Store. Which is a step n the wrong direction, for so many reasons.
While Lion is due out in summer of next year, the Mac App Store will be compatible with Snow Leopard and will launch in 90 days
. Apple will begin accepting app submissions next month.