Instead, I want to note my initial thoughts as day one of using Lion. I’m sure things may change as I become more familiar with the operating system. But as it stands, here’s what I think:
Ultimately, it’s not a matter of what Lion has to currently offer, but rather it’s a window peek to Apple’s vision of the future. Sure, Lion provides a series of refinements over the previous operating system, but the concept of turning your laptop from a primary device to just another smart device, is entirely new. And because of that, I don’t think it’s fair to judge whether or not Lion is a successful follow-up to Snow Leopard until a few updates down the road.
Through Lion we’ve learned that the Mac App Store is now the default software digital distribution method. Apple is no longer tolerant of bulky and increasing venerable optical drives. And looking at the bigger picture, I welcome the change. I’m fully aware that there will be a transition period where it will be a pain in the ass to install software that exists only in a DVD format, but over time I think this is a smart move not unlike when Apple first abandoned the floppy drive in the original iMac back in 1998.
On top of that, it’s clear that with the arrival of Lion, as well as the MacBook Air and Mac Mini released today, Apple is changing the install and recovery system completely. Instead of providing users with setup and restore DVDs, everything is now stored in a hidden harddrive partition. And in case users truly messed up the computer, Apple also offers Internet Recovery in their newer hardware, where they are able to connect to an Apple server directly and reinstall the OS that way.
The scrolling direction is reversed in Lion. Like the iPhone and other touch screen devices, when you scroll your fingers upwards, so does the content. I understand everyone’s frustration in having to unlearn what they are familiar with, but again, I think it’s a smart move to do now rather than a few years down the road. It’s important to make the user experience consistent, especially for those who are growing up with smartphones in hand.
The way it helped me is to rethink the concept of scrolling: instead of scrolling down in the window, I’m pushing up the content directly.
Full screen apps. It’s funny how for years Mac users have complained that full-screen apps sacrifice valuable desktop space and effective multitasking, only to find that to be the prominent feature in the latest version of the Mac OS X Lion. Then again, that was before mutli-touch gestures became a standard in user-device interaction. Instead of shuffling between countless windows in the Windows taskbar or to repeatedly hit alt/command-tab to get to the desired application, users simply have to swipe on their multi-touch mouse or trackpad in order to pull up Mission Control and be able to move from one full-screen application to another. Now that I have access to full-screen apps at the swipe of my (three) fingertips, It’s hard to imagine editing pictures in iPhoto or trimming footages in iMovie without taking advantage of my entire computer screen.
Speaking of Mission Control, it’s basically a combination of Spaces + Dashboard + Exposé. Like I said in the WWDC post, I’m always happy to see Apple consolidate some of their key features in the sea of has-beens pet projects they’ve developed over the years.
The thing is, technology is now different compared to what it once was five, maybe ten years ago. I grew up bragging about processor speed and hard drives storage capacities. Those hardly matter anymore, so as a “modern operating system”, Lion is focusing on what’s important today (ie: digital distribution, cloud access) as opposed to holding on to what once mattered. And as much as I’m not a fan of Launchpad, Lion’s version of an application launcher, it’s a clear sign of direction Apple is adamant in going.
From abandoning floppy drives in the late 90s, to the myriad transitions (ie: Classic/Carbon/Cocoa, PowerPC-to-Intel, 32-to-64-bit architecture), Apple has always been forward thinking that way, stubbornly so, even at the risk of frustrating and alienating their most-loyal customers. To me, Lion is yet another gear in the transition in pushing Mac OS X (or would it be iOS?) another step forward.