Apple previews upcoming Mac OS X Lion

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When it arrives next summer, the next major update to Mac OS X will owe more than a little to the features already found in Apple’s other operating system, iOS.

That was the message delivered by Steve Jobs Wednesday during a special Mac-focused event in Cupertino that saw the company preview the next major version of its OS X operating system. Called Mac OS X Lion, the new OS is slated to arrive in summer 2011.

Many of the features previewed Wednesday—and Jobs describe the sneak peek as only a “taste” of what’s to come—draw on iOS for inspiration. As the press event’s “Back to the Mac” moniker suggested, Apple drew on Mac OS X to build its mobile operating system and now many of the features found in iOS are making their way back into the Mac operating system.

“That’s what Lion’s about,” Jobs said. “Mac OS X meets the iPad.”

To that end, Lion will bring a Mac App Store to the Mac, similar to the App Store for the iPhone, iPod touch, and iPad. Jobs noted that the App Store has been a major success for Apple, with iOS device users racking 7 billion downloads since the store launched in 2008.

You’ll be able to purchase and download Mac apps the same way you do on iOS devices, with integrated app updates. Jobs said that its applications store would offer Mac users the same one-click download and automatic updates that mobile users have become accustomed to.

During his presentation, Jobs noted that the Mac App Store wouldn’t be the only way to get Mac OS software, though he touted it as “the best place to discover apps.” The store will feature both free and paid offerings, with Apple offering developers the same 70/30-percent revenue split that mobile app makers get.

We’ll find out soon enough how a Mac App Store will work. Apple plans to open one in the next 90 days for use on Snow Leopard.

As for other iOS features, Lion will bring full-screen support for applications. This mimics the way apps work on the iPad. Mac users will be able to enter full-screen mode with a single click and switch to other full-screen applications by swiping their trackpad. A swipe back will access multi-window apps.

All that swiping will depend upon another iOS-inspired feature in Lion—support for multitouch gestures. Unlike with iOS devices, where you make gestures right on the screen, Lion’s support will come through notebook trackpads as well as the Magic Mouse and Magic Trackpad input devices.

Launchpad in Mac OS X Lion

Lion also introduces the Launchpad, a feature that gives users instant access to all the applications on their Mac. A full-screen display will show all those applications, with the ability to swipe between multiple pages of apps. Users will also be able to arrange apps and create app folders, as they currently can on the iPhone and iPod touch.

Mission Control in Mac OS X Lion
A Mission Control feature expands on Exposé, and gives you a view of open full-screen apps, your Dock, and your desktop. It also displays app clusters that take multiple windows from the same app and puts them together.

Updated at 2:46 p.m. PT to add more details throughout the story.

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At a Glance
  • At $30 for all of your Macs, the only reason not to upgrade to Lion is because you rely on old PowerPC-based apps that won’t run on it. Otherwise, it’s a great price for a major upgrade.

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