Mac Lion shares iPad's iOS features as Apple aims for interoperability

News Analysis

Mac Lion shares iPad's iOS features as Apple aims for interoperability

Jenny Williams

Apple's new version of its Macintosh operating system, Mac OS X Lion, introduces iPad-like features. The Mac gets its own App Store and multi-touch gestures, but what benefits will the shared features between iOS and Mac OS X bring?

Apple hasunveiled the latest version of its operating system for its Macintosh, codenamed Lion, and, according to Steve Jobs, Apple's chief executive, Lion brings many of the best ideas from iPad back to the Mac.

Similar to the iPad, for example, Mac users are able to purchase and update desktop apps using an iTunes account. The Mac App Store, to be available for Snow Leopard by February 2011, will be included in Lion, Mac OS X 10.7, when it ships in mid-2011.

Launchpad on Mac OS X 10.7 enables apps to be searched and launched more easily as well as providing an iPad-style view of all Mac apps.

The eighth major release of the OS also includes auto-resume and auto-save, as well as a 'Mission Control' feature. This allows users to zoom out using a swipe gesture to view all open windows as thumbnails on the screen.

"With Lion, you can enter full screen mode with just one click, switch from one full screen app to another with just a swipe of the trackpad, and swipe back to the desktop to access your multi-window applications," says Apple.

Windowing environment

Rob Bamforth, principal analyst at Quocirca, believes Apple is trying to become more task-orientated through an improved view of multiple windows. "The windowing environment has been in the IT environment for a long time. Initially in technology workstations it was used by engineers to look at more than one thing at once," says Bamforth.

"Apple has streamlined and simplified. There are still traditional challenges of proprietary environments for developers, but they've addressed the fundamental usability issues and I applaud what they're doing," he adds.

Carolina Milanesi, research vice-president for mobile devices at Gartner, says, taking the best of iPhone and iPad to the Mac "certainly makes sense".

"Users want the apps and the flexibility and touch. It's not about trying to turn laptops into tablets but about bringing the features that users have liked in the iOS devices to the Mac," says Milanesi.

Operating synergy

Ian Fogg, analyst at Forrester, agrees. "This was about taking the best innovations from iOS and building them into Mac itself," he says.

Fogg says Apple is "cross-pollinating" across desktop and smartphone products, similar to how Microsoft is using innovations pioneered through other products, such as Xbox Live, Microsoft Office and Outlook on its Windows Phone 7 mobile OS. "We'll see synergy to grow in both directions," he says.

Fogg believes this is crucial for Apple to remain competitive. "Apple need to cross-pollinate to continue to innovate. It's fast-paced so they'll have to keep innovating."

Other analysts are more critical of the "synergy" between iOS and Mac OS X.

Andy Brown, PC analyst at Strategy Analytics, is unconvinced about the iPad-like multi-touch gesture user interface on Mac OS X 10.7. "It's not as intuitive to use multi-touch on a laptop like it is on an iPad," he says.

"Apple need to be careful not to be seen as gimmicky or try to cash-in to the success of iOS. Users expect different things from the Mac than what they expect from a tablet or smartphone. There's still some work to be done."

But there are benefits. "The more features they integrate and the more interoperable the operating systems are, the more options there are for form factor development in the future," adds Brown.

Brown also says it attracts developers by reducing development lead time and so decreasing developers' efforts.

"This looks like a longer-term investment. They're driving towards the cloud to enable access to apps from multiple accounts and devices," he adds.

The greater synergy between iOS and Mac OS X and the Mac App Store will appeal to developers looking to develop across both laptop and mobile device platforms.

While Mac OS X 10.7 incorporates iOS features, a fully integrated OS combining iOS and Mac OS X could provide Apple with a competitive advantage over its rivals, allowing it to develop new form factors quickly and maintain a consistent user experience.

For now, bringing iOS features to the Mac is a step in the direction of interoperability.


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