28 Comments

Summary:

Apple teased the next installment of OS X, 10.7 Lion, again at WWDC on Monday, and set its release for July. But this upgrade might leave a lot of users cold, even as it paves the way for wider adoption of OS X down the road.

osx-lion-feature

Apple teased the next installment of OS X, 10.7 Lion, once again at WWDC on Monday. This time around, we got a more concrete release window: users will be able to upgrade come July. But this upgrade might leave a lot of users cold, even as it paves the way for wider adoption of OS X down the road.

Lion is a significant change for OS X, both from a development back-end perspective, and for end-users, too. In fact, it may represent the most significant update of any point release since the introduction of Mac OS 10.0. And as the saying goes, you can’t make an omelet without cracking a few eggs.

In this case, the eggs in question might be some technologies that users aren’t quite ready to let go. Lion is demanding, especially with all the visual flourishes, like transitional animations, enabled. Apple has already said that older Intel Macs (those that don’t use the Intel Core 2 Duo processor or higher, or that have less than 2 GB of RAM installed) won’t be able to come to the party, and even those that aren’t so old (two years or more) might not be able to handle the demands without some customizations or after-market upgrades. Users won’t be able to jump right from Leopard to Lion, either, as they’ll need to have Snow Leopard and the Mac App Store (which arrived with a later Snow Leopard update) installed in order to even run the Lion upgrade software, which will be available only through digital distribution.

Don’t get me wrong, Lion should technically work for Macs that are just starting to show their age, so long as they meet the minimum requirements, but they probably won’t shine, and they won’t be as good at playing nice with the features that make Lion so desirable.

Let me say it plainly: Lion seems very much designed for use with modern processors, lots of RAM, and, most importantly, computers with SSD storage, and the presence of each of these components definitely improves the experience. The whole point of feature additions like Resume, Auto Save and Versions is that the Mac become, like the iPad, iPhone and iPod touch, a machine that can be turned on and off as desired, without undue waiting, loading or having to worry about traditional startup / shutdown procedures.

It also obviously couldn’t care less about your Mac’s optical disc drive, turning that hardware feature from a must-have to a quaint convenience thanks to the Mac App Store. The reality of solid state, disc drive-less personal computing became more tangible with the arrival of the new MacBook Air. But it’s still not the dominant model, and Lion is clearly designed for a future where it is. Luckily, you can take a shortcut to the future by replacing your existing MacBook’s optical drive with an SSD, which should help greatly improve instant-on startup times when you upgrade to Lion.

I’m glad Apple is taking a bold step forward with Lion, since hopefully it means big changes are in store for how we approach personal computing, even if it means some of my Macs won’t be able to come along for the ride. But if you’re planning to upgrade, keep in mind that more than any update since perhaps the introduction of Intel processors to Mac computers, Lion bring with it a significant adjustment period, for developers and uses alike.

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  1. I had a chance to test for a few hours the Lion on a maxed out 13″ MBA, and it’s a feast to use. Definitely waiting for the release !

  2. I’m glad I opted for the SSD on my 2009 MacBook uni-body, despite the extra chunk of change. With my recent upgrade to 8GB of RAM, I’m hoping Lion will run quite smoothly for me. Can’t wait!

    1. “I’m glad I opted for the SSD on my 2009 MacBook”

      Unfortunately most people did not with their 2-3 year old Intel Macs. Does that mean Lion well run way slower than Snow Leopard? If so, Apple has not said a thing to the user base. Sounds like the Vista release all over again. Remember that total calamity?
      http://windows.microsoft.com/en-US/windows-vista/This-old-PC-Windows-Vista-is-here-Is-it-time-to-upgrade-your-hardware

      1. Seriously Chris! What planet are you from? Did you really just compare OS X to Windows Vista???

  3. Thorin Messer Thursday, June 9, 2011

    Anyone have a theory on how you proceed when you replace a failed hdd or want/have to reformat?

    1. Install SL then download Lion from the App Store? Sounds like a hassle to me… hopefully some enterprising hackers will figure out a way to put it on those horrible spinning optical disks.

    2. Thorin,
      can you please clarify what you’re trying to do? has the current drive failed and you want to reformat the same failed drive?

    3. Everyone gets so hung up on this one point, and everyone thinks they’re the first one to think of it.

      There is already a way to take the Lion Beta and burn it to a disc or put it on a thumb drive and then boot it.

      When Lion comes out, you can rest-assured that Apple has a plan for how to do this and they will reveal it then. How many of these details does Apple usually miss? Think about it. Do you really think they don’t have a plan?

    4. There are several methods, although I’m willing to guess that most people who have this problem, will take their computers in to have them fixed.

      1. There could be an option in the final installer to make a “hard copy”.

      2. Whenever you choose a TimeMachine backup disk, the system could install hidden recovery files or even repartition the drive and create a recovery partition.

      3. Take your system into an authorized dealer to replace the drive and they’ll reinstall the OS, all you’ll have to do is enter your Apple ID to restore any lost data that was backed up to iCloud.

    5. When you install lion developer preview it creates a partition on your hard disk to reinstall My guess is that is the way to reinstall the Operating system.

  4. It makes a restore partition for re-installs. For a new hdd you’ll have to re-download – permitted with the app store.

  5. It takes advantage of SSD and faster procs and more ram but doesn’t need them. Run the developer preview before writing an ignorant article.

    1. The article said nothing about requiring SSDs or faster processors. Read the article before writing an ignorant post.

  6. Good article. Thanks. You make some great points.

    :):):)

  7. Ew. I smell FUD.

  8. “Lion seems very much designed for use with modern processors, lots of RAM, and, most importantly, computers with SSD storage, and the presence of each of these components definitely improves the experience. ”

    Ummm you left out the multi-touch trackpad.

    1. Will the Track Pad be bundled with the IMac after the Lion release? Sounds like it should. Jobs was pushing ONLY the track pad at the conference.

  9. David Bullock Friday, June 10, 2011

    With my 0.5MB Broadband connection I estimate it will take me 47 hours to download 4GB Lion for my iMac (the last 650MB iPhone update took 7 hours). And that’s assuming the connection doesn’t drop, which it will, several times.

    Hope Apple issue a DVD or I’ll be left behind….

    1. Take the emailed App Store receipt to the Apple Store and have them give you the OS on DVD. Let them know you are NOT happy AT ALL! This control$$$ grab has gone WAY to far.
      Maybe after 100,000 customers come in doing the same thing, they will wake-up and sell the OS on DVDs.

  10. Andrew Jones Friday, June 10, 2011

    Mac Mini’s only have 2GB RAM as standard. Presumably Lion will still work with them…? What are the minimum requirements?

    1. I’m running Lion DP4 in a VMWare virtual machine with only 1GB of memory. However, In order to install it, it did require at least 2GB.

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