Blog Post

Mac OS X 10.7: A Speculative Anatomy of the ‘Lion’

The invite from Apple’s (s aapl) “Back to the Mac” event clearly shows an image of a lion, which strongly suggests that the next iteration of OS X is going to be announced. But what new features will ‘Lion’ bring? Here’s a list of some things to expect (and some you shouldn’t).

Most Likely

A UI redesign. The release of iTunes 10 brought some graphical changes, namely the rearrangement of the “traffic light” window controls, and the lack of color in the sidebar. It’s likely we’ll see changes similar to this across the board in 10.7, as this has happened before; first the UI of iTunes gets a makeover, then OS X follows suit a while later. Personally, I wouldn’t mind seeing this, as the colorless sidebar has sort of grown on me.

An update to iChat. When FaceTime was announced, we were told it wasn’t just going to be for the iPhone 4. The latest iPod touch can now do FaceTime, so the next obvious move would be to include it in iChat, the built-in IM client of OS X. Since iChat already handles video calling, adding FaceTime should be easy. Having FaceTime on Macs would really extend the reach of the service.


Front Row refresh. Front Row has been neglected for the past few years; it hasn’t seen an update since OS X 10.5, back in 2007. iTunes U and other newly introduced iTunes content doesn’t work in Front Row. Even if the interface doesn’t get changed (it needs a new look, but Apple kept things pretty much the same with the new Apple TV), support for iTunes LP and iTunes U should at least be introduced so you can enjoy all your content from across the room.

Changes to the Finder. While it would be nice to see some new features such as tabbed Finder windows, I think it’s more likely that we’ll just minor changes to the Finder. For example, maybe a Dock-like auto-hide for the sidebar. Speaking of the Dock, I’d like to see features like those in HyperDock made native, especially the Windows 7-esque window previews. Won’t hold my breath on Apple taking a cue from Microsoft (s msft), though.


Virtual machines. I know that 10.5 introduced Boot Camp, where you can dual-boot into another OS besides OS X, but even though it’s something users would appreciate, somehow I can’t see an implementation of something like Parallels or VMWare (s vmw) (where you can run two operating systems at once) being added to 10.7. I think Apple would see it as a memory hog, and appealing to only a relatively small audience.

Absolutely no chance

Running iOS on a Mac. For a while now, the rumor’s been making the rounds that Apple will soon announce iOS compatibility with Mac computers. Heck, I’ve even heard that OS X is going to be replaced by an upscaled version of iOS. While it may sound good in theory, in reality, there’s just no way it could work.

On the iPad, we’ve already seen that iPhone apps run at twice the size in compatibility mode can look horrendous. Now imagine if you were running one at triple or even quadruple size to run it on a Mac. It would be unusable. And another thing — what about multi-touch? How would you go about emulating a two- three- or four-finger gesture using a computer mouse? Yes, the Magic Mouse and the new trackpads can recognize gestures, but only in general. They can’t work out the position of where you wanted the gesture to be on screen. Unless Apple reveals a whole range of touchscreen computers on Wednesday, iOS on a Mac will remain a pipe dream.

Our Personal Wish Lists

  • High on my priority list would be a UI refresh, new Finder features (tabbed windows especially), and fixes for the bugs that have sprung up since Snow Leopard.
  • Geoffrey Goetz would like to see Apple tie up the loose ends that have shown up in its products.
  • Bryan Schuetz wants an update to Spaces, the virtual desktop feature of OS X.
  • Charles Jade has been thinking about Front Row, and whether it’s turned into abandonware since Apple TV 2 was released.
  • Darrell Etherington just wants FaceTime to come to the Mac so that he can actually use it on his iPhone 4 somewhere outside of the Apple Store.

Related content from GigaOM Pro (sub req’d):

30 Responses to “Mac OS X 10.7: A Speculative Anatomy of the ‘Lion’”

  1. Now, I agree in much of what you said. The multitouch integration will not be coming, as they announced, or at least not on the screen. The MacBook’s trackpad and the new desktop trackpad, will really help in games and such, from the Mac App Store, which will come out on the 6 of January, I believe. Now I don’t have a Mac, but I’m not saying Windows is any more better than Mac OS X, because it’s not. I am also looking forward to the Front Row update as well, or at least some AirPlay in it to an Apple TV. I think iTunes does this, but still. The Dock could use the HyperDock features as well.

  2. Nicklas Lind

    I wish they would make all the scrollbars colorless, I’ve wanted this ever since iTunes did that (7, I think it was), and I wish these would fade out, just like on the iPhone :)

  3. I would really like to see a native tabbed finder, because it makes it much easier to control the amount of windows open. Also, if they are going to do a UI redesign (which I really hope they do) I think that the first thing they should do is add a maximize button, right now we have the green zoom button but that doesn’t necessarily maximize the window, the zoom button tries to fit the content in a way that the application maker thought it should be viewed, which in some cases is great, but in other where the user just wants a maximized window it doesn’t work do the user has to manually maximize the window. Next I hope they do better minimization work in the dock, at times it is hard to understand which windows belong to which application in the dock (although I love the mini previews that dock creates when the window is minimized), in Snow Leopard Apple added a wonderful feature that let the user minimize their windows to the application icon in the dock, but the problem was that when there are multiple windows open the user has to right click on the icon to find the window they want, I hope apple adds a way for the user to be able to see all of their application windows (with the previews) by just going on the application icon. Also, one great feature which I think Apple could add is the ability to set windows side by side, this was actually introduced in windows 7, and is called snap; however, I think apple can do a better job with it by using a putting snap into expose, that way the user can view all of their windows and they can set the ones that they need side by side (this would be best done in expose because the user doesn’t have to go through all their open window one by one until they find the ones they need to set side by side, in expose the user can simply choose the window that they want when all the windows are displayed as tiles. Lastly, I hope they add a few more customization options like being able to choose default applications without any 3rd party plugin to system preferences, or being able to set the amount of transparency in the menu bar (currently there is an option to turn off and on the transparency in the menu bar, but no option to adjust the transparency), and it would also be convenient to have the option (without running a script in the terminal) to change dock from 3d to 2d, because some users still prefer the 2d dock. I am also hoping that Apple works on security, for example by adding a full ASLR to the system (although it should not be implemented with full force because a strong ASLR can cause compatibility problems, which I found out the hard way when doing a few experiments on Linux), and lastly Apple should think about changing the single mode UNIX access system because it automatically logs in as root (as it should in a single mode UNIX level), but it can allow people to easily create administrator level users which can cause system wide changes. Apple tries to avoid this physical security issue by using an EFI lock, but the EFI lock not only locks the certain parts of OS, but it also locks parts of the system, which can be dangerous should the user forget the password, it would be much easier to change some of the behaviors in the single user Unix level. Lastly, adding plugins to QuickTime X would also be good, because it would allow users to expand the capabilities of QuickTime without the need to use QuickTime 7. I am also hoping that apple rewrites applications like iTunes and DVD player to use cocoa.

  4. I wouldnt agree on the vertical traffic light. iTunes might be fine with that, but other apps will suffer since the title bar will disappear with that kind of controller.

    Also for the less-colored sidebar, it is too ugly to make me get the color icon back. However, the hide/show fold button replacing the old triangle may is a considerable option, as it enable distinguish the parent item from the children.

  5. J Huizer

    Why not ios as a virtual os within OS X and have next to the normal screen an itouch device integrated as touchpad and the screen of this device is fully integrated with your normal screen and both os’ses are needly integrated.

  6. I would like to see bluRay support. It won the media battle, and regardless of jobs feelings about sony tech, it will be a necessary adoption if Apple wants to be in the game in the coming media center gold rush.

    I also expect faster running applications, Apple is releasing a bunch of new developer tools that promise faster execution, and more advanced debugging. (less bugs, zippier apps). I am also hoping they will make some major improvements to core services, 10.4 and 10.5 brought lots of additions. 10.6 not so much. better core services allow third party apps do more, with less room for error and with tighter integration (in theory).

    As far asGUI goes, you would be surprised what Apple already includes in finder they you just need to activate in the CLI, I expect some of those easter eggs to disappear, and new ones to show up. But an update to spaces would be very welcome, and some additional gesture recognition.

    iOS is NEVER going to be on a mac, but i could see apple adding touch events to OSX. Probably not in this version, but its inevitable that apple will step into multi touch workstations eventually. we artists LOVE it, and Apple loves us.

    Native wireless syncing with iProducts, additions to mobileMe, of course expanded faceTime network would all be pluses. I would be very interested in improved native VNC performance.

    In hardware, id like a mac mini that compares to i7 mini towers.

  7. My friend and I have been brainstorming, and some really innovative stuff we’d like to see is:
    * Easy, instant email system – checking your E-Mail on an iPhone or iPad is easy, why should it be different on a Mac? The idea of a small popup interface coming from the dock or menu bar, perhaps about the size of an iPhone app, with INSTANT access to your emails – it really doesn’t need a whole app, it’s ridiculous to think it’s easier to get out my phone, unlock it and launch Mail than to just do the same on a Mac. Something similar for Address Book and iCal would be great.
    * Some form of App Store – I know this rumour is over done, but it makes sense – is an outdated way to find software, and frankly something appstore-ish would make Apple a LOT of money.

    • I have to disagree, an appstore would beg apple to close it’s software for approval and monitoring. The Woz would not approve. A central repository of software perhaps, a repo is not an AppStore. The AppStore acts as a middle man between user and developer and limits what developers can bring to the table, and how much they profit. a web store is free, and app store costs 20%. Financial transactions on an open platform like OSX should remain between then consumer and the developer. Don’t remove a developers right to handle licensing and support.

      On the iPhone its a different situation, It’s on a closed network (cellular) and runs a platform specific OS (iOS). An app store is appropriate in that situation where users are ensured software thats safe for the network, and is compatible with the device its being purchased for, and every carrier has tried their hand at that business model since the mid 90s, apple just made the model work.

      I do agree a repository app would be cool. But thats like a skinned RSS reader. but a controlled purchase/deliver marketplace like the AppStore….bad idea on the OSX

      To your other suggestion…i might just have to build that app now.

      • Most of the existing payment processors, download sites, and application hubs take some kind of cut from developers – some far more than 20-30% – and particularly if they can drive high sales (think MacHeist) – and a Mac ‘AppStore’ would certainly do that (I’d sacrifice a 30% cut for 10x more sales).

        However, I’d agree that it’s a no go for the other reason you identify (approval and monitoring). People forget, when they ask for ‘an open store’ that a store, by definition, has legal responsibilities over the goods that it sells.

        An inbetween option would be a Mac AppStore within iTunes, that like Apple retail stores, had a small selection of approved software (where developers pay for submit and review – I think the benefits would outweigh the costs for a lot of developers).

        More to the point, Apple needs to develop something like this themselves in order to move away from DVD based distribution of their own software.

  8. b hanson

    Fix Spotlight, make the entire volume searchable with a simple “search entire volume” option. A stop button if you see it has been found instead of waitifor the braindead thing to find everything that starts or contains pr
    Let me find by date range and sort the results just like a regular Finder list view. Make windows open in the view, same dimensions and same location as when you last closed them. Make everything stay in the exact same spot on the Desktop unless you choose to move any item or choose auto align/clean-up. I could go on and on and on and on. Suffice to say I have been using Apple gear EXCLUSIVELY for 20+ years and believe me when I say some things have NOT been an improvement. Keeping the faith should NOT be a bore and a chore but it’s getting that way inside my walled garden. P.S. I LOVE Apple gear but please Steve, no snake oil!

  9. the other new capability i hope is coming to Lion that no one has mentioned yet is expanding Software Update to include auto updating of approved third party software too (purchased in the online Apple Store i suppose), like iOS does now for its apps.

    because keeping all your various software up to date, as is always advisable and often necessary, is by far the #1 pain in the butt for all computer users. it’s tedious and sometimes confusing. and there are so many …

    this would be a huge selling point for the Mac OS that “just works” – one click updating of everything!

    • Holland Oates

      This would go hand-in-hand with a much better Installer and packaging system. I’d love to see Apple get serious about this, and keep devs from requiring an admin password when it’s unnecessary, and dumping files around the system.

  10. sorry but i think you are utterly wrong about iOS apps not coming to Lion, replacing widgets with or without Dashboard. the UI issue will be solved via the touchpad on all laptop Macs and a Magic Trackpad for any desktop Mac. enabling you to use most of your iPhone/iPad/AppleTV (inevitable) apps on your Mac like a widget now will be an extraordinarily empowering expansion of OS X (excepting those that require an accelerometer).

    widgets on iOS (and Windows) have never matched their potential. because they never got the effort by developers and third party services to make them vital and useful for our everyday lives like smartphone apps have become. enabling you to access the same app you are used to using constantly now on portable devices on all your “screens” will be a great leap to unifying your software.

    and this will also set the long-term stage for ultimately “app-izing” all software. as the processor power of all portable devices comes to match today’s laptops/desktops (as surely it will), and SSD storage doubles and quadruples too, there won’t be anything they can’t do. but when you need a lot of screen area to work with – as many always will too – then laptops/desktops will still be the way to go.

    of course the even greater leap would be if Lion itself was 100% multitouch UI enabled. and i think that has to be what’s coming. because Apple has left itself no more “cats” for future OS generations! so Lion will have to be the ultimate OS, the be-all and end-all (for now at least) that once again leaves Windows in catch up mode.

    • Your talking about including the developer emulator in dashboard? Thats alot of technical overhead. iOS is a fundamentally different system. and the devices have additional hardware (carrier chips, GPS, accelerometers) that those apps make use of. Asking for app-ubiquity right now is flat impossible. and if apple tried it would just confuse and annoy consumers as to why they cant get “Loopt” to work in the dashboard.
      “app-izing” all software would be the death of a useable workstation. developers can already make iphone app-like UI’s. Theres no need to force it.

  11. since the days of my Atari, i missed being able to transfer a file, and then when a name conflict came up, i wasn’t given the chance of actually doing something about it. The fujibox gave that to me in 1988, here we are in 2010, whats that 22 years later and Finder still has the one feature lacking that was back then the epitome of whether it was “user-Friendly”

  12. 1. Addressbook that could handle live twitter and other feeds. Better import and export features.
    2. Huge IWeb overhaul for better meta-tag creation and better SEO features. New Apple Ads? IWeb created pages are worthless to rank in Google as is.
    3. HDR creation feature in IPhotos.
    4. Have Spotlight as a larger movable window. HATE it in the upper right corner! Won’t stay open!
    5. Redo the downloads window view. HATE the black window preview viewer!
    6. Circular tower rotating dock with three sides for more app icons.

  13. Running existing iOS software – no (for the reasons you outlined, plus CPU incompatibility, etc).

    On the other hand, I can see a good argument for making it easier for people to port iOS apps back to OS X, especially if they intend to add touch-screens to some Macs – they’re going to want to make it easy for third parties to bring their touch-designed applications over.

    (There was a good reason why Apple renamed a lot of the APIs when forking iOS from OS X, but that reason doesn’t apply going the other way).

    What I’d like to see – a new ‘file system’ that builds on ideas from ZFS, Dropbox, BackToMyMac & Time Machine so that I basically stop thinking about where files are physically stored, but which automatically detects my ‘working set’ and keeps that on fastest most local storage, while infrequently used stuff can be aged out to slow storage. I don’t want to be manually managing space on portable devices.

    I also DON’T expect to see the fruits of the recent job advert – revolutionary features at the core of the operating system are not things you do in 3 months. .

  14. I see nothing in any of these suggestions that would cause me to cough up $129 or for that matter $29 for Lion. As a matter of fact, if it winds up a beefed-up iOS or includes iOS’s dictatorial software rules, i wouldn’t put it on my power mac or mac book if Apple paid me $129.

  15. So it appears not much is being done, which is good news. I think the core OSX is pretty stable now. They would only need to do a proper finder, it’s incredible how crappy it is. Actually they should buy Path Finder.

  16. Phil Marshall

    Although I agree about tabbed finder windows, it doesn’t affect me because I’ve been using PathFinder for a while now, and I’m not looking back.

    What I’ve been waiting for is Resolution Independence. The new iTunes interface scales beautifully using Quartz Debugger’s scaling tool, so I’m hopeful.

    Here is my other idea: “Space”, not “Spaces”.

    First, when you press F8, instead of seeing some number of separate desktops, you see one large desktop with a rectangle showing your current window, your view. You would still have the same abilities of moving windows around, using expose. In addition, you could drag your view around. when you finish the drag, you would zoom into your view.

    Second, when in the normal working view, you could drag your view around to see things to the sides. Perhaps when dragging windows to the edge of the screen, your view would pan in that direction. The menubar and dock would remain in place, as in spaces.

    Apple could provide a simple option in the control panel letting users select “Space” or “Spaces”.

  17. tabbed finder windows i believe would be atop many people’s list

    i would like a hotkey that would make a finder folder et appear under the mouse button (kinda like the menu items that appear in 3d progs like maya and c4d when you hit the v key) – i like the sidebar but i don’t like having too many things in it.. i’d like to get to my ~user/music folder without havin to always go to the sidebar’s home first or to the sidebar itself

    another very important thing personally… i really enjoy my os experiences but i’d like some changes in parts of the ui that haven’t seen an upgrade in a while – especially the floating palettes and windows with the small toolbars – e.g. the font palettes, the colour palettes etc. These were a great way for 3rd party developers to use built in os apis to provide these widgts for their software without havin to code them.. but now they haven’t really seen a upgrade since tiger at best.

    i’d like more home server functions built in – i need to be able to stream from my mac without havin to buy an app! – also they should have more server features which will allow one computer act as a hub for the family… a central file storage and back up system… a single computer to serve media to all the other idevices and mac -and a centralised update system which means that i don’t need to download the same 1gb os update for 3 macs i have at home!

    facetime should not be a 10.7 upgrade but should be available to 10.5 and 10.6 users too

    i am expecting dashboard to become an ios compatible touch system layer that can run ipad apps.. not somethin i particularly care for but i can see it drive game apps sales even more but i hope it doesn’t hurt normal mac development

    add a mute button for safari

    change itunes to iconsume – maybe we’ll get a better icon

    add back and forth buttons to mail

    thus ends my xmas list for santa jobs

  18. The externals, like tabbed Finder windows, aren’t that important. What is needed are updates to the most ancient portion of OS X, which is text services. It’s a sad blend of WordStar circa 1982 (ruler bars) and Word circa 1990 (limited rtf support). That condemns all but the most well-funded of text apps to look and function like they were 20 years out of date.

    The lack of tagged text (named paragraph and text styles) is particularly galling, since it makes repurposing documents for paper, web, and digital devices much, much harder. It’s stupid almost beyond belief to assume that what a user wants to do is define various font sizes when the documents he creates may be displayed on everything from a 27-inch LCD to a 3.5-inch iPhone screen. We need to be able to define the meaning of a portion of text and let the device determine how that displays.

    And Apple needs to make sending files to iPhones, iPads and (yes) Kindles as easy as printing them to paper. The File menu needs a digital option that knows how to send files to our mobile devices as easily as it distinguished between several printers. And finally OS X needs to handle epub (and perhaps mobi) as easily and natively as it does PDF.

  19. I’m pretty sure that Lion will have native multitouch support, so that when the multitouch screen iMacs and Macbook pros are released (didn’t Apple patent something like that recently?) you’ll be able to interact with them directly by moving your fingers on the screen!

      • Agreed. Even if touch senstitve workstations do appear. they will not be running iOS. iOS’s primary reason for being is NOT multi touch events, its mobile computing. have you ever wondered why iOS is 200MB and OSX is 4GB. its cause 90% of OSX is gone because its uneccessary. iOS was designed from the ground up for a complete and total different hardware platform then anything that would be useful as a workstation.

        Rather then thinking iOS is going to replace OSX, how bout just adding touch events to the first responder chain in a future OSX release…duh. And i doubt thats gonna happen this year.