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

OSX-Lion-feature

The invite from Apple’s “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.

Probable

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, though.

Unlikely

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 (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.

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