Blog Post

Screen Sharing in OS X Lion Allows Multi-User Sessions

A new feature of Mac OS X Lion (s aapl) unearthed by AppleInsider allows remote users to log in to a Mac using a separate user account from the one currently being used on that computer, and to see their own separate desktop and computing environment.

In the version of Screen Sharing that currently ships with Mac OS X Snow Leopard (1.1.1), users can log in to a remote system, but will only see the screen that’s currently active on the target computer. Mouse or keyboard is shared between the remote computer, and the computer using Screen Sharing to remotely access it, so if a user was actively interacting with each, only one could effectively use the target computer at one time. In Lion, however, a local user can go about their business uninterrupted, while a remote users enjoys their own separate graphical session.

Screen Sharing also gets some additional tools borrowed from Apple Remote Desktop (ARD), which is the professional remote management and distribution client Apple sells, aimed mostly at business and enterprise users. Screen Sharing lifts an Observe mode (viewing, but no control), a Control mode, and a Screen Capture tool from ARD.

Screen Sharing’s new multiple user login support and ARD features should make it a fairly capable tool for managing small, Mac-based offices, or for managing a home network of Macs. It will, for instance, be possible to remote into another computer using an admin account and change software installations or perform remote upgrades while the local user works away uninterrupted. Apple seems keen on breaking down the barrier between consumer and professional software (Lion Server will be integrated free in the regular shipping version of Mac OS X Lion, for example); this Screen Sharing redesign is another step in that direction, and one which small businesses will relish.

10 Responses to “Screen Sharing in OS X Lion Allows Multi-User Sessions”

  1. One high end Mac Pro placed in basement with Hd tv up stairs as monitor working as a high end app and entertainment server.
    iPads or Macbooks mobile access MacPro.
    Attach iPads or Macbooks attached to larger screens in work areas if desired.

    Now this sounds like a setup I could live with.

    • Yep, that’s where I think it’s going. You might think “But that means less Mac sales, so Apple probably won’t do it” — but consider this:
      a) it would mean that people who have an iPad but no Mac would be more likely to buy a Mac (because this feature won’t work with iTunes+Windows)
      b) it would help drive iPad sales by making them even more flexible & attractive to content producers & office workers… and if iPad sales go up, see a)
      c) if you had a 3G iPad you could literally use your home computer from anywhere — the car, the bus, work, the beach
      d) i almost forgot about iDisk — imagine this. you are working on a Pages document on your iPad and it autosaves to iDisk. You get home and open Pages, and it resumes editing that same file from your iDisk automatically.

      • Finally a way to remotely access an iTunes library in a user account that isn’t the active account? This would be a very big deal. Virtually making any Mac a media server.

  2. I have a funny feeling that this feature was built specifically to allow iPads to use the Mac as if it and its apps were local on the iPad. If that’s the case, Lion’s reverse scrolling makes sense — it’s so it works on iPad. MissionControl also makes a lot of sense, because it’ll allow you to navigate your Mac’s apps from the iPad, in an iPad-esque way. Full screen mode for OSX apps also makes a lot of sense if you’re going to be running them on an iPad. My $0.02

    • Yup, what you’re saying makes perfect sense. Good observation.

      Right now though I’d settle for a version of Lion in which Safari works. It’s very very very sadly broken right now.

    • Interesting thought but gestures and fullscreen apps alone don’t make an OS “touchable”, we need Windows-like (you heard that right!) title bar and menu bar — I’m pretty sure that traffic light is not touch-friendly.

      But then again, why would Apple do this? They’ve got a great and successful touch-optimized OS and we all know that using non-optimized desktop applications in VNC on an iPad is not a great experience.

      • I totally agree that touch-optimization is key… as the primary experience. But lots of people have wished for ages that they could hook up a mouse & keyboard to iPad and use it to Remote Desktop into their PC and “be productive”. I feel like this would be a non-hackey way to do that. Would it be a feature everyone would use? No. Would it be a “checkmark feature” that could attract a lot of users who previously viewed the iPad as a toy? You betcha.