Screen Sharing in OS X Lion Allows Multi-User Sessions

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A new feature of Mac OS X Lion 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.

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