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Not sure I'm going to like Mac OS Lion

Not sure I'm going to like Mac OS Lion Apple have just put out an update on what the next version of Mac OS X will include.

I've been really happy with my mac since I switched a few years ago. It has a fantastic combination of power and elegance, even if there are still a few small things that annoy me (like how copying one music folder over another erases the original one ;)).

I've got a nasty feeling it's going to turn me away now with it's move more towards consumer electronics and away from a tool with a lot of design for pro's. At this point it's more of a worry than anything concrete, but I thought it was a good opportunity for a blog post about it.

Going through the release announcements, here's my take…
  1. The Mac App Store: Excellent. The Mac way of distributing applications is very much my favourite of the big OS's, and this takes it a step further towards real streamlining that saves everyone time and effort, and just makes things simpler.
  2. Launchpad: Poor. Apart from stealing the name of Canonical's project management system for Open Source software, I just don't see it as anything new. It simply takes what used to be available from "Go > Applications" and instead of showing it in a finder window, it shows it on the desktop, with an ipad style "…" scroller instead of a normal scrollbar. I would argue in the effort of cutting down noise it actually breaks UI conventions: we don't want two types of scrolling that achieve the same end goal. The ability to reorder apps is sold as a big new thing. I'm pretty sure I can do that already ;). I think the truth here is that with iOS Apple have realised that having a software ecosystem is good and that the Dock can't cope, and that they don't want people to have to browse a directory to find their apps. I have no huge problem with it, but when it's a headline feature of Apple's new direction, it worries me that Lion is going to be a rather vacuous release.
  3. Full screen apps: Poor. One of the great things about Mac's is the huge screens. Also the way windows are designed, titlebars hardly take up any space anyway. I can see this being good in terms of making it less of a computer and more of a consumer electronics device (i.e. something for the living room), but to get work done, I just would not like it. I certainly never used IE's full screen mode back when I was an Internet Explorer user.
  4. Mission control: Poor. It looks almost identical to Expose, which is fantastic, but the Mac has had it for a very long time now.
  5. Gestures: Good. I don't use them, but if I had to use a laptop, I would appreciate anything they can do to improve ergonomics.
  6. Auto-save/versions: I would say excellent, but I think I can only say 'Good', because I think it could well open a can of worms. Not everyone wants full history of what they've done, not everyone wants to re-learn their ICT skills, and I'm sure not every Mac developer wants to rewrite their software to work with it. I approve, but the short to mid term problems almost match the gains in my opinion.
  7. Resume: Excellent. No need to elaborate, it's long over-due. When will Microsoft copy it ;)?
  8. Mail: Poor. I can't justify this, but I just have the feeling it is going to annoy me greatly. When I see it I might change my mind. I admit that for most casual home users, it's a friendlier interface, but I'm writing this from my perspective as a professional. I'd rather they work on making ical friendlier, that's pretty dreadful right now ;). Something else the screenshot shows though is something else they've announced: scrollbars are hidden from view normally. This crystallises me worries really. I can see them as being ugly distractions in a living room context, but from a usability context I see them as important visual indicators. It's like Apple trying to have one-button mice all over again ;). I appreciate that they show when you move the mouse, but people will inevitably wonder why their content cuts off suddenly or not realise there is more; they won't move the mouse to check or remember what was there when they last moved the mouse.
  9. Airdrop and Lion Server: Okay. This is where I think Apple have gone in the opposite direction, and made stuff too complex. We have shared folders in Finder, we have sharing in iTunes, we have Mobile Me (or whatever it is called today ;)), we don't want another way of sharing. I think this is a good area where Apple should simplify things across the system. Have one very simple system for sharing any kind of document. Call it 'Airdrop' if they like, but fold everything else into it. That they start talking about 'Webdav' directly after talking about 'Airdrop' makes me think they just haven't thought of their unified approach properly at all.

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