Not sticking my head in the Lion’s mouth… yet

Do I want to turn my workhorse tower Mac into a glorified iPad? Usually a new Mac OS is a cause for celebration in my household, but this question was the resoundingly downbeat response to Lion.

Apple has been pushing Lion, telling us it will “change the way you use a computer”. Well, that rather depends what you want to do with it.

Lion definitely seems to bring some of the best iOS navigation features to browsing webpages, with easy scrolling and zooming. However, this works pretty well at the moment on laptops and desktop Macs. What’s more, moving around InDesign or Photoshop files is a breeze and has been ever since the Mighty Mouse. Ok, those of us who haven’t moved on to the Magic Mouse occasionally need to clean out the roller ball, but moving and zooming is pretty easy.

But why on earth would I want my apps splattered across the whole desktop? They’re neatly tucked away in the dock, or even in folders within the dock. And full-screen apps sound nice enough, but I rarely find myself staring at my Apple Cinema display going “wow, I wish this app was full screen”. Really I think we talking the aesthetic of not seeing the menu bar, rather than any usability issue here.

Mission Control? Well, hands up who actually uses Exposé or Spaces day in and day out. Enough said.

I am not sure if I understand “Resume” correctly, but Apple says “apps you close will reopen right where you left off”. To paraphrase Marvin the paranoid android, “Sounds terrible”. How often do I want to go to same web pages I was last browsing? (Well my obsession with BBC News apart). What makes you think that when I open InDesign I want to open the same document?

AirDrop – whistling in the wind?

AirDrop looks cool. But I just don’t think I am that often in a situation of needing to share a file with someone with wireless (and AirDrop!) within 10 metres. If I was, I’d email it to them, so AirDrop only becomes relevant if you are offline. I’m quite challenged to think when this would happen… a really bad coffee shop perhaps?

I have to be absolutely clear about a proviso on all this: I am judging Apple on its claims rather than actual use of Lion. What I probably need to do is backup my entire harddrive, upgrade to Lion and try it for a week. Sadly I have projects to get to proof, deadlines to meet, high resolution PDFs to get to print. So I will wait for a consensus to develop.

After all, the question that lurks in the back of my mind is: “Is any of this worth the inevitable glitches from upgrading?” Upgrading your OS is usually relatively painless (as with most things Mac), but I’ve never done it without something stopping working. So there needs to be a compelling reason to upgrade. With 10.6 that was at least in part the lure of improved speed and a smaller system footprint. I will be interested to see what people’s actual usage of 10.7 reveals on these issues.

To be less negative, Versions has the potential to be fantastic. I am not sure how well it works with non-Apple software but if it really lets you move back through time then that could lead to a lot less “Save as… to create a version B”. And of course the whole world is going to be changed once the iCloud bursts forth. Now that I am genuinely excited about.

The App Store is fun but installing the occasional bit of software was not exactly hard before. But I think this is the key. “Not hard” is not good enough for what Apple is trying to do here. Could it be that the new OS is aimed firmly at convincing iPad and iPhone converts to take the next step to a MacBook? For a few years, it’s been said that Mac sales are boosted by people discovering the “Joy of Apple”. But as PC World noted a few days ago in “Apple’s iPad Cannibalizes Mac Sales, Too”:

Apple execs have said, numerous times, that the iPad is hurting sales of laptop PCs. Unfortunately for Apple execs, MacBooks are included in the catgory of “laptop PCs.” The “magical” tablet is cannibalizing laptop sales in general – both Windows and Mac OS X.

Lion seems a response to that. It’s a beautiful and elegant response. It looks like Apple has triumphed on usability for non-professionals, and I’m sure it’s a great OS for those who use a MacBook for web, social networking and media. I will wait to be convinced what it offers power users and creatives before sticking my head in this Lion’s mouth.

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