OSX 10.7 “Lion” – Not Quite Linux on the Desktop. Yet…..

Courtesy of the guys at Minimal Mac, I took a look at the new information available on OSX 10.7, aka “Lion.”

There are three features that interest me here that I’ll discuss, outside of the “mission control” revamp to finding your open windows. All three features, at first glance, appear to be opaque to non-geeks, yet, like Time Machine, I see them at least two of them becoming nearly indispensable, with the third a huge boost to smaller businesses. 

The first is “Auto Save.” If I understand the verbiage here, Lion will get automated saving of open documents without you ever having to remember to do it yourself. Say goodbye to working on something for 30 minutes or an hour, and losing it all in a software crash, because the computer will take care of it for everything you have open, not just the few programs that explicitly go to the trouble of auto-saving. It’s unclear if this is a feature that software will have to deliberately allow use of, or if any and all programs inherit this ability.

The second is “Versions.” Sortof like Time machine for individual documents, the OS will now keep all previous iterations of a document that you can flip back to.

The last is the fact that there will no longer be a separate “Server” version of the OS. It’s unclear at this time if the license will be unlimited, but from now on, the server administration panels will just be a more advanced set of options for every Mac running OSX 10.7.

The overall impact of this is as follows. Apple is making sure that at a system level, just like Time Machine made backups transparent for the standard home user, that the computer will also act to protect the integrity of your work no matter where you are doing it. 

They are also expanding on the concept they started with the Mac Mini “servers” pre-loaded with OSX server. Even before that plenty of companies (like Delicious Monster, the makers of the Delicious Library book/media inventory app) had already settled on using several cheap Mac Minis as servers because you could lose one or two and still end up ahead compared to the cost of a full XServe. Now, any mac can be set up with as many, or few, server features that you need without paying a premium for a separate OS.

In some ways, this reminds me of the ongoing quetion on when Linux will be popular on the mainstream desktop. One highlight of the free-to-install Linux OS’s has always been the ability to install any feature from basic user programs to the most complex web and network software without having to obtain a separate version for the more advanced features. You just install and setup the features you want. 

Now, that’s going to be true of the Mac. From iPhoto to office user administration, and everything in between.

I do wish they had some form of rack-mount hardware in place, but that’s not a necessity for the typical home or small office user.

Interesting times.