Apple kicked of its Worldwide Developers conference this year with a keynote meant to showcase three of its biggest software undertakings at the moment: Mac OS X, iOS, and iCloud, the latter of which being its new cloud computing service.

Apple covered their new products from oldest to newest, which means that Mac OS X 10.7 was first on the chopping block. Apple's Phil Schiller and Craig Federighi took the stage to demonstrate ten of Lion's purported 250 new features (don't get too excited - things like desktop wallpapers have been counted as new features in the past, so Apple is likely being very generous with its counting here).

I'm going to take you down that list, but because most of it is stuff we've seen before in one form or another in other Apple demos of Lion, I want to front-load the piece with pricing and release information for Lion, since those are the most interesting new facts we got out of Apple today.

Price and Release Date

First: Lion will go for $29, the same price as the current Snow Leopard upgrade, and it will release at some point in July. Pre-Snow Leopard upgrades of the OS were typically priced at $129, with a 5-license Family Pack being available for $199. Next, Lion will be made available only on the Mac App Store as a ~4GB download - there is, as of this writing, no plan on Apple's part to release Lion on a physical disc that you can buy. That $29 App Store purchase is good for all Macs you have registered to your App Store account.

There are, of course, positive aspects and negative aspects to this approach, and there's other stuff that we just don't know: how will this impact businesses and schools who would like to volume-license the OS? How will clean installs be handled, in the case of a crashed hard drive or otherwise trashed OS? What about people with slow or unreliable Internet connections? We'll just have to wait and see.

System Requirements and OS X Server

The first one: System Requirements. This is one of the many areas in which Microsoft and Apple differ in their OS strategy - while Microsoft makes certain recommendations about the type of PC that will give you a good Windows experience, there are very few configurations that will actually prevent the operating system from installing. Apple, on the other hand, prefers to drop support entirely for Macs that it feels are insufficient to run OS X. This goes all the way back to the 10.4 days, when Macs without FireWire were no longer eligible for OS X upgrades.

This time around, the OS will drop support for the 32-bit Core Solo and Core Duo chips shipped with the first Intel Macs in 2006. This is Apple's latest baby step toward a world where Macs use a 64-bit OS, 64-bit programs, and 64-bit drivers by default. They've been pushing this issue slowly but surely for most of OS X's development - indeed, recent Mac Pros and MacBook Pros are already set to use Snow Leopard's 64-bit kernel right out of the box, though most models still default to the 32-bit kernel.

Some have had success hacking the developer releases to run on these processors, but since these computers can only support up to 2GB of RAM, since they were only sold for a few months before being superceded by Core 2 Duo Macs, and since there are already 64-bit only apps in the App Store that won’t install on these older Macs under Snow Leopard, the decision to drop official support for these models is probably a prudent one that shouldn’t impact a huge portion of the OS X userbase (though expect those who it does impact to be very vocal about it).

Lastly, a brief word about Mac OS X Server: Back in the day, Apple's server OS either came preinstalled on the (now discontinued) XServe, or as a separate $999 unlimited-client package installable on any desktop Mac. Then came the $999 Mac Mini Server, which axed the Mini's optical drive in favor of a second internal hard drive - this drove the unlimited-client server software's price down to its current level of $499. In Lion, OS X Server is now an App Store download instead of a separate OS, and it costs $49.99. This is a substantial discount on what was already a substantial discount, and it should help to drive adoption of OS X server by small businesses and schools with a lot of Macs.

Now, on to Lion's new features!

Multitouch, Fullscreen, Mission Control, App Store, and Launchpad
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  • Zandros - Monday, June 06, 2011 - link

    … will cost $49.99. At least I saw that somewhere on Apple's site, but I cannot find it again. Reply
  • Zandros - Monday, June 06, 2011 - link

    Well, duh, it says so right on the the first page concerning Lion Server. Reply
  • Andrew.a.cunningham - Monday, June 06, 2011 - link

    Whoops! Thanks for the correction - article updated. Reply
  • Nihility - Monday, June 06, 2011 - link

    My favorite new feature is "Resize from any edge".

    Amazing how they came up with that...

    Up next: "maximze window".
    Reply
  • smalM - Monday, June 06, 2011 - link

    "Resize from any edge" - finally! I waited 25 years to get that feature..... Reply
  • Conficio - Tuesday, June 07, 2011 - link

    Yeah! That is worth half the purchase price.

    While I tread the App Store, resize from every edge and the decision to sell the OS Update for $29 are good decisions.

    And if Mail is really improved, not just iOS ook alike, that would be a good thing. With improvement I mean the ability to connect to IMAP servers that are not only off the narrow ilk that Mail can auto firgure out and some decent error messages for what is going on. Or some good search feature.

    Or how about improving iCal so that it does delete Events that are deleted in the exchange server. Or the reminder dialog in a less intrusive spot than smack in the middle of my screen.
    Reply
  • EnzoFX - Monday, June 06, 2011 - link

    I think people aren't considering launchpad as an application launcher. It's not gimmicky in the sense that there are a lot of 3rd party apps that offer just this, that do well.

    Also, is there any confirmation that it won't scoop up apps installed in the traditional manner? It just seems like speculation to say that it would leave those out. If I had to guess I'd say it just scans what ever apps are in /Applications, regardless of how they were installed.
    Reply
  • vailr - Monday, June 06, 2011 - link

    What physical system disc DVD will be included with new Macs?
    I just can't believe Apple won't offer a physical OSX Lion DVD for sale on Amazon, at the same $29 price that Snow Leopard currently sells for.
    Reply
  • Tros - Monday, June 06, 2011 - link

    Most non-mac-users aren't aware, but Disk Utility provides the means to rip installation media (DVDs in MBP, USB sticks in MBA's case) to an Apple Disk Image file (.dmg), and go in the opposite direction to a piece of media (SD card, DVD, USB stick).

    I imagine Apple to offer the Apple Disk Image through the app-store, much like how they offer X-Code. And by current capabilities, for that image to be burnable to bootable media, if one couldn't run the installer from within the OS already.
    Reply
  • solipsism - Tuesday, June 07, 2011 - link

    It will be on a DVD for the systems with optical drives and for those without likely on an 8GB USB flash drive. While cost prohibitive to sell an 4GB USB flash drives to 10s of millions of Mac users just for an OS upgrade it makes perfect sense to roll the expense into the cost of the new Macs that are without ODDs, which is a growing trend will soon also include the MBP lineup. Reply

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