Apple has launched OS X 10.7 Lion which, as the name implies, should be the best and most useful version of the operating system yet.
This is more than just a service pack upgrade. There are lots of new features that add some genuinely interesting and potentially useful tools. Take, for example, multi-touch gestures via the trackpad. This allows you to move between apps, zoom in or out with a pinch or view Apple's new, grandly named 'Mission Control'.
Mission Control shows what applications are running, and provides access to places like the desktop or to open commonly used apps. It also adds the ability to see multiple open windows in apps.
So take, for example, your web browser. With several tabs open, you can see what pages you're looking at. It's very handy indeed and, while Windows 7 has some similar tools, it lacks this centralised approach.
It's not all good news, though. Apple has annoyed some users by removing support for some older applications. It has also removed Front Row for Lion, which means that people using Mac Minis for media centre purposes should avoid the update.
There have also been complaints that older, but still essential, software has stopped working, and that external monitors don't play well with the full screen mode. And many users don't like the fact that the scrolling is now reversed by default. This is to give an iOS feel, in common with the way scrolling works on an iPhone or iPad.
And, unsurprisingly, Apple has also removed Rosetta from OS X Lion. This means that old apps coded for PowerPC systems will not work at all. In Snow Leopard, it could be manually installed. In Lion it can't be accessed at all.
And one new feature worthy of some minor ridicule is the ability to maximise a window, which has been missing from Mac OS since it was launched. It has, of course, been on Linux multiple window managers and Microsoft Windows for a very long time. Mac users always used to claim that maximising windows wasn't necessary, so it will be interesting to see if their tune changes at all.
There are some great new features here, and it's going to be interesting to see what Microsoft can achieve with Windows 8 next year. The main difference between the two is, of course, that Microsoft still sees Windows as a tablet-suitable OS, whereas Apple has a forked its platforms into two distinct branches: desktop and mobile.
All new Macs sold from now will have OS X Lion. If you have an older Mac, you can upgrade for £20.99. It's obvious that Apple is keeping OS X at the forefront of what it does, even though it makes almost no money in itself.
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