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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  • PeteH - Monday, June 6, 2011 - link

    Isn't that basically what Apple's always done, a cheap upgrade from the latest version of the OS, but full price from older versions? Or am I remembering that incorrectly?
  • xzion - Monday, June 6, 2011 - link

    "Apple covered THEIR new products..."

    sorry, pet hate.
  • Andrew.a.cunningham - Monday, June 6, 2011 - link

    Urgh, me too, I can't believe I did that. Fixed.
  • GotThumbs - Monday, June 6, 2011 - link

    Wow! Forget being subtle. Apples is not giving its fan base many options for loading software on to macs. The level of CONTROL apples is wielding over its consumers is growing by the hour. Careful to all those apple fans...before you know it....You'll be drinking the cool-aid. I do think apple is a safe bet for those with limited knowledge and who tend to get into trouble with their PC's and free surfing the web.

    Good article.
  • Tros - Monday, June 6, 2011 - link

    It's AWFUL. It's like being given the choice to use the App Store is completely overshadowing my ability to use any other means to install software.

    Or maybe you're just making it into something bigger than it actually is.
  • farhadd - Monday, June 6, 2011 - link

    What about old Mac pro towers with 64 bit xeons but no 64 bit kernel boot support?
  • Andrew.a.cunningham - Tuesday, June 7, 2011 - link

    I could be wrong, but you *should* be covered. There are a lot of older Core 2 Duo Macs without 64-bit kernel boot support/EFI that support the new OS just fine.
  • Impulses - Tuesday, June 7, 2011 - link

    Nothing revolutionary, the lowered price actually fits the upgrade well if you ask me. I'm not too bothered by Apple's desire to focus people on the App store, it's a good move for the average consumer as long as they never go too far in that direction (and completely block other forms of software install for advanced users).

    Frankly, Steve's quotes about file system scared me far more than their intentions with the App store, there's nothing inherently wrong w/the existing file system... If there's one concept of modern PCs that's easy to understand it's files and folders for pete's sake. Doing away with it would cripple an OS way more than limiting what software you can or can't install. They didn't do anything about this on Lion, but he clearly stated his intentions, he'd like it to be entirely like iOS, ugh.

    P.S. Hasn't file version'ing been part of Windows for a while? At 'least since Vista no? AFAIK Windows Office suites have had auto-save enabled by default (without any prompts) for years as well... It sure isn't as slick as the Versions/Time Machine combo tho, but all of it is still predicated on people buying that second hard drive and enabling the backup features, too bad they can't force people to actually do that. :p
  • psonice - Tuesday, June 7, 2011 - link

    Well, they *can't* get rid of it, what they're aiming for is to *hide* it. If you've used an iphone, you'll realise you don't actually need direct file system access to use it.. which gets rid of a lot of complexity and general messing around with stuff that turns out to be unnecessary.

    For the mac, I think the terminal is a good example of where they might go. Most users don't want or need access to the underlying unix system, so they never see it. Fire up the terminal though, and you have full access. They could do the same with the file system, make it work like the iphone where you don't *need* the finder, so most users won't touch it, but it's there if you do. Just the same as the app store being the default, but other options are there for those of us who know what we're doing.

    I think this is good, for anyone technical it's still a very powerful OS, but it gets easier to do the simple stuff, and you get even fewer support calls from friends + relatives who don't care what the technical bits do, they just want a browser and a way to write emails and letters.
  • gofasterstripes - Tuesday, June 7, 2011 - link

    Hi Guys and Gals -
    If this is download only, is it going to possible to make a Hackintosh still?

    I have a x58 system I was going to install 10.5 on, but not got around to it yet. Now I guess I'd be 10.6 if I was going to, but I am unsure how this would now work. Do I need to buy 10.5 and then upgrade? Or is it just download to an existing machine and burn the stand-alone 10.6 disk. Either way, I have a suspicion Apple's servers won't let me download from them if the connection doesn't come from a registered Apple machine. Any thoughts?

    [new to posting here, and having a little trouble trouble seeing all the existing comments as under FF4 no-matter which page of comments I'm on it always shows as page 1, so if this has already been asked please forgive me]

    Thanks! GfS

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