The Lion Report: So Why Isn’t it Mac OS X Lion?

July 22nd, 2011

There’s a quiet branding change in Apple’s promotion of Lion. While the press releases and even the new About This Mac window still refer to 10.7 as Mac OS X, Apple begun to move towards the OS X label instead; yes, without the word Mac. Compare that to the way the iPhone OS became iOS as different devices used that OS.

For now, OS X is still strictly for Macs. Unless Apple, after 27 years, opts for a different name for their personal computers, I suppose Mac will still be used to identify the hardware. But you wonder whether OS X is just market speak, or heralds an effort from Apple to build new generations of computing devices that will use the same operating system, but won’t, strictly speaking, be Macs.

Of course, you can say that the iPad, with the iOS, is also a form of personal computer. Indeed, when you combine iPad and Mac sales, Apple becomes a top-tier PC maker around the world. But Mac sales alone were sufficient for Apple to grab the number three slot in the U.S. this past quarter.

Beyond this branding exercise, it appears Apple is serving two masters with Lion. First is the iOS customer who owns an iPad, an iPhone, an iPod touch, or some combination of the three, and is using a Mac for the very first time. By incorporating common interface elements in both the iOS and OS X, the learning curve is reduced.

You assume, though, that most of these customers are still using Windows, and what Apple has done, in part, increases the learning curve for them if they switch to the Mac. This is particularly true with the default scrollbar setting that reverses the usual direction. On the other hand, being able to resize a window from all corners is just what the Windows user has always done; ditto for full-screen document windows, now, in somewhat different form, part of OS X.

Apple is certainly making a greater effort than ever to help the Windows user bring their stuff over to a new Mac with as little pain as possible. Consider the latest Migration Assistant. According to Apple: “With OS X Lion, you can migrate all the information from your old PC to your new Mac. Lion automatically transfers your home directory folders (music, pictures, desktop, documents, and downloads), browser bookmarks, and user settings, including localization, locale, and customized desktop picture. Lion also transfers your contacts, calendars, and email accounts (Outlook and Windows Live Mail) and puts them in the appropriate applications.”

In all fairness to the Windows fans in our audience, I realize some of you may have customized your files and folders in a way that isn’t transparent to Migration Assistant, or perhaps you’re using an email app that isn’t made by Microsoft. I would think, though, that most of you will find Apple’s method of copying your stuff over to be quite efficient. But, of course, we’ll know better when there’s more feedback on what happens in the real world.

Apple is also trying hard to focus the Mac user’s attention on working in apps, not fiddling with files and folders. Between new ways to merge folders, and create new ones, not to mention auto-save and other features, the traditional desktop and file management metaphors are slowly going away. This isn’t a dumbing down of OS X, although that’s an impression that would seem to make sense. Instead, it’s a way to get the OS out of the way, so you can better concentrate on your work.

Indeed, some of the biggest problems confronting users of Macs and Windows PCs relate to file management. Spotlight was designed to simplify the search process, although it remains somewhat flawed. The Lion Finder also has an All My Files feature, which operates independent of the folder in which those files reside, and performs the actions implied by that title. Even better, you can sort them by the date they were last opened, so you get a quick gander at the documents you are working on now, and not worry about the older stuff.

Of course, the iOS’s file system isn’t visible at all to the end user, although there are apps that offer some element of file management. But the concept of files, folders and desktop is so 1980s. These days, young people do not necessarily live in that universe, and it’s clear Apple is trying to be forward looking. Also, by somewhat unifying the iOS and OS X, users of both will find it easier to switch back and forth.

Apple has already done this for input devices by offering gesture capability even on the Magic Mouse, and by providing keyboards that all have the same basic feel. I remember how I’d have to spend a few moments acclimating myself whenever moving from a Mac portable to a desktop. Now it’s not such an issue.

Of course, input device unification means nothing if you don’t use an Apple keyboard on your desktop Mac, or an Apple input device. I say yes to the former, when I’m not using the excellent Matias Tactile Pro keyboard, and no to the latter, because I prefer my Logitech MX Revolution mouse.

In any case, with one million downloads on the very first day, and not too many reports of installation problems or bugs, it appears 10.7 is off to a great start.

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4 Responses to “The Lion Report: So Why Isn’t it Mac OS X Lion?”

  1. DaveD says:

    I believe that renaming the OS for Macs from System to Mac OS was to kill the clone license. The era of licensing the OS was hasting Apple’s demise. It now presents the Apple’s operating system as simply two main versions, OS and iOS. Besides, the Mac is no longer Apple’s number one. It’s share of the stage light is unfortunately diminishing.

  2. brockway says:

    It was inevitable that we’d see “Mac” starting to disappear. It’s supposed to be short for Macintosh, but when when was the last time anyone has heard Steve Jobs utter the word “Macintosh”? When was the last time you heard anyone at Apple use the word “Macintosh”? It looks like soon we won’t even be hearing the word “Mac” mentioned.

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