Lion OS X and Mac App Store – Apple’s ‘app experience’ opens for Mac

by Martin Rosenmejer on 22 December 2010

Apple’s presentation a while ago revealed its plan of launching a new operating system for Mac computers called Lion OS X as a successor to the current Snow Leopard OS X. Together with the new OS, Apple is opening an App Store for Mac similar to the one used for its iPhone and iPad.

Not surprisingly, Steve Jobs told the popular operating system iOS for iPhone and iPad has been a source of inspiration when developing the Mac Lion OS X. Thus, the new Lion OS X has an iOS-like ‘app grid’ via the LaunchPad and the new Mac App Store allows users to download free and paid-for apps from the store via their iTunes account.

From a business perspective, it is attractive for Apple to control the distribution of software. It can reduce software theft, and control and encourage the Mac development community, and require a 70/30 split of the revenue from the developers. Although responses are mixed on sites like MacRumours andApple Insider, many developers are still eager to give up 30% of revenue for the value of having a distribution channel straight on the desktop of all Mac users (running Snow Leopard or Lion OS X). Fortunately, software will still be available from traditional channels, so users have access to software not approved and controlled by Apple.

The inspiration from the mobile platforms is interesting but maybe not a huge surprise. Simplicity is a keyword within UX these years, thus, it seems obvious to look for design inspiration in the simpler mobile/tablet realm, where Apple is doing so well.

From a user perspective, the new Mac ‘app experience’ offers some interesting elements. The App Store will be convenient with instant access to apps, one click to download and payment via iTunes. Like the iOS App Store, Apple is expected to promote a rich development environment for the Mac Store, where about 70% of the apps will be free.

The installation and update processes will be simple, as the apps will auto-install and auto-update like they do on the iOS App Store. Another element taken from the mobile platform is that apps will auto-save and auto-resume, so the app will launch and reopen to the same work-state as when it was closed. Finally, the Lion OS X brings multi-touch capabilities, but it is still to be revealed how this will work. We can only guess how the user experience will be like, but it is indeed an interesting idea to incorporate the simple and quick ‘app experience’ from the mobile platform to the Mac OS X.

Although the new Lion OS X looks interesting, it is surprising Apple has not included dynamic app iconsand/or widgets on the Lion OS X desktop as known from the Android mobile OS and Windows 7. Widgets are ‘mini-apps’ e.g. on the desktop or home screen, which can display live content like a news feed, an updated weather forecast or stock information. With the real estate available, it would have been obvious to integrate widgets as part of the desktop screen. Apple’s grid with one-size app icons on the iOS has been called old fashion, and it could have been interesting if it had taken this a little further with the LionOS X. It would give the user more options to personalise the desktop, and it is a useful and quick way to receive updates instead of always having to launch an app.

Whereas Apple fans have to wait until next summer for the Lion OS X, the Mac App Store will open in January 2011 and be available for Snow Leopard OS users.

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