Apple ships preview of Lion OS, reveals new features

Lion Server inclusion will reduce price of small servers, analyst predicts

Apple today released a preview of Mac OS X 10.7, aka Lion, to developers, who can download the new operating system from the Mac App Store.

The preview is developers' first look at the upgrade slated to reach customers sometime this summer.

Included in the preview, and to be bundled with the operating system when it ships, is Lion Server, Apple's new server software. One analyst saw that move as an admission by Apple that it hasn't been able to make inroads into the corporate server market.

"They've recognized they're not going to break into the data center," said Ezra Gottheil of Technology Business Research. "They're admitting that what server sales they've made in the past have been to very small businesses."

Currently, Mac OS X Snow Leopard Server is sold separately from the general-purpose edition for $499.

Late last year, Apple killed its Xserve line of rack servers, halting sales of the hardware on Jan. 31, 2011. Instead, Apple now steers customers toward Mac Pro and Mac Mini systems with Leopard Server pre-installed.

The bundling of Lion Server with Mac OS X 10.7 will save customers hundreds of dollars, said Gottheil, assuming Apple sticks to its traditional $129 price point for Lion next summer.

"A very small server should cost about $700 [this summer], not the $1,000 [a server-equipped Mac Mini] costs now," said Gottheil.

Apple announced Lion and its summer 2011 availability in October 2010 during an event where CEO Steve Jobs also debuted a redesigned and lower-priced MacBook Air. At the time, Jobs called the new operating system "Mac OS X meets the iPad," and talked about iOS features that would find their way onto the Mac.

The company has already delivered one Lion component -- the Mac App Store -- to users of Snow Leopard, launching the online software mart in early January .

Today, Apple revealed more details about the enhancements and additions to Lion, ranging from a redesigned Mail -- the e-mail client bundled with Mac OS X -- to AirDrop, a new tool for transferring files between Macs.

Mail will now feature a widescreen layout similar to the client on the iPad, giving Mac users a side-by-side view for the first time. Previously, Mac owners have had to rely on third-party plug-ins, such as WideMail or Letterbox , to replicate a side-by-side mode long available in Windows e-mail software.

AirDrop lets Lion users copy files to other Macs running the OS via wireless networks, with the files ending up in the destination Mac's Download folder.

Also new to Lion, said Apple, are Versions, a feature that tracks multiple versions of a document and allows retrieval of an older copy in a Time Machine-like interface; Resume, which returns applications to their earlier, open state after a restart or software update; and Auto Save, which automatically saves changes to documents in the background.

Apple did not disclose a ship date for Lion or its price. The company has usually priced its operating system upgrades at $129 for a single license, $149 for a five-license package. It departed from that practice with Snow Leopard -- which it billed as a minor upgrade -- in September 2009 when it priced Mac OS X 10.6 at $29 and $49.

Gregg Keizer covers Microsoft, security issues, Apple, Web browsers and general technology breaking news for Computerworld. Follow Gregg on Twitter at @gkeizer or subscribe to Gregg's RSS feed . His e-mail address is gkeizer@computerworld.com .

Read more about mac os in Computerworld's Mac OS Topic Center.

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