How Mac OS X Lion will impact businesses using Macs

Erik Eckel explains why he is confident that Mac OS X Lion will be beneficial to business users and highlights some of the new features he thinks will have the most impact.

Apple's Mac OS X Lion operating system, seemingly a simple, subtle upgrade, is actually introducing some significant changes. The changes will prove particularly pronounced within businesses using Macs, improving the way Mac business users leverage email, purchase and maintain software, organize their desktops and even edit files. The reasons are many, some of which have already been reviewed, including how the changes affect network administrators.

The built-in App store leads the list of new features that many underestimate. Users' ability to purchase, track, download, install and update their own applications is changing the way software is designed, programmed, marketed and distributed.

Skeptical? How many iPhone and iPad apps have been sold? There are hundreds of thousands of apps available for those platforms that have been downloaded billions and billions of times. Reports suggest that Microsoft is even working to include its own application store within the next release of its Windows operating system.

That trend will only grow legs with the release of Mac OS X Lion, which includes the App store by default. Now users will find it even easier to shop for, compare and purchase business-specific applications without leaving their Macs.

Intriguingly, Apple reportedly isn't even going to sell the Mac OS X Lion upgrade in stores. Instead, the upgrade will be available for purchase within the App store. That's another way in which businesses are affected. Instead of having to order and install the software, the responsibility can be pushed directly to end users, a constituency that's becoming increasingly comfortable with managing the task.

Slated for July release, and priced at $29.99, business users will experience other important changes with Lion's debut. All told, there are more than 250 new features.

Full Screen apps will provide a more consistent application experience for users becoming accustomed to manipulating software programs on their iPads and iPhones, including such common business programs as Pages, Keynote, Numbers, Documents To Go, OmniGraffle and others. Users wishing to mimic the way their iPhones and iPads organize, display and access applications will be able to leverage Launchpad to simulate the same experience on their Macs.

Mission Control refines Apple's previous customization efforts by consolidating apps, Dashboard, Expose, and Spaces within a single console. As a result, business users can better organize frequently used widgets, applications, desktop configurations, active windows and work areas.

Versioning is going to prove important, too. Along with new the new Resume feature, which more readily supports working on the go or in fits and starts, as is typical for mobile staff, Apple's including an Auto Save feature. On the surface that doesn't sound special. Autosaving features have been available in applications for years. Lion will automatically save your work for you. But the archive information is now saved within the file itself, providing the ability to revert to previous versions (all the way back to the version as it stood when you last opened it) within the file itself.

The new Versions feature takes archiving a step farther and makes a separate copy of the file each time you open it, meaning you have a built in history. Want to revert to the way the file stood earlier than the last time you opened it? Just click the Browse All Versions option. A timeline is even provided to enable easily accessing specific periods of the file's history. Business users will find editing and collaboration easier and safer, as previous versions of files will be created automatically making earlier versions easily accessible should other team members make improper changes, bad edits or other errors necessitating returning to a prior iteration.

Last, another new feature not to be overlooked that's worth $29 alone is Mac Mail improvements. A new widescreen two-column view makes Mac Mail more user friendly by maximizing screen real estate for the most important information (email messages and message contents). A popular feature from newer Outlook versions, called conversations in which email threads are grouped together, debuts in Mac Mail with Lion's release, too, not too mention improved searching thanks to the introduction of dynamic search suggestions. As email's importance only continues to grow within business environments, the new refinements make Lion adoption a no brainer for business users.