Mac's new OS won't be on a disc
Here's some practical advice as we look forward to the releases of Mac OS X 10.7 Lion, iOS 5, and the new iCloud service.
Special to The Seattle Times
Everyone reacts differently to change, and among the Apple customer base, you see all bands of the spectrum. Some people jump in and buy the company's latest products; some people still run legacy Macs; some still pine for the never-going-to-happen return of HyperCard or AppleWorks.
At last week's Worldwide Developer Conference (WWDC), Apple laid out a road map that involves quite a bit of change between now and the first days of winter. Instead of incrementally updating some software, the company is plotting its course for the next decade, and in some ways making a break from the last one. Here's some practical advice as we look forward to the releases of Mac OS X 10.7 Lion, iOS 5, and the new iCloud service.
Prepare for Lion: In October, Apple announced the next major version of Mac OS X, and last week the company previewed more features and a few significant changes in Lion. The update is coming in July and will cost just $29.99.
You'll need a modern Mac to run it: System requirements call for an Intel Core 2 Duo (not the earlier Core Duo), Core i3, Core i5, Core i7, or Xeon processor, which eliminates Macs before 2007. Apple also says you'll need the latest version of Snow Leopard (Mac OS X 10.6.7 as of this writing), which brings us to the next point.
Perhaps the biggest change with Lion is how it will be distributed. According to Apple, the only way to get Lion will be to purchase and download it from the Mac App Store (which requires Snow Leopard). That's right: There will be no physical disc.
Downloading Lion will be convenient (especially for Apple), but it does pose a problem for people who don't have broadband Internet access capable of easily downloading a 4 gigabyte installer. My mother, for example, lives in a rural area and gets Internet access from a satellite provider that limits the amount of data she can download per day.
I'm guessing that she'll be able to take her computer to an Apple Store and get the update, but that requires her to drive the 23-inch iMac nearly an hour away. What about people who are nowhere near an Apple Store or authorized dealer? So far, Apple hasn't said.
It's also time to review the applications you use everyday, because they may not all work under the new version. Any program written for the old PowerPC processor will no longer launch because Lion discards Rosetta, a technology that translates PowerPC instructions to work with the Intel processor.
If you still rely on Quicken 2007, for example, you'll need to consider keeping a Mac that runs Snow Leopard, switching to a different application (or running Quicken for Windows on a Boot Camp partition or in a virtualization application such as VMware Fusion), or putting off the move to Lion until you've found a substitute.
Prepare for iCloud: The other major announcement at WWDC was iCloud, a service that, as Apple described it, supplants the Mac as the digital hub for your important information. iCloud replaces MobileMe and will be free when it rolls out in the fall.
With iCloud, your contacts, calendars and mail are pushed to all of your devices automatically (which currently works with MobileMe), as well as documents, books in iBooks, photos you capture or load, and more. It also wirelessly backs up your iOS device data, so you don't need to sync with a computer using a cable.
In fact, part of the service is active now. In iTunes on a computer or the iTunes Store or App Store on an iOS device, tap the Purchased button to view all of your iTunes purchases; you can download, at no cost, any song or app you've bought that isn't currently on that device. You can also set a preference to automatically download new purchases to all devices.
But if you're a current MobileMe subscriber, some features are likely to disappear. Apple hasn't revealed its plans for photos and videos published using MobileMe Gallery, websites created with iWeb, or personal Web domains, but I suspect they won't survive the transition. You'll still have a me.com email address.
Fortunately, MobileMe isn't evaporating immediately. Apple extended the timeline for existing subscribers to June 2012, but it's no longer possible to create a new MobileMe account. (If you purchased MobileMe, such as from Amazon.com, but haven't activated it yet, Apple will give you a refund.)
iCloud also has its own requirements. You'll need a Mac running Lion or a PC running Windows Vista or Windows 7, or an iOS device running the upcoming iOS 5. That includes the iPhone 4, iPhone 3GS, iPad and iPad 2, and the third- and fourth-generation iPod touch. iCloud and iOS 5 will be released in the fall, so it's safe to assume that Apple will announce a new iPhone and iPod touch at that time, too.
Jeff Carlson and Glenn Fleishman write the Practical Mac column for Personal Technology and about technology in general for The Seattle Times and other publications. Send questions to firstname.lastname@example.org. More Practical Mac columns at www.seattletimes.com/ columnists.
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