Apple Releases A Developer Preview Of OS X Lion — Through The Mac App Store

Two days ago, we first reported that Apple was likely to release a developer beta of OS X Lion “soon”. Well, how’s this for soon? This morning, alongside their new MacBook Pros, Apple has announced the developer preview of the latest version of OS X. And the most interesting aspect may be how Apple is releasing this developer preview: through the Mac App Store.

Again, to be clear, this initial test version of the OS will be for developers only. The final version of Lion is still on track to be released this summer, Apple notes.

So what’s new? Well, we had previously heard about some of Lion’s features during a press conference last October. Today brings a few more of those features, including Auto Save, Versions, Resume, Mail version 5 (with a new threading feature called “Conversations”), AirDrop, and Lion Server (which itself has its own features).

As you can probably guess, many of these features borrow from what Apple has learned on the iPad/iPhone. That includes the ability to auto save documents and resume (even after you restart your Mac). The new version of Mail is also very iPad-like.

Overall, OS X UI has been altered to remove the standard side scrollbars OS X users will be used to seeing. Those have been replaced by scrollbars that only appear when you need them, again, just like iOS apps. Apple says that the UI is still called Aqua, but notes: “Aqua defines the look and feel that users come to expect from Mac OS X. Lion takes this experience and brings it to a new level with popovers, overlay scrollbars, and powerful Multi-Touch gestures and animations.”

AirDrop is a way to easily send files to any other Mac around wirelessly. It sort of sounds like DropBox, but peer-to-peer without the cloud element. Writes Apple:

With AirDrop in Mac OS X Lion, you can send files to anyone around you —  wirelessly. AirDrop doesn’t require setup or special settings. Just click the AirDrop icon in the Finder sidebar, and your Mac automatically discovers other people nearby who are using AirDrop. You’ll even see contact photos for those who are already in your Address Book. To share a file, simply drag it to someone’s name. Once accepted, the file transfers directly to the person’s Downloads folder. When you’re done with AirDrop, close the Finder and your Mac is no longer visible to others.

We’re told this works by way of WiFi, but you don’t need to be connected to a network for it to work, it’s all P2P.

Also a big change is that Server is now built in to every version of OS X.

And again, a hugely interesting aspect is that Apple is distributing this new version of OS X via the App Store. (This works via a redemption code.) Now we know why they wanted to get it out there before Lion. And yes, it’s another nail in the coffin of the compact disc. Officially, Apple says that it has decided whether or not to distribute the final version of OS X Lion this way to consumers — but my bet is that this is exactly what they’ll do, while still maintaining a limited DVD release for some.

When I asked Apple if these features are all of the major ones to expect from Lion, Apple said that yes they were, but there were a lot of other features that they haven’t gone into detail about yet. I’m sure those will start coming out any second now as developers download the preview.

Below, find the full release:

CUPERTINO, California—February 24, 2011—Apple® today released a developer preview of Mac OS® X Lion, which takes some of the best ideas from iPad™ and brings them back to the Mac® for the eighth major release of the world’s most advanced operating system. Lion features Mission Control, an innovative new view of everything running on your Mac; Launchpad, a new home for all your Mac apps; full screen apps that use the entire Mac display; and new Multi-Touch™ gestures. Lion also includes the Mac App Store℠, the best place to discover, install and automatically update Mac apps. The Lion preview is available to Mac Developer Program members through the Mac App Store today, and the final version of Lion will ship to customers this summer.

“The iPad has inspired a new generation of innovative features in Lion,” said Philip Schiller, Apple’s senior vice president of Worldwide Product Marketing. “Developers are going to love Mission Control and Launchpad, and can now start adding great new Lion features like full screen, gestures, Versions and Auto Save to their own apps.”

Mission Control is a powerful, entirely new feature that unifies Exposé®, Dashboard, Spaces®, and full screen apps to give you a bird’s eye view of every app and window running on your Mac. With a simple swipe, your desktop zooms out to display your open windows grouped by app, thumbnails of your full screen apps as well as your Dashboard, and allows you to instantly navigate anywhere with a click.

Launchpad makes it easier than ever to find and launch any app. With a single click, Launchpad displays all your Mac apps in a stunning full screen layout where you can launch, re-order or organize apps into folders. You can also arrange apps into multiple pages and swipe between them.

Lion brings the full screen experience that iPad users love to the Mac. With one click, your application window goes full screen, taking advantage of your Mac’s brilliant display. You can swipe from one full screen window to another and even back to your Desktop or Dashboard.

New Multi-Touch gestures and fluid animations give you a natural and intuitive way to interact with your Mac. New gestures include pinching your fingers to zoom in on a web page or image, swiping left or right to turn a page or switch between full screen apps and swiping up to enter Mission Control.

Lion also includes the Mac App Store, where you can find great new apps, buy them with your iTunes® account, and download and install them in just one step. Apps purchased from the Mac App Store are installed directly into Launchpad.

Additional features in Lion include:

a new version of Mail, with an elegant, widescreen layout inspired by the iPad; Conversations, which automatically groups related messages into one easy to read timeline; more powerful search; and support for Microsoft Exchange 2010;
AirDrop, a remarkably simple way to copy files wirelessly from one Mac to another with no setup;
Versions, which automatically saves successive versions of your document as you create it, and gives you an easy way to browse, edit and even revert to previous versions;
Resume, which conveniently brings your apps back exactly how you left them when you restart your Mac or quit and relaunch an app;
Auto Save, which automatically saves your documents as you work;
the all new FileVault, that provides high performance full disk encryption for local and external drives, and the ability to wipe data from your Mac instantaneously; and
Mac OS X Lion Server, which makes setting up a server easier than ever and adds support for managing Mac OS X Lion, iPhone®, iPad and iPod touch® devices.
Apple designs Macs, the best personal computers in the world, along with OS X, iLife, iWork, and professional software. Apple leads the digital music revolution with its iPods and iTunes online store. Apple is reinventing the mobile phone with its revolutionary iPhone and App Store, and has recently introduced its magical iPad which is defining the future of mobile media and computing devices.