What We Know About Mac OS X 10.7 'Lion'

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Altered images
We saw a few glimpses of new graphical user interface elements within the new OS, a few small specifics include

New scroll bars: Expect these to appear when you initiate a swipe gesture up or down, as they do on an iOS device. Gone is the bright Aqua color scroll bar, in is the black/grey discreet scrolling of the iPhone.

Altered windows: Those status indicators (red, yellow, green 'lights') at top left of every window move ever so slightly to the right and down.

Resize, restyle: You will be able to resize windows from any corner. MacRumors also notes the active application indicators under application icons in the Mac OS X Dock will disappear.

Farewell Flash, cheerio Java
Apple isn't abandoning Flash and Java per se -- instead what the company intends doing is ceding control of either standard on the Mac.

Neither seem set to ship pre-installed on future Lion-powered Macs (Flash has already been removed from some, though there are plenty of older models in the inventory at present).

Mac users wanting to run Java or Flash will be required to download and install the most recent versions from the manufacturers behind the standards.

This is good in terms of maintaining timely upgrades to both software packs, but also means third party firms will be responsible for the user experience of the standards on a Mac. I see trouble ahead.

FaceTime everywhere
Apple is testing FaceTime for existing Macs. Soon you'll be able to make and receive calls via WiFi with Mac, iPhone, iPod touch and (one day) iPad users everywhere. Don't be too surprised to see FaceTime (which Apple announced at WWDC as a standard it hoped to share with other manufacturers) emerge on devices from outside Cupertino in future.

Who knows, perhaps one day we won't need mobile carriers at all, once free WiFi enables us to make FaceTime calls using Facetime apps on our Android, webOS and Windows Phone devices?

Push notifications
Apple tells us that when someone tries to make a FaceTime call to your Mac, the call will ring through on every Mac you own, even if FaceTime isn't running. That sounds reasonable (though annoying if you're attempting to avoid that irritating ex-boy or girlfriend), but it also means something else: Lion seems likely to offer support for background notifications, a la iPhone.

Lightweight OS
The removal of elements of Java runtime from within the OS is likely to be the thin end of the wedge -- expect the future Apple system to be incredibly lightweight. In this way it continues the transition we saw in Snow Leopard, where all legacy code (PowerPC etc) was removed. This will be a lean Lion.

OpenCL
Snow Leopard further extends support for modern hardware with Open Computing Language (OpenCL), which lets any application tap into the vast gigaflops of GPU computing power previously available only to graphics applications. OpenCL is based on the C programming language and has been proposed as an open standard.

Recently ratified, OpenCL 1.1 adds:

- New data types including 3-component vectors and additional image formats;

- Handling commands from multiple host threads and processing buffers across multiple devices;

- Operations on regions of a buffer including read, write and copy of 1D, 2D or 3D rectangular regions;

- Enhanced use of events to drive and control command execution;

- Additional OpenCL C built-in functions such as integer clamp, shuffle and asynchronous strided copies;

- Improved OpenGL interoperability through efficient sharing of images and buffers by linking OpenCL and OpenGL events.

OpenCL will become ever more critical as Apple attempts to extract maximum power from its Mac and any other future supported OS X 'Lion' based systems.

iOS apps
Will Lion run iOS apps?

For those who missed it, here's Apple's Lion event video.

This story, "What We Know About Mac OS X 10.7 'Lion'" was originally published by Computerworld.

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