Mac OS X Lion to be Distributed Through Mac App Store [Updated]

Apple showed off Mac OS X Lion during the company’s World Wide Developers Conference on Monday, highlighting ten features and announcing that new version of Mac OS X will be available only through the online Mac App Store. Lion will be available in July and will sell for US$29.99.

This marks the first time Apple will be distributing Mac OS X without offering a version on optical disc, and the company didn’t address how users that need to perform a clean instal of their operating system will be able to manage that task.

Mac OS X LionMac OS X Lion: Available in July

Along with the announcement that Lion will be available only as a download, the company also highlighted several new features in the operating system. The features Apple highlighted included:

  • System-wide Multi-Touch Support Mac OS X now offers iPad and iPhone-like finger-based gesture support. It includes momentum scrolling, the ability to pinch to zoom Web pages and images, and swipe gestures for turning pages in documents or moving to other apps. It takes advantage of the Multi-Touch trackpad built into newer Macs, as well as Apple’s Magic Trackpad.
  • Full-screen Apps Applications can now be viewed in full-screen mode, hiding the Mac OS X desktop and menu bar. Apple showed off new versions of Safari, Mail, iTunes, and the iWork and iLife applications taking advantage of the new view.
  • Mission Control The Mission Control feature blends together Snow Leopard’s Dashboard, Spaces and Exposé features, and adds the ability to view all open apps that are in Full Screen mode.
  • Mac App Store Unlike Snow Leopard where the Mac App Store is accessed through an application, in Lion users will get at the online store at the system level. Updates to Mac App Store purchases will be delivered as delta updates instead of complete application downloads, which should help save a little bandwidth for users.
  • Launchpad Lion’s Launchpad feature displays applications much like the Home screen does on the iPhone, iPad and iPod touch. App icons are arranged in a grid, users can organize apps in Launchpad folders, and the feature also supports Multi-Touch gestures, just like iOS.
  • Resume Lion adds the ability to jump back to the same state in an application after it has been quit. Panels, document states and positions, and more are all exactly as they were.
  • Auto Save Lion’s system-wide auto-save feature saves documents as users work, and it saves document histories, much like Snow Leopard’s Time Machine feature keeps older document versions.
  • Versions The Versions feature maintains the history of changes made to a document, lets users access those older versions, and even includes the ability to copy content from older documents and paste it into newer versions.
  • AirDrop Lion’s AirDrop watches your local network for other Macs and lets users share files without worrying about settings.

Mac OS X Lion will also include a new version of the Mail application that offers substantially more robust search features, a redesigned two and three column layout designed for widescreen displays, Microsoft Exchange 2010 support, and more.

Apple says Lion includes more than 250 new features and some 3,000 new APIs developers can use to enhance their applications.

Since Mac OS X Lion will be available only as a download through the Mac App Store, and will be a 4GB file, users will first have to install Mac OS X 10.6, or Snow Leopard, before installing the Lion upgrade. The company’s upgrade instructions hint that the updater will download as an installer that users run, so it looks like it will be possible to save the Lion installer to avoid having to redownload it should they need to re-install their operating system.

[This article has been updated with additional details about Mac OS X Lion]