If you’ve felt that Apple has neglected the Mac in favour of the iPhone and iPad, 2011 is the year when the iPhone and iPad will give something back. Apple’s Mac OS X 10.7, aka Lion, is the eighth release of OS X and brings the app-centric mentality of the iPhone and iPad to the Mac. It’s slated for release in the summer. 

Lion features previewed in October 2010 include: more advanced multi-touch gestures; the ability for applications to auto-save work and auto-resume when relaunched; applications will be able to operate in full-screen mode; a feature called Launchpad with functionality similar to an iPad’s home screen; and Mission Control, which combines elements of Exposé, Dashboard and Spaces. Those features are no doubt just a taster – where Snow Leopard was about modernisation below the surface, rather than new features, we expect Lion to be a major upgrade. 

Apple is expected to launch Mac OS X Lion during the keynote address at WWDC, likely to be in June or July. The new operating system will probably go on sale shortly after that event. 

Apple’s timing for the release is important: Microsoft’s Windows 8 is set for release in 2012, but the first beta is due in mid-2011, perhaps coinciding with the launch of Lion. Windows 8 may come in 64-bit and 128-bit  versions, no 32-bit version. Does this mean that Lion will also be an entirely 64-bit operating system? And what does this mean for our older Macs? Luckily any Mac running a Core 2 Duo processor will be capable of 64-bit. A move to 64-bit would mean Apple, and those who write Mac software, will have to rewrite Carbon apps as they won’t run in a 64-bit environment. 

iTunes and Final Cut Pro are written in Carbon, so a rewrite in Cocoa is necessary.  

Mac App Store 
Announced as part of Lion, although it will arrive for Snow Leopard on the 7th January, the Mac App Store is set to change the Mac software industry. It will be easier than ever to discover and buy apps for your Mac. And for third-party developers, it will be easier to get apps noticed. Some apps may be offered at knock-down prices, based on the success of the 59p iOS app strategy. 

The Mac App Store will also offer a new way to buy Apple software. For example, the iLife suite will be available as individual apps, each priced at $14.99 (about £10). The iWork apps will be available for $19.99 each (about £12). 

The Mac App Store is also good news, because although Apple claims it won’t be too strict about what can and can’t be stocked there, you can be sure that there will be rules, and rules mean quality. You should be able to guarantee that the app you are downloading works effectively. And there will be lots of user reviews you can refer to, as with the iOS App Store. 

We think that the ease of purchasing apps means Mac users will find themselves spending much more on software. If you have been over-spending on the iOS App Store, you might want to think of ways to curb your spending in 2011, because Lion’s Launchpad is going to beg to be filled up with apps.

Our only concern is whether the Mac App Store will be plagued by the problems of the iOS App Store: namely the fact that some apps never move from the top 10, or even the top 50, and other great apps never get a look in. 

Incidentally, if you want proof that the emails Steve Jobs fires off once in a while to customers cheeky enough to email him aren’t always truthful, note that only months earlier Jobs replied to a “Will there be a Mac OS X app store?” email with a simple “Nope.”