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Thoughts on iLife 11 and OS X Lion

What does the new software tell us about the direction Apple is heading in?

I have just been to an Apple briefing at their HQ in London where I was shown the new iLife suite and the new Macbook Air.

The demo was almost identical to the one given by Steve Jobs (with all the same footage and everything – mental images spring to mind of a room filled with Apple execs and Steve Jobs all rehearsing the demo and Steve saying ‘Stick to the script guys – only I can ad-lib)  – but there were some extra bits added that Steve obviously didn’t have time for last night. No to mention the opportunity to see it up close and ask questions.

The most striking thing for me was just how much the new elements in iPhoto look like iOS. This is more than just the pop-up menu options (which are identical by the way) but the whole thing looks like its designed more for touch than traditional mouse input. It quickly became clear that gestures are an integral part of the new features – this was also apparent from the OS X Lion demo too. Apple has made sure that we will all be learning the gestures to make the most of the software and its this slow and steady indoctrination that will have us all four finger swiping in no time…

The full screen mode in iPhoto is stunning to say the least. Incredibly iPad themed but stunning all the same. The integration with Facebook is perhaps the most impressive element. You can sign in to Facebook from within iPhoto and that makes all the other integration simple. You can not only upload pictures to your wall or an album but also as your profile picture too. Each picture you send up has a history tracked and you can see if it has been commented on or not too. The history portion is useful as you can also see where else you have sent the picture, whether through email or to Flickr or somewhere else.

Another of the great new features, without giving too much away, is the ability to send incredible new emails. Simply select a batch of pictures and click Share, then email and then, as if by magic, a new screen appears with the email and a batch of templates which you can customise to send a very cool message to a friend or relative. The email is sent as one big Jpeg and you can opt to send the pictures as attachments too so they can be saved. The email will be stored in you history so you can recall it any time.

There are a ton of other features which will be exploring later on here online and in the magazine. We just wanted to give a quick taster of what you can expect.

The interface changes are designed of course to make things simpler but its very, very clear that Apple will unify the two operating systems they currently build. iOS and OS X will undoubtedly become one beast at some point.

The OS X Lion demonstration proved this beyond doubt in our eyes. The addition of home screens and folders working exactly the same as they do on an iDevice was evidence enough that we’ll soon see a unification, not to mention a touch screen Mac in the next 18 months or so.

The positives of this move will be that Apple as a company will benefit form an ecosystem where a user can buy and iPhone, learn how to use it and then buy a Mac and use it in pretty much the same way.

The down side is that some will see it as a dilution of the operating system. Dumming it down for the masses. We’re sure that Apple has already seen this as a potential pitfall but I have no doubt that those that need pro-apps and file systems will still be able to get to it although it wont be as obviously accessible or confusing to general users.

The future for Apple is pretty simple really. If they can continue to attract users to their mobile devices, with the right operating system they can easily convince them to buy a computer too. If those numbers begin to match up then Apple will eclipse Microsoft in no time at all…