While installing OS X 10.6 Snow Leopard on my latest Hackintosh, I got bored. So I decided to download the Developers preview of Lion. I won't beat about the bush. Getting the dam thing to install on my late 2009 White MacBook was a pain in the ass. It would almost install, then decide it couldn't be bothered, and quit. I managed to solve this by booting back into Snow Leopard, running the install disc, telling it to install on the correct partition, and letting it run. I still got errors, but instead of just quitting, it let me "Try Again", and finally, after about 30 minutes, it was ready for its first boot.
After the normal OS X first boot video, and the registration details, I finally got presented with the desktop. So what has changed? Well not a lot visually. Aqua has finally disappeared, but that is really it. If you have Snow Leopard and Lion side by side, they look almost exactly the same. Of course on the dock you get a icon for both App Store and FaceTime straight away, but more importantly, you get a Launchpad icon where the Dashboard icon is normally on a fresh install.
Clicking on Launchpad brings up a screen very similar too the iPad/iPhone home screen. All you applications are there, and you can even drag one on top of the other to make a folder a'la iOS. If, like me, this is your first port of call, you also find something else inspired by iOS. Two finger scrolling is now in reverse. So scroll down on the trackpad, and the screen scrolls up. Scroll left, and the screen scrolls right and so on and so on. At first its a little hard to get used to, but if you have an iOS device, then soon it becomes second nature.
Another thing Apple made a big fuss about was full screen apps. When I was watching the "Back to the Mac" media event, I didn't really think much of it. After all, you can normally expand a window to fill a screen, and thought that was basically it. On launching Safari in the top right corner of the window is a small icon, similar to Microsoft Windows resize icon. Click on this and the browser goes full screen, much like hitting F11 in IE. Three finger scroll then the browser, or app, is thrown to the side and you are returned to the desktop. (Keep scrolling to get to Dashboard). It is actually a really nice touch, and I think it works better then Exposé. Taking the mouse to the top of the screen brings down the desktop bar, and to the far right is the icon to come out of full screen.
There are a few UI tweaks. Status bars look neater, no scroll bar buttons, with scroll bars only appearing when you are actually scrolling. That could be a nightmare if you don't have a trackpad. But thats about it really. After all this isn't an update like Windows 3.11 to Windows 95. I like the OS X interface, and tweaking it seems right, a complete overhaul isn't needed right now. Maybe for OS XI.
For a Developers preview, its snappy. Its actually faster then my Snow Leopard install. Although that is now 2 years old, and Im not good at house keeping, so its bound to be faster. Safari seems faster too to render the pages and switch tabs etc.
Overall Im loving Lion at the moment. People on the web bashing it because it hasn't changed much, or it isn't Linux/Unix/Windows 7, don't listen to them. Everybody likes different things. If you like Snow Leopard, or even Leopard, then you will love Lion. HOPEFULLY Apple will keep it a low price upgrade. I think £20 like Snow Leopard is wishful thinking, but I think £50 is fair. Like I said, this isn't a major overhaul like the jump from Tiger to Leopard. But only time will tell on that front. And hopefully Apple will include over new features too in the official Beta.