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Multi-Touch and an iPad Sensibility Comes to the Mac

In its press conference today, Apple (AAPL) revealed that multi-touch interfaces will come to Mac OS and a new MacBook Air with instant on, long battery life, solid state storage, and a multi-touch trackpad -- all in 2.9 pounds. With additions of an app store, the new Mac OS Lion will become the desktop equivalent of Apple's iOS interface, which I suggested was inevitable back in March.

The move is likely the first step in replacing Mac OS and also means that Apple is reaching to gain the same control over the entire Mac business ecosystem, including all software sales, that it has in mobile. The reasons Apple has started to move Mac OS and iOS together are straightforward:

  • There is a lot of consumer acceptance of iOS. Get the desktop to seem the same and Apple ups the chance for taking even more desktop and laptop market share.
  • Eventually bringing both code bases together will make maintenance and development easier and less expensive.
  • Mac OS patents are aging. Apple has shown itself more than willing to use IP as a weapon. Get newer patents and the lifetime of the weapon extends.
The Mac isn't going away... yet. In the event, COO Tim Cook noted that Mac sales make a third of the company's revenue. Furthermore, someone needs to develop software. That's impractical on a tablet or smartphone.

CEO Steve Jobs mentioned that the company found vertical gesture interfaces to be "ergonomically terrible," which explains the Apple Magic Trackpad, which in July I called one step to iOS on a Mac. As I said at the time, we'll likely eventually see Apple create a trackpad line that incorporates a small LCD screen, so you get even more feedback. The new MacBook Air shows the design sensibility customers are likely to see over the next year or two -- with prices ranging from $999 for a 64GB, 1.4 GHz model to $1599 for one with a 1.86GHz processor and 256GB of storage.

You can watch Jobs' presentation here:

Even more telling is that Apple will include a Mac app store in Lion, with one-click downloads, both free and paid apps ... and a 30 percent cut of the sales price going to Apple. Well, you knew that would eventually come. There's doubly uncomfortable news for developers, as one app gets automatically licensed to all the Macs someone has for personal use, cutting into potential revenue for multiple copies.

According to Jobs, although people will still be able to buy Mac software elsewhere, this will be "the best." Just the fact that it's integrated with the operating system puts retailers into a disadvantage -- and once again raises potential anticompetitive issues for regulators. Can you imagine Microsoft (MSFT) including a PC software store in Windows?

Another interesting point is that Lion won't be available until next summer. This is an unusual approach for Apple, and is likely another sign of the pressure that the company has come to feel from competitors. However, one thing won't wait: the app store will be available in 90 days, with developer submissions starting in November.


Image: CNET