∞ Apple execs discuss Lion, MacBook Air, Mac mini, Thunderbolt display

It’s been a busy day for Apple. The company released its next generation operating system, OS X Lion, and new a MacBook Air, Mac mini and Thunderbolt display. I had some time to sit down with Apple executives to talk about the releases.

[ad#Google Adsense 300×250 in story]Perhaps the biggest release of the day is OS X Lion. With this release, Apple is bringing some of the most familiar parts of its mobile operating system to the desktop.

With features like hidden scroll bars users will recognize, as I did, that utilizing gestures will make navigating through the operating system much quicker and easier.

“This is a really big step forward,” Brian Croll, Apple’s vice president of OS X product marketing, told The Loop. “We’ve made a lot of fundamental improvements in the operating system.”

There are many improvements in Lion, including new features that everyday users will enjoy. But some of the major changes are the ways users will interact with the operating system through LaunchPad and Mission Control. These features really give you the feeling of iOS on the desktop.

Of course, Lion is only available through the Mac App Store, although Apple will make a USB version available for customers in August.

“We’re in 123 countries in an instant,” said Croll. “It [The Mac App Store] is just a fabulous way to distribute software.”

In addition to Lion, Apple also released new MacBook Air notebooks. Besides using the new i5 and i7 processors, the MacBook Air features Thunderbolt, a new I/O interface that Apple and Intel introduced in February in the MacBook Pro.

Thunderbolt supports high-speed connectivity with storage systems and other forthcoming devices. With adapters it can work with Gigabit Ethernet, FireWire and USB peripherals, too.

“Thunderbolt makes the MacBook Air a high performance citizen,” David Moody, Apple’s vice president of Hardware Product Marketing, told The Loop. It gives the Air more I/O options than it ever had before.”

With the release of the new MacBook Air came the demise of the white MacBook. Apple said it made sense after seeing the trends of its customers.

“One of the things we saw is that the MacBook Air was simply more popular than the MacBook,” said Moody. “It does more in half the weight and in half the volume.”

Calling the Thunderbolt display the “ultimate docking station,” Moody said with one Thunderbolt cable, users could have an incredible number of features.

The Thunderbolt display also features integrated FaceTime camera, audio, FireWire 800, Gigabit Ethernet and USB 2.0 interfaces.

A new Mac mini was also released with faster processors, and surprisingly to some people, no optical drive. Apple said the popularity of the Mac App Store helped with that decision.

“We found that the majority of customers don’t use the optical drive on a regular basis,” said Moody. “Things are changing. The Primary use for the optical drive was to install software, but the mac app store provides a more efficient method for doing that.”

You can still purchase an external SuperDrive for the Mac mini if you like or you can use the optical drive sharing function built-in to Mac OS X.

  • It’s pretty obvious that today Apple declared the CD drive officially dead. And I doubt that the next MacBook Pro refresh is going to have them. Perhaps we’ll get dedicated GPUs in the 13″ MBP?!?

  • Unbelievable

    You had time with the Apple Execs today and this is all you had to report? Seriously? It seems like you are their marketing secretary more than you are a journalist. Did you ask them any questions at all?

    • Anonymous

      Perhaps Jim is smart enough to know what questions will be answered and what ones won’t be.

      Apple exec’s aren’t exactly known for divulging details. Would you have preferred an article full of ‘no comment’ responses?

    • I think Jim did well to get this. Any conversation at all with Apple executives is more than most sites can achieve.

  • D R

    “With features like hidden scroll bars users will recognize, as I did, that utilizing gestures will make navigating through the operating system much quicker and easier.”

    I don’t think so.  I think that without some kind of visual clue, many people will miss seeing content.  It’s one thing to make the scrollbar narrower, which doesn’t matter if you are using a gesture to scroll, but it’s quite another when it’s not visible at all until you actually try to scroll.

    This has happened to me repeated, particularly with new apps that I try out where I don’t know how much information is being displayed.

    • To add to this, unlike iOS – the scrollbars don’t flash when the scrollable content first appears. So, you have even less of an indication.

      • Darren Burrows

        Uh, yes they do.. I just reloaded this page as a test.. Half way down the window a scroll bar appears then vanishes… 

      • Anonymous

        The content should make it quite clear if more is to follow. Also, any app will provide clues if more is below or above.

    • Zeus McFly

      Could be you’re just dumb. Food for thought, there.

    • So turn that feature off. Unlike some things, Lion gives you a choice.