OS X Lion release date on July; priced as $29.99 in Mac App Store

Mac OS X has been around for 10 years now, built on a solid UNIX foundation. Phil Schiller said in the keynote that OS X has “evolved”, and is great “not because of hardware, but because of software.” Ten new features of Apple’s next iteration of the Mac operating system, Mac OS X Lion, were highlighted at Apple’s Worldwide Developer’s Conference today by Senior Vice President of Product Marketing Phil Schiller. Dubbed a “major release” with over 250 new features, the OS adds things like a slew of new multi-touch gestures and full-screen apps (including iPhoto, iMovie, Safari, etc.), plus the all new Mission Control, which unifies Expose and Spaces, and the iOS-esque Launchpad application launcher.

Mac OS X 10.7 Lion, set for release next month and priced at $29.99, introduces a big shift toward centralizing all your content, whether it’s on your desktop, your iOS device, or in the newly launched iCloud. Schiller noted that 73 percent of Mac sales are notebooks, positioning Apple to take advantage of all the multitouch possibilities afforded by trackpads. Multitouch gestures will be integrated system-wide, with scrolling, taps, and pinches able to be used in all apps.

Lion will be priced at $29.99 and available only on the Mac App Store as a 4 GB download, allowing users to pay once and install it on all of their machines, just like all Mac App Store apps. Apple did not announce specific release date for Mac OS X Lion, but narrow down the launch window to the month of July.Customers who purchase a Mac between today and the Lion launch in July will get the upgrade free from the App Store. And there’s another significant piece of news: you won’t be able to purchase Lion in retail stores on a physical optical disc, as it will only be available as a download via the Mac App Store.

The gestures are meant to pair with a new, pared-down fullscreen mode for applications. Users can swipe between fullscreened applications or back to the desktop, and applications like Safari can interpret a two-finger swipe as an instruction to browse forward or back. The demoed version of Safari also lacked a scroll bar, instead relying on flick-gesture scrolling.

Lion will also combine the current app and desktop management systems, Exposé and Spaces, into one interface named Mission Control. A three-finger upward swipe brings up a screen that shows all open windows grouped by application and the user’s set of Spaces along the top of the screen. Pressing the spacebar with the cursor hovered over a window shows the window in Quick Look Mode, and dragging a set of windows up to the Spaces bar can set them up in a new Space.

The recently released Mac App Store, Apple seems to be continuing on the path of what the company views as a safer environment for distributing apps. While some look at the Mac App Store and see a closed garden like the iTunes App Store, the setup does ensure that apps will work seamlessly on Apple’s devices. Schiller went into detail of how developers will be able to take advantage of several new features to make development easier.

Schiller pointed out that they were only demonstrating the main features, but there was plenty more to look at.