As promised, Apple let Mac OS X Lion out of its cage this morning.
Version 10.7 of the operating system has more than 250 new features, Apple said, but an installation disc isn't one of them: it's available today for $29.99 as a 3.49GB download only.
Apple enjoys pushing the computing industry into the future by dropping technology it deems to be from the past--for example floppy drives missing from the first iMac--and those who want a real-world copy of the OS will have to wait until Apple releases it on a USB thumb drive next month for $69.
The Mac OS X download, available through the Mac App Store, dovetails with Apple's new MacBook Air and Mac Mini Lion-based computers. These new models are updated with Intel's modern Sandy Bridge processors and a high-speed Thunderbolt data transfer port--and none has a DVD drive for the next OS upgrade.
One new feature in Lion is a range of multitouch gestures that let people control on-screen content with their fingers. In addition, the platform lets applications run in a full-screen mode, something Windows users are accustomed to.
For CNET's take on the operating system, checkMac OS X Lion review: A worthy upgrade for the price.
Task management is a challenge for people juggling many jobs at once on a computer. Here, Apple updated its approach to the problem with Mission Control, which provides a glimpse into all the programs running on the Mac. The operating system's Launchpad feature helps to quickly access and launch applications from the operating system.
Lion's Versions feature automatically saves people's work and allows them to go back to different versions of a file. A new Resume feature helps users get back to where they left off with their applications after the Mac has been shut down or restarted, similar to how some Web browsers can launch by reopening the tabs a person had been using.
Mac OS X Lion is also the first version of Apple's operating system to come with the Mac App Store built-in. The marketplace launched in January as a download for Snow Leopard users.
Apple's latest operating system update comes just a day after the company posted an impressive fiscal third quarter. Apple reported yesterday that its revenue hit $28.57 billion during the period, and it earned a profit of $7.31 billion. The company sold 20.34 million iPhones and 9.25 million iPads during the period, representing a gain of 142 percent and 183 percent year-over-year, respectively, but Mac sales were relatively light.
During its earnings call yesterday, Apple announced its intention to release Mac OS X Lion today. Earlier this morning, the company took its online store down in anticipation of the launch of its new products.
Updated at 6:17 a.m. PT and 8 a.m. PTto include more details.