Each week Ross Rubin contributes Switched On, a column about consumer technology.
Kerberos, the hound from Hades that lent its name to an MIT-developed network authentication protocol, is often visualized as having three heads. But if dogs can have multiple heads, why can't other technology species? Many of the features in Lion have impact for different kinds of users, and the value users see in them may well depend on which face they tend to view.
The new user
represents the biggest user interface change to the company's desktop experience since the debut of Mac OS X. With the Mac hard drive hidden by default, full-screen apps that hide the menu bar, and omnipresent scroll arrows put out to pasture, it even dispenses with some user interface conventions that have been around since the original Mac. The focus on multitouch gestures -- while enabling more fluidity in the user interface -- are not as self-evident. Overall, though, the gradual shift away from contrivances such as windows, menus, and cluttered icons should make things less intimidating for new users.
The iPad user
. One can only wonder what features the successor to Snow Leopard might have sported had Apple not launched the iPad. The most prominent design theme in Lion has been bringing user experience elements of Apple's tablet to the Mac. This is highlighted best by Launchpad, the iPad-like collection of sliding home screens, and full-screen apps, but also includes support for full-screen apps and bundling of the Mac app store introduced with Snow Leopard.