Day four: A clean install
Following yesterday's spring cleaning (total of 20GB reclaimed, by the way), I decided to see what a fresh install of Lion looks like. As with many upgrade installs, Lion preserves a number of settings and in my case that included things like displaying hard drives on the desktop (note: I've since read this particular setting doesn't reliably get carried over for everyone).
Performing a clean install of Lion has been a topic of a lot of debate since clean installs are usually done from an install DVD or similar media. For this experiment, I did the install on an external hard drive (iMac booted into Lion from single partition internal drive). The process went perfectly smoothly after the extra couple of steps early on to select the alternate drive. The Lion recovery partition was still created as part of the install, which seems like it may be problematic for later repartitioning since the external drive had three active partitions that can no longer be resized.
It was really easy to see how much Lion's default configuration is different from previous OS X versions when nothing is carried forward in an upgrade. Very easy to see that longtime Mac users might need some getting used to here. It's clearly still OS X but the new look of Finder windows really stands out more - as does the updated setup process for Mail when starting from scratch. That doesn't even mention the completely blank desktop.
On the other hand, for new Mac users that have already owned an iPhone or iPad, the process is going to seem perfectly familiar. The setup process is easy, Launch Pad and the Dock items look very iOS-like, and for the most part everything works like it does in iOS. This might actually be a better way to go for all users actually.
It is worth noting that the setup process after a clean install is still very Apple-like and looks like an evolution from Leopard/Snow Leopard. There are some clear shifts, but they're very minor.
Note: If you're looking to perform a clean install of Lion, instructions for creating a Lion install disk on a hard drive, flash drive, or DVD are available. Apple will also begin selling Lion on flash drives for $69 in August.