June 27, 2011, 11:07 AM — Ever since Mac OS X Lion was announced, many of us have been wondering what it will mean for businesses and IT departments. So far, that discussion has focused largely on distribution: How will Apple's Mac-App-Store-only approach work when you're installing and managing the new OS on dozens, if not hundreds, of machines? But while that is indeed a big question (to which we know some, but not all, of the answer), it's not the only one worth asking. Mac OS X Lion has more than 250 new features; a few of them will really matter to businesses and IT. What will they mean? Here's what I think.
Moving files, especially large ones between people has always been a pain-point for any network. Email is one option, but attachments can get out of control, you have to deal with email retention policies, and you have to manage huge mailstores. You can also use instant messaging services like iChat server or traditional file services like FTP/AFP. But if the file(s) don't actually need to be on a server, or if the user needs to transfer files with someone outside of your network, then those options can be unwieldy--and they assume your company already has a server infrastructure.
AirDrop has the potential to simplify all of that. It finds local computers--without any kind of networking set-up--and lets you shoot files back and forth among them. The connection and transfers are secured with Transport Layer Security (TLS). And it integrates with Address Book, so if the sender is in your list of contacts, you see a picture of him or her with the file transfer. For small- or medium-sized companies that want a simple way to shoot files around, AirDrop could be a big help without a lot of hassle.
When we heard about this one, everyone in my department did the happy dance. I can not tell you how many times I've had the following exchange: "John, [fill in the application] locked up. Will I lose all of my work?" "When was the last time you saved?" "Hours ago." "Then you will lose the work you've done since then." Auto Save and Versions are huge for businesses and IT. Yes, they'll require more storage space. But I don't care. I could look through every panicked call and help-desk ticket I've received in the last year: A massive chunk of them would not be there if we'd had this feature. From my perspective, Auto Save is a major reason to upgrade to Lion as soon as you can.