Is Mac OS X Lion a Good Fit for Your Small Business?

Michael Essany Headshot by Michael Essany on August 9, 2011
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Following months of eager anticipation from rabidly fanatic Mac users, the venerable tech giant Apple has finally raised the curtain on Mac OS X Lion ($30) — the next major release of OS X, which Apple hails as “the world’s most advanced desktop operating system.”

The first OS X upgrade available as an app download from the Mac App Store, Lion has generally garnered widespread positive reviews. One of the most frequent user comments directed at the operating system upgrade is how similar OS X Lion is to the familiar iOS mobile operating platform made famous by the iPhone, iPod Touch, and, of course, the iPad.

Among the hot new features akin to the iOS experience are the ability to run apps in full-screen mode, improved gesture controls, and a dedicated app store for Mac desktop applications. OS X Lion includes full-screen Mail, Safari, Preview, iCal, FaceTime, Screen Sharing, Photo Booth, and more.

According to Apple, Lion is the king of the desktop operating system jungle because of the ease of which users can navigate their machine and their favorite apps and software.

“Launchpad,” Apple says in one example of Lion’s improved bells and whistles, “gives you instant access to all the apps on your Mac in a stunning new layout where you can quickly find any app and open it with a single click. And Mission Control brings together Exposé, full-screen apps, Dashboard, and Spaces in one unified experience. With a gesture, your desktop zooms out, displaying a bird’s-eye view of everything running on your Mac and making it easy to navigate anywhere with a click.”

Is Lion Friendly to Small Business?

Although the small business world remains substantially more PC-oriented than Mac-driven, no shortage of small business owners have flocked to Apple in recent years. Still, despite the growing love affair with Apple within the broader small business community, some have voiced concern about Lion’s appropriateness for small business use.

Chief among the expressed concerns is the fact that Lion no longer supports Rosetta, the emulator that made it possible for previous versions of OS X to run PowerPC code. The simple translation for small business owners is that Lion doesn’t necessarily play well with Microsoft’s Office suite and countless familiar financial, marketing, and business management apps.

As Technorati writer Beryn Hammil explained in a piece aptly dubbed “Fair Warning to Small Business Owners About Lion OS X Upgrade,” Microsoft’s Office, Quicken, and Photoshop run on PowerPC “and are just a few of the important applications that will entirely disappear from a computer when Lion is installed, as will the ability to reach down into old files to read docs created in those applications.”

This doesn’t necessarily mean that Microsoft’s Office suite won’t work at all with Lion, but even Microsoft has been forced to concede that its programs will be buggy and absent of several key features (particularly to small business owners) when installed on a Mac running Lion.

Are there solutions or workarounds to this problem? Yes. And with time, it’s a safe bet Microsoft will bring its hugely popular tools up to Lion’s speed. But for now, Apple naturally offers there are new apps and tools in the Mac App Store that can effectively replace those which are no longer natively supported — many of which are designed by Apple itself, of course. Still, the question remains: Are you willing to forgo the familiar in return for the “roaring” new experience of Lion?

For causal Mac users, the upgrade to Lion is a virtual no-brainer. For small owners and managers, the upgrade should inspire some thought and careful research before this otherwise fantastic upgrade is undertaken.

For more information about Lion and its myriad new features, click here.

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