Yesterday, Apple announced an event that will provide a sneak peek at its newest operating system, which may or may not be named “Lion”. With the downplayed and down-priced release of Snow Leopard in 2009, Apple has raised popular expectations regarding what new features will appear in 10.7. Sure, there will be the usual complement of eye candy improvements and maybe some marginal workflow streamlining, but the marquee feature has to be something big. Based on the pace of Apple’s proliferation as the digital media company of record, the scheduled construction of its North Carolina server farm and the likely release date of 10.7 (I’m guessing middle of 2011), Lion – or whatever its actually named – will decisively position OS X as the standard for digital content management.
In a nutshell, Apple will make iTunes the center of users’ media universes. Whatever content is purchased through Apple will be available to be streamed to any Apple device – maybe even any browser. So whether you’re streaming locally through Airplay or remotely through Apple’s servers, your media is always accessible. The capacity for ubiquity could extend far beyond iTunes. You can already sync things such as Notes and Dock Items via MobileMe; think about being able to sync all your application preferences, preference panes – even the contents of your Home folder – instantly. As I pointed out a while ago, Apple already has a number of the components in place necessary to realize this digital content ascension. By baking universal media availability into its operating system, Apple will fully realize of the original “digital hub” vision Steve Jobs alluded to when introducing the original iMac.