I may buy Lion despite my initial hesitation.
What changed my mind was reading about per-user screen sharing. This is new with Lion and allows a remote user to login to their own desktop session while someone else is using the computer. This really blurs the distinction between the server and user versions of Mac OS X.
Here is how Apple describes it:
If that's not a multi-user server, I am not sure why. But whatever Apple chooses to call it, the possibilities are very interesting.
New life for old hardware
As I have noted before, my ancient MacBook Pro is nearing End of Life. It won't run Lion, it won't run the new 64 bit VMWare Fusion: its useful days are fast drawing to a close. Per-user screen sharing could give it a longer life as a terminal accessing a newer and better machine running Lion.
I do have reservations as to whether that Mac Mini we own could be the server. It is a 2GHZ cpu and is limited to just 2 GB of ram, so running multiple sessions might be too much to ask of it. Currently, under Snow Leopard, Activity Monitor would seem to indicate that another session would not overload it, but I suspect Lion will be a bit more resource needy. We'll see soon enough.
If done well, an iPad could make a very slick screen sharing client. I've used iSSH VNC with our Macs - that is a bit of a clumsy experience now, but if screen gestures could be passed through to an OS like Lion, that slight ineptness could disappear. That would certainly seem possible: Remote Conductor lets an iPad function as a trackpad and wireless keyboard now: combining that with per-user screen sharing would be perfect. Imagine the possibilities for multi-user apps; for example, a point of sale system with the floor personnel carrying iPads without needing an iPad app for that central application. I have clients doing that now, but they need a specific iPad app or they have to struggle with the slight clumsiness of VNC. This could open up new worlds for the iPad as a GUI terminal device.
I would think Apple would almost have to be thinking along these same lines, but there is no mention of anything like this that I've seen. Are they leaving this for third party developers or are they planning their own integrated iPad client? I think that would be quite sensible, but Apple doesn't see the world quite as I do.
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