You have very little choice, is the short answer. If you are a MobileMe user you have until June 2012, just before the GB Olympics, to upgrade your computer to MacOS X Lion and make use of all the features of the new free iCloud service. MobileMe users that don’t upgrade will lose out. If you have a Mac that was manufactured before September 2006 you’ll need a new computer to use iCloud and Lion.
There are many benefits to upgrading to the new operating system, especially for laptop users. It’s mostly about trackpads and screens; multitouch gestures use all your fingers and thumbs to move things around the full screen apps. For example, swipe two fingers right to left to go back through your browsing history, swipe four fingers to switch between full screen apps, easy navigation with no keyboard required. We’ve all learnt a few keyboard shortcuts such as CMD C and CMD V to copy and paste, most people learn a few more (CMD X and CMD B maybe) then find out how to do it all with a mouse and don’t need to learn any more shortcuts. Lion moves all of this to the trackpad and your laptop becomes a bit like an iPad, you’ll be swiping, pinching and triple tapping straight away. It’s surprisingly intuitive, even if you haven’t used iOS before.
The biggest benefit of upgrading to Lion is security. Applications are each given a “sandbox” to work in, they are prevented from affecting other applications or the operating system, so viruses and trojans will not be able to escape the “box”, safe as a child’s sand pit. That doesn’t mean you won’t ever get a virus or trojan with Lion, but you’ll be less likely to damage your computer with innocent clicking.
iCloud’s full features will only work with Lion and iOS 5, however Snow Leopard users (MacOS 10.6) will still be able to use @me.com or @mac.com email addresses but none of the other features of iCloud will work, at least that’s my understanding, Apple don’t seem to be very clear on this. Windows Vista and Windows 7 running iTunes 10.3 and an iDevice running iOS 4.3.3 will work with iCloud when it is released next week.
Keeping your computer up to date can be essential for your business to function. To some extent the computer and operating system you choose to run your business will dictate the amount of time and money you will need to spend in the years to come on keeping it working. Do some homework, the best time to buy a brand new computer is shortly after a new operating system is released but check if your existing application software will work on the new OS. Decide if your business depends on up to date software, if it does then there is little point in buying a new computer with an out of date operating system. To keep fully up to date you should buy a new computer every three or four years.