If you just got used to OS X Lion and how it works, get ready to expand what you’ve learned, Apple has released a developer’s preview of the next cat-themed operating system for the Mac; “Mountain Lion”. Just like the previous version, this new version has taken more bits out of iOS in appearance and functionality. Features included in this revamped OS will include iMessage, Game Center, Reminders and even Notifications right into the operating system.
Starting today, Mac developers are able to begin testing this latest version with an expected public release in the second or third quarter of 2012 – I’m going to guess it will be available in the summer 2012. While price has not yet been established, you can expect this to be readily available for download from the Mac App Store. Considering the OSX Lion was available for $30, I’m going to assume that the upgrade price will be fairly reasonable, if not free for those that already paid for the Lion update seven months ago.
In case you were paying attention in October 2011 when Tim Cook took centre-stage at the keynote address which unveiled the iPhone 4s, he was serious when he said that iCloud will be the company’s strategy for the ‘next decade’, and that’s clearly more evident with the iOS integration of this desktop OSX release.
Here’s a short list of features you can expect from Mountain Lion:
Built-in iCloud integration. Setting up iCloud will be the second thing you do after setting up a new Mac with Mountain Lion. The big new thing in this version will be the ease with which you can access Documents in the Cloud, which will allow your documents created in Pages (or some other third-party apps) to be available on any Mac OS or iOS device.
iMessage on Mac. Many people have been asking for this, and finally we’re going to get it. The Messages app, which will appear very familiar to iOS users, replaces iChat. It’ll let you start a conversation on a Mac and continue it on a different device, like your iPhone or iPad.
Notes and Reminders. Any notes you make on a Mac or iOS device, along with any reminders you set for yourself, will show up on any of your Mac or iOS devices. Both apps can be searched and look easier to navigate with the additional screen space of a desktop. Notes can be “pinned” to your desktop.
Notifications. Just like the drop-down Notification Center on iOS, the Mac is getting its own version in the top right corner of the screen. All reminders, app alerts, calendar appointments will appear there. And just like iOS, Mountain Lion Notification Center has its own swipe to bring up the window — two fingers right to left from the right edge of the trackpad.
Sharing from apps. That sharing arrow that appears in iOS apps? Apple has inserted it in many Mac applications and dubbed it Share Sheet. That button will let you share web pages, notes, videos, Quicktime files, docs and photos via email, Messages, AirDrop, Twitter or post photos or video to Vimeo or Flickr.
Twitter integration in the OS. This is kind of a big deal for Twitter. When you share something via Twitter in Mountain Lion, a Tweet Sheet pops up, which looks like an index card with whatever it is you’re tweeting attached via paper clip.
GameCenter. Apple’s social gaming network comes to the desktop, and brings with it a new opportunity for developers. With a new set of GameKit APIs, game creators can develop games for both Mac and iOS, so players can compete whether they’re on an Apple desktop or mobile device. Current Game Center-compatible iOS games will have to be converted to appear in the Mac App Store.
AirPlay Mirroring to Apple TV. Just like an iPad or iPhone 4S, you will be able to mirror your Mac desktop on your TV via an Apple TV (as long as your Mac has an Intel Core i3, i5 or i7 processor).
New security features. Gatekeeper lets users select settings to control which apps can be downloaded to a computer. You can choose to allow all apps, or only apps with a developer-signed ID program (run by Apple) to be downloaded. Or, for the most conservative choice, only apps from the Mac App Store.
As you can see from all the feature seeing added, the heart of this newest OS X will be iCloud – it doesn’t matter where you start a game or save a document or note, it will be available for you anytime, on any device. Sounds a lot like the iPad or iPhone, now in desktop form. And why not? … This is strategically the way Apple plans to get more and more non-Mac users to make the switch and come on over.
One glaring omission on this latest release is Siri; the personal assistant unveiled as an iOS standard app for iPhone 4S users, hasn’t been announced as part of this release. Likely since Apple feels like Siri is still in beta mode on the iPhone. I’m going to say that while Siri isn’t ready for a release in OS X yet, she will be making an appearance in the near future.
There you have it. Get ready for all this to be officially announced in March and/or June at Apple’s annual WWDC.