If like me, you downloaded Lion on day 1, I’m sure you don’t need to be prodded to get Mountain Lion on day 1. But if you are among the rest of the world, here is what you get when you download OS X Mountain Lion. If you are quick you will notice that Apple stopped calling it Mac OS X. It is now just OS X. They dropped the Mac from the OS name. The last time Apple did something like this was about 5 years ago, when they dropped “Computers” from their name. Apple Computers Inc became Apple Inc. It just goes to show that the OS X is no longer about the computer. It is about the iCloud.
When you finally think there can be no more improvements to the OS, Apple comes along and makes the same tools look different and work better together. They make it just work. That is what has been done basically in Mountain Lion. Now the same apps that you have become comfortable with on the iPad and the iPhone/iPod have been customized to work on the Mac, and they bring along their familiar interface.
So what are the main new features in Mountain Lion that set them apart from Lion? Obviously the upgrade is not a major one. It just goes from 10.7 to 10.8. True, the Mac apps are pretty much the same. There isn’t much different. Snow Leopard to Lion was a big jump. Mission Control, Launch Pad, and the Mac App Store made Lion similar to iOS. With OS X Mountain Lion the blending is almost seamless. Add iCloud to the mix, and you can easily carry conversations from one device to another. Like Steve Jobs said in a keynote, the Mac is just another device. Without further ado, here are the new features.
All New Applications
Right off the bat, when you first login to Mountain Lion, it asks you for your iCloud login and password. If you remember, Snow Leopard and Lion asked for your iTunes login. With ML the integration is provided not with your iTunes account, but with your iCloud account. Of course you can use the same account for both – as many of us do. But with ML the distinction is clear – iCloud is the center of your universe, and all your devices are portals into your cloud. That means iCloud keeps your mail, calendars, contacts, documents, and more up to date on every device you use. So when you add, delete, or edit something on your Mac, it happens on your iPad, iPhone, and iPod touch. And vice versa. When you edit a document on any device, the changes appear across all your devices.
Messages does everything iChat does, and then some. For starters, it comes with iMessage. And just like iMessage in iOS, it lets you send unlimited messages to anyone on a Mac or an iPhone, iPad, or iPod touch running iOS 5. You can send photos, videos, documents, and contacts. You can even send messages to a group. Just like on the iPad and iPhone, you can see when your message has been delivered and when someone’s typing a reply. You can turn on read receipts, and the people you are conversing with see when you have read a message. Messages are sent with end-to-end encryption, so you can rest assured that your messages are secure and private. And best of all, you can start a conversation on your Mac and pick it up on your iPhone, iPad, or iPod touch if you have to leave mid-sentence.
A beta version of Messages is available for you to try out on Lion if you are eager to get your hands on the future of Messaging.
Who doesn’t like reminders. I have come to love them on my iPhone, especially with the geo-fence capability. And with Siri on my 4S, I don’t have to type. But if you are one of the many who don’t have Siri and would like to type out your reminders, then you can do it on the Mac. It integrates seamlessly with your iOS devices. Just like in iOS, you can have more than one list of reminders. You can make as many lists as you need and easily add to them. You can set due dates and you’ll get alerts as deadlines approach. You can check items off your lists as you go and keep track of what you have completed.
Notes on OS X is very much like Stickies in earlier versions. The major difference is integration with iCloud. Now your notes are everywhere on your devices. Jot down a note in one place, have it everywhere. On the Mac, you can pin them to your desktop.
Don’t you love being able to swipe down on your iPhone and quickly accessing the weather, your messages and new emails? Well guess what, the Notification Center is coming to the Mac with ML. If you are socially active, something new is always popping up somewhere on your Mac — an email, an instant message, a friend request, a calendar alert, and more. Notification Center makes it easy to stay up to speed, because there’s one place to see everything. Notification banners appear on your desktop and disappear quickly so they don’t interrupt what you’re doing. A simple swipe to the left, just like the swipe down on the iOS devices, and you’ll see all your notifications in a simple, ordered list. So you’ll always know what’s up as soon as it comes up.
You’ll find the new Share button in many OS X Mountain Lion apps. It’s the new, easy way to spread the word — links, photos, videos, and just about anything else. You can send links from Safari. You can send your notes via Mail and Messages. You can post photos to Flickr and Facebook. You can send videos to Vimeo and YouTube. And with even more twitter integration, you can tweet just about anything, anytime with a single click on your share button.
Which brings us to twitter. With iOS 5, twitter became an integral part of the iOS. With OS X ML, twitter is now an integral part of the Mac. Sign in to twitter once and you’re all set to start tweeting — and you don’t have to leave the app you’re in. You can tweet links and photos directly from Safari, iPhoto, Aperture, or Photo Booth with the new Tweet Sheet. You can tweet comments and add locations. And when someone mentions you in a tweet or sends you a direct message, you’ll get a Twitter notification in your Notification Center.
I did not see this coming. Mostly because I don’t use Game Center much. But this was inevitable. Now it’s a bigger playing field with even more competition. Just create a Game Center account with your Apple ID. Then sign in and you’re in. Your friends will find you fast, and you’ll track them down easily. Get a multiplayer game started or go up against people you don’t know. You can check out leaderboards and see how your high score ranks against opponents’ scores around the world. Best of all, discover new games based on the ones you and your friends already play.
Finally, what I have been waiting for since I did not get a new Mac after Thunderbolt was introduced. AirPlay Mirroring. It is so great to do that with the iPhone. With the AirPlay Mirroring on the Mac now you can easily cater to a larger audience. Note: this requires you to have Apple TV which costs $99.
Last but not least, a completely new application not found on other iOS devices or on older Macs. Gatekeeper in OS X Mountain Lion makes the Mac safer than ever. It helps prevent you from unknowingly downloading and installing malicious software. And it gives you control over which applications to download and run on your Mac. Now you can choose from three security options. You can download and run applications from anywhere, just as in OS X Lion. To be even safer, download and run apps from the Mac App Store and apps with a Developer ID. Or download and run only apps from the Mac App Store — the safest setting of all. Gatekeeper lets you decide which setting is best for you.
These are just the tip of the iceberg. There are even more new features that bring the OS closer to iOS which I will talk about in a future post. Until then, enjoy the anticipation. Oh, a note about the price. As with Lion the new OS will be available for download directly from the Mac App Store for $29.99. It will not be available for purchase on optical media.