OS X (10.8) Mountain Lion: Unifying the Computing Experience

Within a year of Apple’s release of Lion (Mac OS X 10.7), they’re preparing to unleash Mountain Lion – providing even more of an integrated experience for those people who rely heavily on iOS devices (or, as I like to call ’em: the gateway drugs). If you take the time to watch the teaser video that’s been posted to their web site already, you’ll likely be struck with anticipation, trepidation, or envy.

I’m excited. My mom is consternated. Windows users are lashing out with outmoded arguments already.

OS X (10.8) Mountain Lion - Image, Courtesy of Apple

You can’t deny it, though: for Mac owners, there will soon be an array of convenient features floating at their fingertips. Instead of making OS X more iOS-like in operation, Apple is bringing the best tools and features to the desktop without forcing a paradigm shift in usability. This is a stark contrast to what’s expected from the competition (with Windows 8 purportedly bifurcating the user experience between Aero and Metro – and doing so in a haphazard fashion).

Again, the Mac is not turning into an iPad.

If you have an iOS device today (in conjunction with Mac OS X), you can start test driving Messages (an updated version of iChat). If this doesn’t kill the idea of voicemail, nothing will. You can send a quick text, image, or video to any one of your Messages contacts, and they’ll receive it in their own Message client – whether that’s on OS X or any registered iOS device. Maybe one day we’ll see this communications system interoperating with other platforms, but not if it remains a value-added service which further separates Apple’s offerings from the competition (mobile or desktop).

So, what else is new – that we know of?

  • Deeper iCloud integration (including automatic synching processes)
  • Reminders (just like in iOS)
  • Notifications (an iOS-esque center, plus system-level “Growl” popups)
  • Notes (which can be pinned to the desktop like in days of yore)
  • Share Sheets (apparently, Apple’s excited about making things convenient)
  • Game Center, Everywhere (but I thought there were no games for “the Mac”?)
  • AirPlay Mirroring (wireless beaming of the desktop to a TV)
  • Gatekeeper (keeping users from harmful downloads, letting them decide)

The Mountain Lion OS update isn’t just for “the Mac,” though. This revision is staged to be sold to complete one’s entire Apple computing lifestyle – sewing together disparate data management experiences between mobile and desktop environments. So, if you don’t like Apple – I’m not sure why you’d bother to have read this far?

What do people in my community think?

Alex Terek:

It should be a free update, like windows updates…

Windows updates aren’t free – they’re more expensive. Windows Vista’s update (Windows 7) costs about half as much as a new Mac mini. Now, if you’re saying that Windows 7 is a completely different OS compared to Windows Vista, then so is Mountain Lion to Lion. Or, if you’re saying that Windows service packs are free, then so are OS X point revisions. Argument 110% nullified.

Nate Johnson:

looks like apple really is going down hill they are bringing ios to mac talk about lame if i wanted to play games id play my pc ps3 or xbox 360 not a mac seriously mac is lame and really uncompatible with most programs

It seems that Nate’s computer lacks as many punctuation keys as he does logic. Apple’s been a consistent performer in the marketplace, going uphill (not downhill). Seems there are a tremendous amount of shortsighted geeks who fail to see that a smartphone is every bit of a “gaming computer” as a traditional PC. Game consoles are evolving to entertainment stations, too. I’m not sure what “really uncompatible with most programs” means, but I could probably say that Windows programs don’t work well on OS X (outside of a virtual machine or Boot Camp, that is).

Ronald Boadi:

Seems all they have done is bundle a load of apps you could have just downloaded?

Yes and no. Yes, these types of apps could be cobbled together. No, a series of cobbled-together apps doesn’t create an experience Apple’s customers have come to expect from Apple.

Man M:

Personally I think they are going the wrong way. Simplifying desktops to phone level? meh… I can’t wait for a day when I can have proper IDE tools on tablets.

They’re not forcing a mobile usability model. They’re making it easier to manage the data, regardless of your platform (so long as it’s in the Apple universe). Microsoft would be nuts not to be doing the same thing. That, and “proper” appears to be an extremely relative and bigoted term.

Joshua Cloutier (a Gnomie):

Lion OS was a great starter for integrating iOs features… now with the integration of iOS 5 features it makes for a more organized platform for continuing application support.

That’s the idea. Make the actual device(s) / hardware melt into the background.

Howard Coldham (a Gnomie):

I think it is a bit of a let down for people without iOS devices as it centers heavily on mobile device integration. Ignoring that as I am sure the majority of Mac users have iOS devices, I think that it looks great but needs to be priced correctly (As cheap as a Lion upgrade would be perfect) as at face value it does not look like much of an update.

Pricing hasn’t been announced, but I’d assume it’d be a $30 comprehensive license. I agree with you, too: I’d like to see FaceTime and Messages go cross-platform (like QuickTime, iTunes, iCloud, Bonjour, and Safari). Maybe that’ll come when Apple’s finished fleshing out the issues within their own realm? If they released something before it was ready for prime time, that’d go against their ethos.

Alex Pierro (a Gnomie):

It’s okay for Apple to release new versions of their OS, but is necessary? I know there have been some fairly large changes from version to version, but I really don’t see them as “true” upgrades. Don’t get me wrong, it’s great to see something new, but Apple needs to come up with something wild and crazy from me to upgrade again. If they keep with the digital download, I hope that it will stay for a long while. I like things simple and Apple has provided that, but again, do we really need to see a new update every year?

Depends on what you want and need. If you use an iOS device, this series of updates would be borderline “essential.” If you’re not on iOS, I’m not sure it’s as interesting of an update. The AirPlay Mirroring feature could drive up the sales of Apple TV devices, if only for conference rooms. It’s possible that there are several underlying changes that aren’t “shiny” (or marketing-speak friendly). Apple hasn’t shown its full hand yet.

Claudiu Ioan (a Gnomie):

I think that even though its a slow transition we can see that Apple is moving towards iOS integration which is a good thing as long as they keep a way for the power user to be able to tweak his system to as he pleases.

OS X has always been more “tweakable” than Windows. Pop open a terminal window and have at it. 😉 If you need a place to start, my recommendation has always been Mac OS X Hints.

Your thoughts?

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Chris has consistently expressed his convictions and visions outright, supplying practical information to targeted audiences: media agencies, business owners, technology consumers, software and hardware professionals, et al. He remains a passionate personality in the tech community-at-large. He's a geek.