Apple has Unleashed a New OS into the Wild
Last week, the company released the latest version of its desktop operating system to the public. In keeping with tradition of naming major releases after big cats, the new OS X, version 10.8, is called Mountain Lion.
Last year’s release of Lion began to leak some features from iOS, the software running on iPhone and iPad, across to the computer. But Lion was criticized as slow, and some of the features half baked. And while Lion was a little sluggish, Mountain Lion screams. It is, in every sense, a refinement, the fulfillment of the idea of bringing the best of both worlds to the Mac experience.
There is no better evidence of this than Notification Center. Apple has brought the notifications from iOS to the Mac, making quick information and alerts from apps only a quick swipe of the trackpad or click away. New emails, calendar appointments, mentions on Twitter, all of it feeds effortlessly into the same pane and puts glanceable information at your disposal.
People who have bought heavily into the Apple ecosystem don’t just own one of the company’s products. Likely, they would also have an iPhone, an iPad, or both in addition to their desktop or laptop. Mountain Lion brings several new features to make life easier for people running multiple iDevices. Text messages using iMessage now appear on all of your devices, and make replying to a message on your Mac as easy as it is on the phone.
The Messages application also can tie to AIM, Google Talk and other chat services. However, because it ties conversations together by person, it’s an imperfect solution, often resulting in a jumble of text message and instant message conversations. Also, iMessages sent to a phone number won’t sync to the desktop and iPad, which tie to an Apple ID. If that didn’t make much sense, luckily it won’t be a problem for long. Apple has announced that with the new iOS 6, due out on phones and tablets this fall, iMessages will unify IDs and phone numbers, closing this annoying issue.
Apple has also revamped its web browser, Safari. The biggest feature is the ability to see what tabs are open on other devices and open them elsewhere. Reading something on the phone and want to pick it back up at home in front of the iMac? Now you can.
The previously mobile-only Reminders app also makes its way to desktop, and will sync across all devices. Enter a reminder to pick up dry cleaning while on your laptop in the morning, and it will be waiting for you on your phone when you head out the door. These types of syncing services pop up all over Mountain Lion. Another example is document sync in the cloud using Apple’s iCloud service. Start typing a document in Pages on your Mac, and it will sync across to your iPad. It works well, and stops the issue of having the most recent version of a document stuck on one device.
Mountain Lion puts social network sharing buttons all over apps, making it easy to quickly post a link, photo, or update to Facebook and Twitter, or as an email or text message. It works very well, and once account information is entered the first time, Mountain Lion remembers it, making the process seamless. Social media mavens are going to love it.
For users worried about malware, Apple has a new feature called Gatekeeper. Essentially, it will allow you to tailor what applications are allowed to run on your computer. Gatekeeper comes with three levels of protection. In the strictest mode, only apps downloaded from the Mac App Store can run. A moderate level of protection will only allow software that is made by a developer who has a security certification from Apple. Of course, Gatekeeper can also be disabled for those who want to enjoy the wild west of any third-party software that they can find.
Apple’s new software isn’t for everyone If you want to run Mountain Lion, you will need a fairly modern Mac. If your computer is from 2009 or newer. You are probably okay, but only specific models from before that are eligible. As Apple has moved to a yearly release cycle for new operating systems, it’s a shame that it won’t be supporting older hardware. Having to buy new hardware to take advantage of the full experience offered by a combination of Mountain Lion and the soon to be released iOS 6 is a bummer.
Possibly the best new feature of Mountain Lion is also one that is the most limited. For very recent computers, think 2011 and newer, Mountain Lion includes AirPlay. Essentially, AirPlay puts a button on the desktop that mirrors what is being displayed on the computer screen and puts it up on a television with an attached Apple TV. Watching a Youtube video that you want to share with the room? Done. Listening to music that you want to pipe through the better audio system in your entertainment center? Done. This will be the new way to give presentations in the office. No more cables, just click and go. This is something that has been present on iOS for almost a year, and is one of the most welcome additions to the desktop, and a big selling point for the $99 Apple TV.
Often, it is wise to wait until Apple puts out the first patch on a new OS. This patches any small initial bugs. Early reviews are not showing any significant bugs, however, and most reviewers agree that it is perfectly safe to upgrade now.
Mountain Lion is not able to be purchased in stores, and is only available for $19.99 on the Mac App Store. If you purchased a new Mac after June 11, however, you are eligible for a free copy of Mountain Lion.
At the inexpensive price point and loaded for bear with an impressive set of new features, Mountain Lion is a must-have upgrade for anyone with the hardware to run it.