Apple released to the public on Thursday its next-generation operating system (OS) – OS X 10.8, code-named Mountain Lion (ML).
Prior to the official public release, Apple had a preview of the next-generation OS a few months ago.
The features were presented to the public, but the actual preview or beta release was made available exclusively to OS X developers. Fortunately, I am listed as one of the developers so I was able to get the first beta release of Mountain Lion (ML). However, the Non-Disclosure Agreement (NDA) between Apple and developers with beta access prevented me from writing about ML features that were not presented to the public.
For a mere USD19.99, you get a full new OS. ML is readily available globally, via the Mac App Store. Similar to OS X 10.7 (Lion). It is not readily available on other media except as a download. Depending on your broadband connection, the Mountain Lion installer image will take approximately 2 hours (on my 5Mbps connection) to download. Once it is done, it will immediately prompt you to restart your computer to install. Before doing so, make sure that you back-up the 4GB installer on /Applications because it will be automatically deleted after installation has finished.
Installation takes around 30 minutes, for an upgrade. Make sure that you run Software Update immediately. In my case, I needed to upgrade my Macbook Air’s firmware, along with the update of iPhoto, iMovie, and iWork (only if you have this installed). Luckily, all the third-party applications that I use work without major issues. So, before you update, check your most used third-party applications for OS X 10.8 compatibility.
Some say that Mountain Lion is an incremental upgrade from the previous version, Lion, similar to how Snow Leopard was an upgrade of Leopard. What constitutes major or minor update may differ from each person. Personally, it is neither major, nor minor – as long as the new features are useful to me and the price is right. At a little less than USD20, I think it is reasonably priced, don’t you think?
Mountain Lion is Apple’s way of showing that the company is aligning its desktop/portable computer OS with their device OS, iOS. A clear indication is the new feature set included with this release, e.g., Notification Center, Reminders, and Game Center, to name some. These new features link OS X to iOS via Apple’s cloud computing platform, iCloud. Simply put, you can see Apple’s genius in integrating their major products into one whole coherent ecosystem.
So what new features do I use the most? First, Reminders – whilst not really a new feature since it existed before, but only as part of Apple’s Mac OS X Calendar app, iCal. Reminders is now a separate app, similar to iOS. Reminders work very well with iOS and syncs seamlessly via iCloud. And yes, you can also access it on the cloud, icloud.com.
Next app is Notification Center, which stemmed from iOS. Alerts from e-mail, Twitter, Calendar, Reminders, Safari, and other built-in applications, are presented in a single view, with a one-click toggle to disable it – during times when you don’t want to be disturbed. In the future, expect other applications to take advantage of this feature.
Another app that I found really useful is Messages. The old OS X iChat is now reincarnated as Messages. In addition to Jabber, iChat and AIM protocol support, Messages now links to the iOS iMessages service. What does this mean? It simply means that you can send/receive messages to/from iOS devices from your desktop. Remember how Chikka IM enabled you to send messages to phones? Well, this one does the same thing but only for iOS devices.
Game Center is another iCloud-enabled application that came from iOS. Whilst this may be of use to gamers, personally, I do not have any use for this. Basically, it gives you full view of your Game stats on all your iOS devices and OS X-based games.
Apple’s move to tightly include Twitter, Flickr, Vimeo, and Facebook on the OS level is a clear indication that Apple will not go head on against social networking sites. This may be petty to some, but this is a huge move for Apple and also huge for the likes of Twitter and Facebook. Personally, I use third-party Twitter clients, but the integration of Twitter makes sharing information frictionless. As for Facebook, am still on the fence of its usefulness to me.
Another app that Apple revamped is Safari, one of my most used application on the Mac. Apple finally added the Do-Not-Track feature, a feature present in other competing browsers before. Similar to Chrome, Safari now syncs tabs across iOS (only for iOS 6, though) and OS X versions -- but unlike Chrome, the session data is not included. Yeah, this may be something to expect in the next iteration of Safari. Safari benefits from the OS-level Twitter and Facebook integration as well, you may send URL straight to Twitter without firing up your Twitter client or going to Twitter’s website.
These are just some of the features that I find useful, with the exception of Game Center, of course. As always, Apple boasts of more than 200 new features – for a complete list, you may head to their site at
As for the bottom-line of whether Mountain Lion is worth the USD20 or not, it definitely is worth it! Should you upgrade? Definitely, but you have to make sure that all your third-party applications that are crucial to your workflow are already compatible. Otherwise, I’d say wait.
By ROMMEL FERIA