Having spent the last few weeks eagerly anticipating the Windows 8 Consumer Preview, I was caught off guard today by the public beta release of OS X 10.8 Mountain Lion!
At first I thought the reports were either fake or a really well organised joke, but it soon became apparent that Apple have been secretly preparing for the launch of OS X Mountain Lion for quite some time, proving that they are still the masters of secrecy.
Unlike previous OS X announcements (which are normally reserved for WWDC), Apple instead held a number of private meetings with key media outlets and blogs (for example Daring Fireball). To ensure secrecy was maintained they enforced an NDA, which ended today with the public announcement on the Apple website. This is a completely new style of operating for Apple and is possibly our first glimpse of a post Steve Jobs world. With that said, it is possible that Apple simply did not want to hold two major events back to back (as the iPad 3 launch is anticipated to happen in the first week of March).
So what's new in OS X Mountain Lion? Like all Mac Developers across the world I immediately logged into my account and started the download process. Just like Lion it was all automated through the Mac App Store, which makes the process fast and painless. Unfortunately due to the NDA that all Mac Developers sign I cannot go into details, however I can share the information that has already been publicly announced. The best place to start is the official preview video from Apple:
As you can see from the video, Mountain Lion picks up where Lion left off, with OS X receiving a number of new iOS inspired features (further closing the gap between the two operating systems). I have attempted to summarise the highlights below:
- iCloud Integration - iCloud is now everywhere, from the second you install OS X your account begins to synchronise. You also have the ability to instantly save and retrieve data directly from iCloud.
- Notification Center - Growl style pop-up notifications are now integrated into OS X, with access to the full Notification Center (just like iOS) by clicking a small icon next to spotlight. The main desktop then slides to the left, revealing Notification Center.
- Messages - Messages replaces iChat and brings full iMessage support, as well as continued support for GTalk, AOL and Jabber.
- Reminders and Notes - Just like their iOS counterparts, with full iCloud integration.
- Share Sheets - A new share button enables you to instantly email, tweet and message content, images or videos. This feature will also be made available to developers.
- Game Center - Just like iOS you no have access to Game Centre on the Mac. This supports network games (even cross platform with iOS) and achievements, etc.
- AirPlay Mirroring - A cool integration feature with Apple TV, allowing you to broadcast your screen over wireless.
- Safari Improvements - Safari has finally received a unified search / address bar (think Google Chrome) and tab synchronisation via iCloud.
- Minor User Interface Changes - The overall theme of Mountain Lion is still very "Lion like". However the eagle eyed will notice little improvements throughout the operating system For example, when you copy files the transfer percentage is now shown on the icon itself, also Dashboard and Launch Pad have received minor aesthetic tweaks.
Alongside the publicly announced new features, a few other items have been leaked:
- Applications supported by Lion will work seamlessly with Mountain Lion (Dropbox, etc).
- X11 support has been dropped, replaced by Open Source XQuartz.
- Software Update has moved within the Mac App Store, even for main OS X updates.
- Mountain Lion drops support for most 2006 - 2008 Mac's.
Apple have confirmed that OS X Mountain Lion will be made available exclusively to the Mac App Store in summer 2012, the price has not yet been announced. This date is particularly interesting because it means Mountain Lion will likely beat Windows 8 out the door.