Think Different — Mountain Lion Announced

In a very un-​​Apple like way, Apple announced the next ver­sion of OS X by show­ing it off to select jour­nal­ists in a one on one style presentation.

Call­ing it Moun­tain Lion, Apple is con­tin­u­ing their upgrade process that they started with Leopard/​Snow Leop­ard by build­ing on the path that Lion laid out. What Apple is learn­ing with iOS is fur­ther influ­enc­ing their desk­top OS.

John Gruber’s account of meet­ing with Apple’s Senior VP Phil Schiller speaks of how things are going to change:

That’s when Schiller tells me they’re doing some things dif­fer­ently now.
I won­der imme­di­ately about that “now”. I don’t press, because I find the ques­tion that imme­di­ately sprang to mind uncomfortable.

Now” obvi­ously refer­ring to the change in lead­er­ship. While Steve Jobs obvi­ously pushed Apple to be a cer­tain kind of com­pany, Tim Cook and the rest of Apple’s Exec­u­tive team are clear­ing not wast­ing any time in think­ing dif­fer­ently about how they want to lead Apple into the future.

Now on to some of the key fea­tures com­ing in Moun­tain Lion.

iCloud

If you’re not using iCloud yet, Apple is going to make sure you are with Moun­tain Lion. Just like Time Machine for back­ing up the rest of your com­puter, iCloud is a great way to make sure users have their data and soft­ware even if the hard­ware doesn’t live up to Apple’s expectations.

Sync­ing your infor­ma­tion from com­puter to com­puter to mobile device in a way that the user doesn’t even have to think about. iCloud is work­ing great for me in Lion so I’d expect it to work even bet­ter in Moun­tain Lion.

Mes­sages

I’ve had count­less con­ver­sa­tions with peo­ple about this one ever since Mes­sages came out in iOS 5. Peo­ple won­der­ing why it isn’t built into their Mac and iChat. Now it is.

iChat will be renamed Mes­sages, tak­ing the nam­ing con­ven­tion that’s on iOS. Mes­sages for Mac will finally see the uni­fi­ca­tion of instant mes­sag­ing across all your Mac devices. Send a mes­sage to an iPhone, iPad, Mac­Book Air or iMac and you don’t have to worry about SMS/​text mes­sag­ing fees and settings.

You don’t have to wait for Moun­tain Lion to try out Mes­sages though. There’s a beta down­load avail­able now to try out Mes­sages on Lion.

The key thing to remem­ber right now is if you’re using Mes­sages Beta — remem­ber that it’s a beta. Don’t rely on it for crit­i­cal com­mu­ni­ca­tion and then com­plain if your Mes­sage doesn’t go through. Save those com­plaints for when Moun­tain Lion ships later this summer.

Air­play Mirroring

Air­Play Mir­ror­ing is also going to be a part of Moun­tain Lion which is great news for any­one with an Apple TV. It also opens up the pos­si­bil­ity of not need­ing a pro­jec­tor any­more. Buy a $99 Apple TV and hook it up to the Wifi and what­ever flat panel TV you can find and you’ve got a pre­sen­ta­tion sys­tem, ready to go.

This is big and if it works as it’s billed, could help sell a lot more Apple TVs1.

Twit­ter Inte­gra­tion & Share Sheets

Twit­ter will be fur­ther embed­ded into Moun­tain Lion — mean­ing you can tweet from within Apps. Twit­ter being baked in on a OS level is yet another rea­son why it’s going to be the dom­i­nant social net­work­ing site for years to come.

Share Sheet

Along with Twit­ter inte­gra­tion, Shar­ing in Moun­tain Lion will also be very sim­i­lar to iOS style shar­ing. Mak­ing it eas­ier for any­one to share the thing they are look­ing at right now with­out hav­ing to know copy & paste func­tion­al­ity. Share to Twit­ter, Flickr, Mes­sages, etc. all with a sin­gle click.

Reminders, Notes and Noti­fi­ca­tion Center

Notification Center in Mountain Lion

Apple is finally2 relent­ing on try­ing to make Mail.app and/​or iCal your one-​​stop com­mu­ni­ca­tion and plan­ning hub — while try­ing to avoid the Microsoft Out­look level of cruft. They’ve renamed iCal to Cal­en­dar, Address Book to Con­tacts to keep inline with iOS. Noti­fi­ca­tion Cen­ter and Reminders have been brought over from iOS and Notes has been given it’s own app instead of being half-​​baked into Mail.

I, for one, like the change by not hav­ing to see use­less Notes in Mail or to-​​dos in Cal­en­dar. We’ll see how reg­u­lar peo­ple take to the sep­a­ra­tion of tasks into mul­ti­ple apps — ala iOS. I know of at least one office where switch­ing apps on a Mac is a seri­ous cause for con­fu­sion and frus­tra­tion. This prob­a­bly won’t help make things easier.

Game Cen­ter

While not a huge deal for most folks, bring­ing Game Cen­ter over from iOS helps con­tinue the fur­ther sync­ing of your data from mobile to desk­top and back. Cross plat­form in the sense that you can, with devel­oper sup­port, play a game on your Mac against some­one on an iPhone just like you can right now with some­one on an iPad. Think Xbox Live for your Mac, with more green felt and you’re on your way.

Gate Keeper

Gate Keeper is basi­cally a way for devel­op­ers to sign their apps and for Apple to ver­ify that the app you’re installing is the one that you think you’re get­ting. It’s a big deal for Mac devel­oper nerds and is a big improve­ment that will fur­ther secure your Mac. But it will also fur­ther raise the ques­tions about whether Apple is going to make OS X more like iOS where you can only run apps that are approved and installed through the Mac App Store. Read more in Jason Snell’s arti­cle Hands on With Gate Keeper.

Next

Apple is mov­ing OS X to a annual update cycle, just like iOS. And while most of the fea­tures announced right now in Moun­tain Lion don’t seem huge, you have to remem­ber that Apple isn’t in this for the now or never approach that Microsoft is with the 3 – 5 year Win­dows upgrade cycle where Microsoft has to make sure there’s enough rea­son for mil­lions to jus­tify the cost of an upgrade.

Small, sub­tle improve­ments bun­dled with a few major changes is what you can expect from here on out. Keep­ing two dis­tinct oper­at­ing sys­tems that bor­row and trade fea­tures from each other is Apple’s cho­sen direc­tion for the future.

No pric­ing or spe­cific release date other than this sum­mer so we’ll see when it actu­ally ships and for what price. I’d put my money on the same $29.99 pric­ing that OS X Lion enjoys and except a ship date of late July, 2012.


  1. Or iTVs. 
  2. Finally! Finally! Finally!