This week Apple released its developer preview of the new OS X 10.8, Mountain Lion, which is expected to reach us regular consumers in summer of this year. While there’s well over 100 new features which have been added to the new OS version, the most noticeable off-the-bat is that Mac has been dropped from the naming convention – which has led many to believe that OSX is moving more towards an iOS, app heavy interface style.
And they might just be right. Among the many changes, there’s a much more app-heavy focus to the OS, which we’ve been seeing since the release of the Mac App Store in 2011, offering services such as Twitter and Mashable as download-able apps rather than full websites, and also bringing the field of third party developer apps into a much more streamlined, and in many cases, controlled environment for the end-user. While there are some big changes, which I’ll get to – some of the smaller things which really make you feel like OS X is being influenced by the smart-phone field is the addition of things like Reminders, which sync with your iPhone, notes and a game centre, all designed to fit in with the iOS versions of the same names. There’s also added iCloud support and a stronger support for international languages and platforms, especially for Chinese users, where Apple is seeing some strong growth.
But some of the big features which you can’t miss include;
– New Notifications centre. Underneath the time and battery symbols on the menu bar. This location can’t be changed, and pops up in the same way which the iOS version does. The new notification centre is accessed by a two finger swipe on the side of the trackpad. This is a great little idea from Apple, bringing what I would see as one of the biggest improvements to OS X in terms of accessibility, keeping everything neat and in the one place.
– App store updates. We already go to the Mac App Store to update the apps we download, but now when you want to update OS X itself, you do it directly from the App Store, along with all of your other apps. While it’s not a big change, it’s certainly a clear indication of where Apple intends the next versions of OS X to head.
– iMessage comes to Mac. iMessage has been rolled out across the other i-Devices, so it makes sense to include the mac. Replacing iChat, this new service will work in the same way as the other iMessage platforms and allow you to message between iDevices in your contacts and your own devices. It’s a handy improvement, and finally makes iChat more relevant, by completely removing and revamping it to operate in a more logical manner.
– Twitter gets integrated. Much like the new Twitter-centric sharing focus seen with iOS 5, we now see this being brought straight to the Mac on OS X 10.8. With Tweeting and sharing now a stronger focus, it means that in a similar way to Pinterest, you can easily share information without the need to copy and paste and open new tabs, or switch browsers. Which leads neatly in to a nice change in Safari.
– Safari gets Sharing. Safari has been losing badly in the browser wars, with Chrome pretty much trumping all competition with its smooth and seamless updates, and a design simplicity Jobs would be pleased with. A major change in Safari isn’t just the new Sharing button to the right of the URL bar, but is also the unified Search and Address bar, allowing a cleaner toolbar and brings it much more in line with Chrome’s winning features.
– Airplay gets connected. Air Play is another overhaul with the new Mountain Lion, allowing users to seamlessly stream content not just to their Apple TV, but also to any iDevice which is connected. This seamless streaming means that your Mac can now mirror content on its screen straight to your TV, provided you have an Apple TV. While it can be a pain, there’s still rumours floating around about the possibility of Apple launching its own TV, but it’s probably not going to be any time this year, with the calendar taken up by the iPad 3 and the exciting iPhone 5.
Mountain Lion comes as a series of Apple triumphs have hit the news, not only have they won the patent battle of ‘Slide to Unlock’ but they’ve increased share prices, announced the best sales figures ever and have planne dthe launch event for the iPad 3. With the dust settling after Steve Jobs, it appears that Tim Cook is someone who will keep Apple growing, but who has brought a long term vision for where the company should be, in a similar way to Jobs.