A Mountain Lion is an incredibly beautiful animal. I’ve had an opportunity to see a few in my life and have always been amazed by them. The cat, often called a cougar, is found throughout the Rocky Mountains and is a king predator in that region. And while Mountain Lion’s are amazing creatures, they’re still nothing compared to the Lion’s found in Africa. It seems like Apple is trying to ignore that fact.
Apple recently had a surprise announcement that didn’t involve the iPhone, iPad, or even the rumored iTV. Apple decided it was the perfect time to share with developers there next version of OS X. Name Mountain Lion, Apple plans on releasing an update to their Operating System that follows the similar strategy that we saw when Snow Leopard was released shortly after their popular Leopard version of OS X. Mountain Lion will be an improvement to OS X Lion, or at least that’s what Apple is hoping, even if the Cougar doesn’t compair to the King of the Jungle in the cat family.
Hands on with Mountain Lion
I’ve had a couple of weeks to use Mountain Lion as a primary OS. At it’s core it feels exactly like Lion, so much that I rarely notice the new features Apple has been advertising on their website. While Snow Leopard was designed for speed improvements, infrastructure adjustments, and to make things easier for developers it appears that Mountain Lion is mostly a release designed to close the gap between OS X on your Macs and OS X on your iPhone and iPad.
I’m sure that Apple has changed a lot under the hood, but the new OS just feels like it’s Lion but includes a number of bundled applications that we’ve come accustomed to on our iOS devices. New features (or apps) include Reminders, iMessage, twitter integration, and a notification center. Of course Apple didn’t forget to integrate Game Center and iCloud to make the feature set in OS X Mountain Lion match the default features we use daily on our iPhone with iOS 5.1.
It is still early in the beta release cycle for Mountain Lion but it doesn’t feel like much of an improvement yet. Which brings me back to my initial point about Lions & Mountain Lions, I wonder why Apple would use the name of an inferior cat for an “Upgrade” to their OS. The upgrade numbers from Snow Leopard to Lion were not as significant as many expected. I imagine those upgrading from Lion to Mountain Lion maybe limited to just those that purchase new Macs.
The major features we briefly mentioned earlier are all needed on our Macs, but I’m not sure they couldn’t be just released as a collection of new Apps. Below are some details on what we know will be part of Mountain Lion.
Many Lion users already have integrated iCloud into their OS. Mountain Lion is suppose to make this process and the syncing of files easier. iCloud is a great feature set and it should make DropBox and other file sharing services worry. It’s just a matter of time before iCloud offers everything DropBox has to offer, but at a better price.
Messages essentially replaces iChat but also adds the ability to receive iMessages from iOS and other Mountain Lion users. I tested this feature out a number of times and so far have found it to not work as well as GoogleTalk for syncing IMs between devices. I expect Apple will improve this before Mountain Lion is released.
If you’d like to try this now, you can download the beta here.
Reminders pulls in all the reminders you’ve set with Siri on your iPhone. It also lets you create new reminders from your desktop that will sync to your phone through iCloud.
Just like Reminders, Notes syncs the lists you create on your iPhone and makes them readily available on your Desktop.
If you’ve been using Growl, Notification Center won’t be a new feature. It essentially mimics the Growl notification system and lets you see quick snippets of when you receive new emails, downloads complete, and other applications at work. In many ways, it’s the same as the Notification Center on your iPhone.
Apple has made it easy to share webpages, pictures, and other events on your iPhone. They’re now brining this technology to the desktop and including it in Safari. I expect this to be built into more Apps as time passes now that the feature is part of the OS core.
Twitter has seen huge growth from iOS integration. Being built into every Mac will help, but not to the same degree as being a core part of the iPhone.
Now you can easily connect with friends and share gaming high scores from your desktop computer. I don’t use Game Center on my iPhone, so I probably won’t be using it on my Mac. What about you? Is game center an important new feature of Mountain Lion.
One of the main reasons I wanted to test out Mountain Lion was to get Airplay Mirroring to work with my Computer. I love the idea of being able to send my desktop to a television. In fact, I use a MacMini as a media center for my living room. I’m not sure I’d do that again if Airplay Mirroring was available when I made that decision. Instead, I would have just purchased a new AppleTV.
I was very disappointed when I found out that Airplay Mirroring wasn’t available on my 27inch iMac. I’m not sure if it’s the screen resolution or something else but sending my screen to my Apple TV seems to be limited to a few Mac models. here is to hoping they fix this before releasing Mountain Lion.
The main feature of GateKeeper is to help you keep your computer safe and secure. It essentially ads a “reminder” layer anytime you try and download an app that wasn’t approved by Apple and sold through their App store. Many independent App developers aren’t too excited about this, but users can turn this feature off.
I love feature improvements and anything that moves the industry forward. I’m not sure that Mountain Lion does that for users. It does add a number of applications that we use daily on our mobile devices, but I’m not sure these new apps are enough justification to brand it as an OS upgrade. It feels much more like a Service Pack.
Hopefully Apple can find a way to offer this to current users for free or just a few dollars. It doesn’t seem to be worth the current pricing trend of $29 for an Apple OS upgrade.