Right on the heels of Microsoft releasing a “consumer preview” of Windows 8 (Feb 29th) and a much rumored iPad 3/HD event during the first week of March, this morning Apple dropped a bombshell – previewing Mac OS X Mountain Lion (10.8). Up until now, there wasn’t a whole lot of chatter about the next big cat update, since rumors of new iMacs, MacPros, Macbook Pros and iPads had drowned out what little noise Mountain Lion brought. Regardless, unlike the move from Leopard to Snow Leopard, Mountain Lion is a very significant release – furthering even more the marriage between Mac OS and iOS - scheduled for Summer 2012 as a paid upgrade.
Messages: As we covered earlier, Messages is like the iOS version of iMessage, allowing you to text/chat from your desktop to all of Apple’s devices – especially the iPhone and iPad. Since Apple’s messaging system works over data, you aren’t getting hit with a per/message fee and if it’s over wifi – you pay nothing. Additionally, Messages has iMessage, AIM, Yahoo!, Google Talk, and Jabber integrated, so you won’t have to have multiple chat apps.
Notification Center: Anyone running iOS 5 on their iPhone or iPad will be familiar with Apple replacement for Growl and it brings some much needed advancements to the desktop notification environment. Essentially, you’ll have a slide out panel (right to left – see video below) that will let you know when mail has arrived, a new message is available, app updates, calendar events, alarms and so on – there is even an API, so developers will be able to integrate their own apps into notification center. Think of it as a central hub for knowing what is going on within your icloud/mobile/desktop environment.
Reminders: Like notification center, Reminders helps you organize your meetings, dates, trips, lists and anything calendar related. Plus, since Mountain Lion is fully connected to your iCloud account, all that info and data is shared across all your devices – instantly.
When you have so much to do, Reminders helps you get it done. It’s all in a list. More than one, in fact. Make as many lists as you need and easily add to them. Set due dates and you’ll get alerts as deadlines approach. Check items off your lists as you go and keep track of what you’ve completed. And to be sure you don’t forget anything, iCloud keeps your reminders up to date on your Mac, iPad, iPhone, and iPod touch.
Notes: Once a part of Apple’s Mail App, Notes has severed it ties from Mail and is now stand alone. Besides the obvious writing down of things to do, reminders, work logs, etc - Notes takes it one step further – allowing you to attach things (images/photos) as you please. Like Reminders, iCloud allows you to share your notes to all your devices.
Notes in OS X Mountain Lion is designed for whatever’s on your mind. Think it up. Jot it down. Make it even more noteworthy with photos, images, and attachments. You can add, delete, and flip through your notes or do a quick search. Use the Share button to send your notes to friends or colleagues with Mail or Messages. Pin important notes to your desktop so they’re easy to get to. And take them with you everywhere. Notes works with iCloud, so when you create or edit a note on your Mac, it automatically updates on your iPhone, iPad, and iPod touch.
Game Center: We know that the iPhone and iPad are all about gaming – most of the apps in the app store are games, so it would only make sense to bring Game Center to the desktop. Now, when playing a game on your iPhone or iPad, you can continue playing it on your desktop machine or when playing a game on your iPhone, you can invite and play against someone on a laptop/desktop. Essentailly, you can invite/play games across Apple’s hardware ecosystem – all at the same time.
The Mac is about to go up against iPad, iPhone, and iPod touch — in a friendly Game Center way. Now it’s a bigger playing field with even more competition. Just create a Game Center account with your Apple ID. Then sign in and you’re in. Friends will find you fast, and you’ll track them down easily. Get a multiplayer game started or go up against people you don’t know. Check out leaderboards and see how your high score ranks against opponents’ scores around the world. And discover new games based on the ones you and your friends already play.
Mountain Lion has other advanced features as well: Twitter integration, OS wide share buttons, Airplay Mirroring built in and Gatekeeper app security features. While this has been a very brief overview of Apple’s newest big cat, it seems that the future of OS X is to fully integrate with iOS – one way or another. This unification is the way Windows 8 is going as well and could be the determining factor to the success of mobile computing. So, if that is the case, does this hurt Android? If Apple and Microsoft create cohesive ecosystems for their hardware that outshines Android’s stand alone existence - does it ultimately kill Android? Mountain Lion is scheduled for a Summer 2012 release – another $29 upgrade?