Mountain Lion Notification Center on a MacBook Air

Mountain Lion Notification Center on a MacBook Air | Image courtesy of Apple

Today it was revealed that late this Summer Apple will release its ninth major release of its desktop OS called OS X 10.8 ‘Mountain Lion’. The announcement which was planned in advance and cleverly timed to be unveiled by a number of large blogs at the same time came as a complete surprise to those who hadn’t been briefed in advance. Mountain Lion’s release is also remarkably close to the release of Lion which only debuted last year, Apple says that it will now release major updates to its desktop operating system roughly every year.

Apart from this bizarre delivery of Apple news Mountain Lion is also incredible in a number of other ways. Apple says that Mountain Lion has over 100 new features (a familiar figure in relation to OS X releases) but today the focus has been on just ten of these, all of which have been influenced heavily if not entirely by iOS. The process of iOSifying Mac OS has been occurring for a number of releases and was very evident in OS X Lion, with Mountain Lion it is in full force.

Federico Viticci over at MacStories wrote a piece on the iOSification of OS X just last month, a rather obvious topic but not one that was written about much.

The features of Mountain Lion have been covered in detail by a number of the carefully selected outfits for publication. Macworld, The Verge, The Loop and John Gruber of Daring Fireball have in my opinion the best coverage, much of which is similar but this is due to the nature of how Apple fed the information.

Mountain Lion isn’t a major overhaul of OS X, it is incredibly familiar to users of Lion and the headline features will look eerily familiar to those that once headlined the release of iOS releases. So what’s new?

Well the big feature that is being touted by Apple is Messages on the Mac, it marks the demise of the long standing iChat and loses no features but instead gains an iPad style look and integrates with Apple’s own iMessages which brings along the ability to message iOS users. Apple has released a beta of the app (like it did with FaceTime) which runs on Lion so you can get messaging straight away. Whilst it doesn’t work 100% of the time in my experience it is astonishingly efficient at keeping all iMessage capable devices in almost instantaneous sync.

iMessage on Mountain Lion and iOS 5

iMessage on Mountain Lion and iOS 5 | Image courtesy of Apple

Apple has also brought over a number of previous iOS-only features, that includes Reminders and Notification Center (bye-bye Growl), AirPlay mirroring, Notes and Game Center to name a few. They were almost exactly how you’d expect, syncing to iCloud where necessary. In the case of Notification Center it is baked deep into the OS with a two finger gesture from right to left bringing it into view on the right of the display.

Speaking of iCloud it is clear that Apple has serious confidence in the service. Tim Cook said at the Goldman Sachs conference earlier this week that the service now hosts over 100 million users, a crazily large figure for a service that came on the back of MobileMe which was hardly a shining beacon of uptime or reliability. Go out and buy an iOS device today and the first thing it’ll ask you to do upon turning it on is sign into iCloud, with OS X Mountain Lion this will also be true.

This means that Apple has brought over all those iCloud features, OS X Lion already has the syncing in place for calendars, bookmarks, contacts and such but Mountain Lion will bring along the iCloud file system, now with folders too.

If you thought Lion was heavily reliant on the Mac App Store then you were wrong, Mountain Lion is pretty much all about the Mac App Store. According to Pocket-Lint Mountain Lion will only be available through the Mac App Store and there will not be a USB thumb drive available to purchase. Apple has also folded the Software Update app into the Mac App Store.

OS X Mountain Lion Game Center

OS X Mountain Lion Game Center | Image courtesy of Apple

Apple is also continuing to gently press developers into distributing their apps solely through the MAS. In Mountain Lion a new security feature termed Gatekeeper offers the option to only allow applications from the MAS to run, for now it’s an option but who knows how hard Apple will push in the future. To try and prevent malware Apple has introduced developer IDs which are attached to apps in the Mac App Store, If an app is deemed to be damaging or collective private data Apple can remove the app from the App Store and prevent it running on your Mac. Jason Snell over at Macworld has a detailed run down on what’s new with Gatekeeper.

Apple is also taking the potential growth for the Mac in China some serious thought. With Mountain Lion a number of features purely designed for Chinese users have been included; Mail, Contacts and Calendars now work with popular Chinese services like QQ, 163 and 126. Chinese search provide Baidu is in Safari as default, and sharing to the popular video sites YouKu and Tudou is now built-in to relevant apps. Apple has also improved text input making it easier and more accurate.

The way that Apple unveiled Mountain Lion was astonishing and different, the way that Apple wishes to move forward with OS X is comfortingly familiar from our experiences with iOS. Mountain Lion brings a lot of change but with it also a of unifying features to help grow the Mac, as Schiller commented in the press release “The Mac is on a roll, growing faster than the PC for 23 straight quarters, and with Mountain Lion things get even better”.

Mountain Lion will be available in “late Summer” but registered developers can pick up a copy today. The OS currently has no price but it seems that Apple is not yet taking another leaf out of iOS’s book and delivering free OS updates.

Let’s continue the discussion on Twitter. Follow @worldofapple or @alexbrooks.