And so it seems like newly appointed Apple CEO Tim Cook is not following in the footsteps of the late Apple founder Steve Jobs when it comes to announcing the latest iteration of the Mac’s OS. Instead of gathering the press and making a grand presentation of it all, with OS X Mountain Lion (v10.8) Apple simply added a new “sneak peek” portal to their website that outlines many of the OS’ new features.
When OS X Lion was announced, Apple made it clear that their intention to bring the magic of the iPad to the desktop was very real. The most obvious port was Mission Control, a way for Mac users to organize and flip through their apps on the desktop just as they would on a mobile iOS device. This time around Apple is infusing so much more from iOS into OS X with new features like Messages with iMessage support, Notification Center, and even wide scale Twitter integration. Take a look below and follow after the break to read all about the new Lion in town.
RIP iChat. That’s right–Apple is replacing their in-house instant messenger with a new app called Messages. In addition to supporting instant messaging services like AIM, Jabber, Google Talk, and Yahoo! Messenger like its predecessor, Messages also supports iMessage. This means “you send unlimited messages to anyone on a Mac [using Messages] or an iPhone, iPad, or iPod touch running iOS 5.” In essence, this is iChat with a revamped UI and iMessage compatibility, oh and built-in FaceTime. Messages functions exactly like iMessage does on iOS devices; in addition to sending text you can share photos, videos, documents, and contacts and also initiate group messaging. Additionally you can see when your message has been delivered, when someone’s typing a reply, and you can allow the recipient to see when you’ve read their incoming messages. Click a button to immediately initiate a FaceTime video chat. And since Messages has iMessage support baked in, “you can start a conversation on your Mac and pick it up on your iPhone, iPad, or iPod touch.” Simple, the Apple way. Download Messages today in beta form.
In iOS it’s a swipe from the top to pull down the unified Notification Center and view your alerts; in OS X it will be a swipe from the right. When you receive a notification on your Mac, a notification banner will appear in the upper-right hand corner of the desktop. When you receive an email, a calendar alert, an instant message, or whatever it might be the banner will pop up and preview the notification and then it will fade away so as not to interrupt your activity. When the banners disappear they relocate to the Notification Center which, as described above, can be reached at any time with a swipe to the left. To access it you can either perform a two finger swipe to the left on a trackpad, or you can click a new bulls-eye icon that sits up top where the Spotlight magnifying glass has been located for years (that is now shifted slightly to the left to make room). When the bulls-eye center is blue that indicates you have one or more notifications waiting for you. To exit Notification Center, simply click anywhere else on your screen and it will slide away. And just like in iOS, you can customize Notification Center by arranging app-specific alerts to your liking, enabling banners or more obtrusive alerts, sounds, and you’re also given the option to disable Notification Center if you don’t feel like dealing with it at all. It has been confirmed that Apple will be making available an API so that developers can take advantage of Notification Center with their own apps.
Apple is baking in the share button iOS users should be accustomed to by now. It’s that button with a square and an arrow popping out of it that allows you to quickly share–say, a photo–with others by providing a drop-down list of places to send the information to. In iOS, for example, in the Photos app you can select an image, click the share button, and tap Email and the photo will instantly drop into a new email as an attachment ready to be sent off. In OS X, Apple plans to plant these “Share Sheets” into many apps including (but not limited to) Safari, Messages, Photo Booth, Quicktime, Preview, and iPhoto. Want to tweet a link you’re viewing in Safari? With Share Sheets there’s no need to login to Twitter and copy and paste the link; simply click the share button and click Twitter and the app will automatically open with the link ready to be sent off into the Twittersphere. Other sharing options include Vimeo and Flickr.
Speaking of Twitter, Mountain Lion is injected with Twitter integration. As in iOS, you can sign in to your Twitter account in Settings and then you’ll have the ability to tweet links and images from inside Mac-specific apps like Safari, Photo Booth, and iPhoto using “Tweet Sheets.” You can add comments and location to your tweets as well. And since Twitter is baked into the OS, when you receive a tweet or direct message Notification Center will alert you to incoming messages and keep them organized until you’re ready to tend to them.
Notes, Reminders, Game Center
Also making their way from iOS are the following apps: Notes, Reminders, and Game Center. They all look like their mobile counterparts, but thanks to grander screen real estate their UIs and functionality are slightly enhanced to take advantage. For example in Notes you can pin important notes to your desktop, as well as add photos and attachments to them. And since everything is tied into iCloud, whatever Notes and Reminders you make on the desktop will automagically sync across all your Apple iDevices. With Game Center all you have to do is sign-in and you’ll be able to play Game Center-enabled games with other Mac, iPad, iPhone, and iPod touch and users. The UI is very familiar with friend requests and leaderboards in tow.
Have you been enjoying wirelessly streaming photos and video from your iDevice to your HDTV via the hockey puck that is Apple TV? Well soon you’ll be able to invite your iMac desktop into your living room with AirPlay Mirroring support coming to OS X. In Mountain Lion that boxy-triangle icon will appear in the Mac’s toolbar up top when it recognizes a nearby Apple TV; click it to instantly stream whatever’s on your desktop to your HDTV. Web sites, Keynote presentations, and iMovie creations can be wirelessly streamed in 720p HD without hassle.
When you install Mountain Lion for the first time, you will be prompted to log into your iCloud account (or create one if you haven’t done so yet). Once that’s done the cloud does the rest; iCloud is automatically set up across your Mac and all its applications including Mail, Calendar, and Address Book. When something is added, updated, or deleted on your Mac, the effect takes places on any other Apple device you own that is also logged into your iCloud account. Add a new bookmark to Safari on your Mac? It will appear in your bookmarks list on your iPad too. That’s it.
Gatekeeper and new features for China
Apple is notorious for keeping viruses away, and their stepping up their game with a little something called Gatekeeper. In Settings, Mac users will have the option to make their Mac even more secure by choosing from three new security options. First users can allow applications to be downloaded only from the Mac App Store (this is the safest way to go, but this way will not allow you to ever download applications from a browser); second, users can allow apps to be downloaded from the Mac App Store and apps with a Developer ID (this opens things up a bit more but still plays it safe); and the third option (which most users will have selected, no doubt) is to allow apps to be downloaded from anywhere. Thought typical computer users won’t fuss with this new security measure, some newcomers and the paranoid will welcome it with open arms.
And last there’s some new features built into Mountain Lion for those who hail from China. There’s improved text input, making typing in Chinese is easier, faster, and more accurate; the leading Chinese search provider is a built into Safari; popular Chinese video sharing sites are included in Share Sheets; and additional Chinese-specific updates are brought to Mail, Contacts, and Calendar.
Release & availability
Apple says Mountain Lion will release in “late summer 2012” and they’ve confirmed that it will be made available exclusively in the Mac App Store. Physical copies will not be sold in Apple Stores or on USB thumb drives. If you’re a member of the Mac Developer Program you can test drive 10.8 today.