Apple has just introduced the next version of OS X, called “Mountain Lion”. It will be available in late summer. This post summarizes the highlights.
Highlights of the Daring Fireball articleThe highlights of the article “Mountain Lion” by John Gruber for Daring Fireball:
- Tighter integration of iCloud: For example, “easy signup process upon first turning on a new Mac or first logging into a new user account”.
- iCloud document storage: Apps save their files to either the local file system or an app-specific folder on iCloud (like an iPad app).
- Unified app structure across iOS and OS X: OS X names are changed to reflect their iOS counterparts Messages, Calendar, Contacts. To-dos from iCal and reminders from Mail are turned into separate apps.
- Notification Center: is new OS X functionality. It’s good to have an official replacement for Growl.
- Gatekeeper: There is a new category of apps that are digitally signed and don’t have to be offered via the app store. They are a compromise between complete Apple control and malware risks. Each OS X system can be configured to allow apps from only the App Store, additionally signed ones, or all apps. The second setting is the default. Some OS X Mountain Lion are restricted to App Store apps, notably iCloud document storage and Notification Center. Jason Snell (for Macworld) provides details:
By default, Mountain Lion will only let Mac App Store apps and Apps from “identified developers” launch for the first time [without the warning that you normally get]. To become an “identified developer,” Mac developers have to register with Apple and get a personalized certificate, which they then use to cryptographically sign their apps. Apple doesn’t do any sort of background check on the developer, and it doesn’t see any of the software.I agree with Gruber: “Call me nuts, but [Gatekeeper is] one feature I hope will someday go in the other direction — from OS X to iOS.”
Apple says that although these apps aren’t as safe as Mac App Store apps, they’re safer for a couple of reasons. First, a signed app can’t be modified (to add in some spyware, for example) without breaking the signature. By default, Mountain Lion will refuse to launch an app modified in that way. Second, if it turns out that an app from a particular developer is actually malware, Apple has the ability to revoke that developer’s license—at which point no future Mac users will be able to install software from that developer.
What does it mean?While reading Gruber’s article, I kept waiting for the reveal that the article was fiction and contains his prediction for what the next version of OS X will be like. But it was a real product introduction. How Apple did it is alone worth the read. Mountain Lion continues the smart development trend that started with Lion, where it was called “back to the Mac”. There, it signified both a returned focus on the Mac and moving features from iOS to OS X. The major themes of Mountain Lion are:
- Make OS X more consistent. E.g. by cleaning up app names and app features.
- Make OS X safer and easier to use for non-tech people. Great and sorely missed in the world of desktop computers where it is still easy for “normal” users to mess up their systems.
- Move OS X and iOS closer together. Obviously, OS X stands to benefit from iOS’s popularity here.
- iCloud. It’s good to see that Apple tries to make maintaining multiple devices easier  and doesn’t exclude OS X from the party.
More information on the webEach item mentions information that is new with regard to Gruber’s article.
- Apple’s official page on Mountain Lion is up.
- Messages: You can download a beta of Messages for OS X now. It lets you send iMessages between OS X and iOS. And FaceTime is built in. So it is a next-generation iChat that includes iMessages and FaceTime.
- Share Sheets: As an app you can be either a sharing sender or a sharing receiver (my terms). A sharing sender has a button with a standard icon for sharing the current item. For example, Safari’s share button shows a menu with “Add to Reading List”, “Add Bookmark”, “Email this Page”, etc. Any app can register itself as a sharing receiver. So you could register your app as a receiver of URLs and it would show up as a sharing option in Safari’s menu.
- AirPlay: Send content from your Mac to Apple TV: Your current screen, a video, a presentation, etc. I expect this protocol to be implemented by projectors in the future, so you won’t need a cable, any more (Intel backs a competing standard called “Wireless Display”). Given that my Mac has the biggest screen in my household, I would love to have support for Macs to be AirPlay receivers (like Airmac).
- Game Center support for OS X: Useful for cross-platform games.
- “Mac OS X 10.8 Mountain Lion preview: Notification Center, iMessage, AirPlay and more” by Nilay Patel for The Verge. Many screenshots...
- “Hands on with Apple's new OS X: Mountain Lion” by Jason Snell for Macworld.
- “Apple Officially Drops 'Mac' Name from OS X Mountain Lion” by Jordan Golson for Mac Rumors.
Mac OS X → OS X