Apple OS X Mountain Lion

    So much for Lion being the last major release of OS X. All but out of nowhere, Apple dropped a preview of OS X 10.8 Mountain Lion ($20) on us a few months back, along with a promise that the new operating system will be released in late summer. If you thought Lion was bringing the iPad back to the Mac, well, you haven’t seen anything yet: Mountain Lion is even more iOS-influenced, replacing a collection of old Mac apps with renamed and improved editions akin to iPad versions. The 4.34GB download is now available in the Mac App Store. Below is our initial feature list, as well as the updated we posted after this year’s WWDC.

    When Steve Jobs introduced iCloud, he said it was going to be the new digital hub, handling synchronization for multiple devices. Mountain Lion only reinforces that with deep iCloud integration from the very beginning. The first time you launch the OS, it’ll have you log in with your Apple ID, syncing your mail, calendars, contacts, documents, and more across all of your devices. Yes, that’s right, documents: Mountain Lion will support Documents in the Cloud, meaning that you’ll be able to work on whatever device you have handy and always be up to date.

    Apple has also sought to consolidate its apps across platforms. Now Messages replaces iChat, fully integrating with iMessage on iPads, iPhones, and iPod touches, while incorporating FaceTime for video chats. The Mac also gets dedicated apps for Reminders, Notes, and Game Center—kept in sync with iCloud of course. In another welcome move, Notification Center has been added, providing pop-up notification banners for supported apps. Just like on iOS, those messages appear for just a moment before disappearing, and can easily be pulled up in a collected list by swiping to the left.

    It’s clear that Twitter is a big deal to Apple, as the social network is now deeply built into Mountain Lion. You’ll be able to tweet links and photos from any app, and mentions and direct messages will pop right up as notification banners. Share Sheets allow you to share content over Mail and Messages too. The feature that we’re most looking forward to is AirPlay Mirroring: anything that’s on your Mac can now be sent to your HDTV via Apple TV. So long, video adapters, it’s all wireless from here on out. Apple has also introduced a new security feature called Gatekeeper. Now there will be three different levels of security when it comes what apps can be installed; those from the Mac App Store only, Mac App Store and identified developers, or anywhere. Pricing’s not yet known for Mountain Lion, but it looks like Apple’s planning to update OS X annually at this point, so it’s possible that we’ll see a commensurately low upgrade charge in the process.

    Update: On top of everything it announced back in February, Apple has thrown in a few more goodies to Mountain Lion at this year’s annual developers’ conference. First up is Siri-style dictation on the Mac, which allows you to type with your voice across the OS and in third-party apps including Microsoft Word. iCloud Tabs bring your Safari tabs across all your iCloud-synced devices, and tab view allows you to see live pages while swiping through them with a Multi-Touch gesture. We’re also excited for Power Nap, a new feature that keeps your Mac up to date and even runts backups while it’s asleep. It works with second-generation MacBook Airs and the new MacBook Pro with Retina display. The complete list of new features is pretty darn long, but all in all it looks like it’s going to be a worthwhile update when it ships next month.

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