The new system, known as OS X 10.8 and nicknamed Mountain Lion, went on sale today as a $19.99 download through Apple's App Store.
The strategic idea for the new OS introduction is based on positioning of your computer as just one in the line of Apple computing devices, along with iPhone and iPad. Apple wants to make it easier to switch between all these gadgets back and forth.
It is already relatively easy switching between iPhone and iPad. For instance, songs and apps you buy on an iPad will automatically pop up on your iPhone through Apple's iCloud online-storage service. Mountain Lion brings the Mac into the full compatibility and functionality of the iPhone-iPad family.
There are some new outstanding features:
There are some new outstanding features:
- A notification center slides out from the right of the screen to offer calendar reminders and the latest mail items. It mimics, down to the background color, layout and font, the way you get Facebook updates, news alerts and other notices on your iPhone.
- The Mac's iChat app has been scrapped in favor of Messages, which is made phone friendly by incorporating the iMessage service for iPhone, iPad and iPod Touch users to exchange texts, photos and video. Now you can send messages from your Mountain Lion computer to your mobile friends, or reach another Mountain Lion user from your phone. The way conversations are presented feels more like texting than instant messaging.
- Mountain Lion borrows a "Share" button from iPhone and iPad apps. The iPhoto image organizer on Lion had that, but it's now built into other apps such as the Safari Web browser and the Preview document reader. The options change depending on the app. In Safari, for instance, you can send a Web page by email or post a link on Twitter. In Preview, you can share a photo on Flickr or add it to iPhoto.
Facebook integration is coming this fall. You'll be able to limit who sees your post and add your current location through that share button. No longer will you have to cut and paste links. Mountain Lion will also sync contact information on Facebook friends with your Mac's address book. You need to sign on to Facebook only once, and Mountain Lion takes care of the rest.
That "single sign-on" feature is available right away for other services, including Twitter and Flickr. Once you're signed in, you don't need to enter your username and password again when accessing that service from another app.
Mountain Lion brings over another remarkable change from the iPhone. For the longest time, personal computers let you install anything without question. But with Apple's mobile devices, you are limited to pre-approved software from the company's App Store. Apple wants to protect you from bad experiences, but it has also rejected some apparently harmless apps.
Mountain Lion adopts that gatekeeper philosophy, though the restrictions aren't as severe. If software you try to install doesn't come from the App Store, it has to be from a software developer who has registered with Apple for $99. The company doesn't review software unless it goes through the App Store, but the Mac checks to make sure the registration is valid. A registration can be yanked if a developer turns out to be evil.
iCloud integration makes a big difference for the Mac users. All you need is an Internet connection and an Apple ID, which links your experience across the various devices. The iCloud service comes with five gigabytes of free storage, and you can pay for more, if you need.
Pages, Numbers and Keynote - Apple's versions of Microsoft's popular Office programs for word processing, spreadsheets and presentations – allow storing automatically all documents online through iCloud, unless you change the location to a folder on your computer. That means your documents follow you wherever you go. Type a sentence in a document on your MacBook and see the changes on the iPad a half-minute or so later. You can access your files even if you don't have an Internet connection. Copies are stored on your computer, and changes will be replicated to the iCloud folder once you're back online.
You get the benefits of iCloud when surfing the Web on Safari as well. You see what websites are open on other devices, so if you started researching that dream vacation at home, you can quickly access those same Web pages in the office. Think of it as automated bookmarks. For this to fully work, your mobile devices need the iOS 6 upgrade this fall.
A number of other features you may find useful:
- The search and address bars are now combined on Safari, just as they are on Google's Chrome browser.
- Safari's Reading List now works offline. If you are reading a Web page and need to go somewhere, just click the small "glasses" icon for the browser to store a copy. You can continue reading in the car or on a train, even if you don't have an Internet connection.
- Gamers will appreciate Game Center, which started out as a way for mobile users to find opponents and keep track of high scores.
Some older computers are not supported by the new OS, though there's apparently a workaround for Intel-based Mac Pros that involves upgrading the graphics cards and using an emulated firmware. Do note that this hack is not guaranteed to work perfectly and it cannot be used on Apple laptops, as the graphics cards on these machines cannot be changed.
Those who have bought a Mac computer on, or after June 11, are eligible for a free upgrade to OS X Mountain Lion via Apple's Up-to-Date program.
Based on the users’ feedback, Mountain Lion upgrades can take as little as 13 minutes and as long as almost an hour. Upgrade is a hands-off affair once the user has downloaded the 4GB installer from the Mac App Store, allowing Mac owners to step away from the machine and come back when the new OS is installed.
You can find OS X Mountain Lion in the Mac App Store: http://itunes.apple.com/us/app/os-x-mountain-lion/id537386512?mt=12.
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