On Thursday, Apple gave developers a preview of what it was working on with its next-generation desktop-class operating system known as OS X 10.8 Mountain Lion. Mountain Lion, as it is commonly referred to, will succeed the current version of the Mac OS called OS X 10.7 Lion. Rather than hosting a larger media event, like what Apple traditional does with its product announcements, the company had quietly invited select members of the press to preview the OS at its Cupertino, California headquarters and made the developer preview available for members of the Apple developer community to download.
That said, OS X now integrates some of Apple’s best practices from mobile and we’re seeing a larger intersection between the desktop-class OS and iOS.
Among the new features highlighted, we’re seeing pop-up notifications, iMessage support, Game Center addition, AirPlay mirroring with Apple TV integration, and Notification Center support. There’s also a big push with an iCloud-integrated experience and OS X Mountain Lion pushes the boundary even further to blur the lines between desktop and mobile OS, an area where Lion had began to make that push.
The Verge did a great job exploring some of the many new features of OS X 10.8 Mountain Lion, as does Engadget. Both gadget blogs have walk-through videos of the many important new highlights of the operating system.
There’s been a speculation that Apple may someday truly combine OS X and iOS. With Mountain Lion, Apple is simply calling the operating system as OS X 10.8, dropping the Mac that usually comes in front of the OS X moniker. According to the New York Times:
With the Mountain Lion update, Apple is calling the overall operating system OS X, instead of Mac OS X. This move and the continuing convergence between Macs and iOS devices raises questions about whether one day, the two products will run the same operating system.
However, that may not be the case, at least for the foreseeable future. According to the Wall Street Journal‘s interview with Apple CEO Tim Cook, Apple is only, at this time, moving over what makes sense from iOS.
“We see that people are in love with a lot of the apps and functionality here,” said Mr. Cook, 51 years old, pointing at his iPhone. “So, anywhere where it makes sense, we are going to move that over to Mac.”
The Journal continues to say that tablets (under the iOS ecosystem) will continue to coexist with laptops, which run the OS X operating system:
Mr. Cook said he already thinks of Apple’s iOS and OS X operating systems “as one with incremental functionality.” He said both laptops and tablets will continue to coexist, but he didn’t rule out that the technologies could converge further.
Right now, though Apple has optimized each operating system for optimal touch-based user experiences. On iOS, touch is implemented via Apple’s capacitive touchscreen hardware. On OS X, Apple is maintaining that trackpads offer the optimal touch experience as it doesn’t lend to arm fatigue when compared with trying to make laptop and desktop displays with touch screens.
And will Siri make its way to the desktop? Perhaps, we’ll see Siri pop up in the future: “When asked if the Mac would get Siri, Apple’s voice-activated virtual assistant available on the iPhone, Mr. Cook smiled and said he would leave the question to Mr. Schiller.”
According to Giga OM, Mountain Lion’s greatest feature is that it’s a great middle of the road OS between a traditional desktop OS and a mobile always-connected OS: “Something like Mountain Lion is a great middle ground — a great first new SoMoClo OS.” With iCloud, Twitter integration, and more Internet-connected features like App Store functionality, Game Center for cross-platform gaming, and notifications, OS X is becoming more Internet-dependent, but still doesn’t require always-on connectivity that a mobile phone requires.
And according to Michael Gartenberg in his Times interview, Apple is envisioning “a world where the personal cloud is rapidly displacing the personal computer as the center of the consumer’s digital life.”