Apple OS X Mountain Lion Preview: iOS, Desktop Integration
Quite frankly, sometimes I think there’s nothing on the Internet I can’t get my hands on. My latest exploits have landed me a copy of the OS X Mountain Lion developer preview, which means I’ll be spending the next couple of weeks trying out all the new features, living exclusively in the OS X Mountain Lion world. Here’s a quick hands-on preview based on what I’ve seen so far …
On first glance, OS X Mountain Lion looks almost identical to Lion. Only a careful eye would notice that in the upper right corner of the screen there’s a new circular icon next to the Spotlight icon, which is the all-important notification center. It looks and feels just like the notification center in iOS 5, including pop-up push notifications that hover above all windows on the screen. This is easily the most useful feature, since I have often used my iPhone’s notification screen as my “to-do” checklist. Now that it’s integrated into OS X, I have that information at a glance.
The integration of the Notes application is probably the most “fun” feature of OS X Mountain Lion, since jotting down quick ideas or reminders now ensures ubiquitous access to it from any of my iOS devices. Conversely, I now have access to all my notes from my iPhone and iPad, thanks to iCloud. I always found the Reminders app in iOS 5 to be somewhat complicated for a small screen, but a keyboard and mouse seem to make the OS X version of Reminders much more fluid. I can set a reminder on my Mac, and I’ll be sure my iPad and iPhone both alert me when it comes time to be reminded. Another win for iCloud.
Stylistically, Apple has made deeper iOS-like changes with the Dashboard. In OS X Lion, widgets popped out of a dock that rose from the bottom of the screen, like they have since OS X Tiger. Now, adding a widget offers an iOS-style home screen, almost identical to OS X Lion’s Launchpad. And in keeping with the consolidation, integration and unification of iOS and OS X, Apple also has eliminated the famous Software Updater application instead moving system updates into the Mac App Store. These changes may seem minor to the power user, but for a newbie joining the Mac world from an iPad or iPhone, they’re a brilliant way to make the experience unified and familiar, regardless of device. Users know to go to the App Store for app updates, and now naturally, they’ll go there for Mac updates too.
On a bit of a negative note, Apple’s new security policies have reminded me of Windows Vista’s penchant for authentication pop-ups. I needed to authenticate a folder-move from my desktop to the Documents folder, but for what reason? I have no clue, especially since the Documents folder and desktop are user-land locations that pose no real threat to security or operating system stability. In the same vein, certain terminal applications no longer default to super-user mode, but I suppose that’s a good safety cap to keep on. This could just be developer preview quirks, but it’s clear Apple is taking a more active interest in keeping its operating system clean and clear of all malware. Security through obscurity is no longer an option for Apple since the Mac’s popularity has skyrocketed.
Considering I’ve had OS X Mountain Lion for less than 24 hours, it’s fair to say I’ve only scratched the surface. Is there a particular feature, application or test you’d like me to perform? Chime in and let me know in the comments. I’ll be happy to give a full writeup of what to expect when OS X Mountain Lion gets uncaged Summer 2012.