Apple announced the newest update to their OS X operating system Thursday, February 16. Mountain Lion, OS X version 10.8, is the first update since version 10.7, Lion, was released on July 20, 2011.
Mountain Lion contains some radical departures from previous builds of OS X. Notably, it is deeply integrated with online social media services such as Twitter, Flickr, and Vimeo. Twitter is especially prominent. Virtually anything can be instantly tweeted, but sharing images and videos through other services is easy as well. While the OS is integrated with the struggling Google+ social network, integration with Facebook is noticeably absent. Apple has in the past announced partnerships with Facebook, but nothing extensive has ever come about. Given that Facebook also functions as an app platform, it seems likely that Apple doesn’t want to partner too closely with a direct competitor, even one that dominates the social networking landscape.
While the new OS doesn’t unify all of Apple’s various mobile and desktop devices, as was rumored it might do, it does bring them all closer together. Mountain Lion is much more thoroughly synced with iCloud, a service that allows users to store files on a remote server and access them from any device, eliminating the need to keep track of what’s on which device. Apple’s IM service, iChat, has been scrapped and replaced by iMessage, which is capable of instant messaging but also sending text messages directly from the desktop to an iPhone or iPad. The OS also encourages the use of apps, as well as improved app security, and many other mobile features such as the iOS Game Center and Reminders have their own desktop version now.
Visually, Mountain Lion has received some tweaks from previous builds. Bouncing icons in the Dock have been replaced by a system of notifications that spring up on the right side of the screen. The OS also supports AirPlay systems, including AppleTV, allowing streaming from the desktop to HDTV screens.
All in all, this is radical shift for OS X, bringing the Mac desktop experience much more in line with the iOS experience of the iPhone and iPad. It’s still a distinct experience, but the changes are ones that Apple users will undoubtedly welcome.