Although it seems like OS X named Mountain Lion has been out forever, Apple still had lots to show off during today’s keynote speech at their WWDC. Most exciting however, were the new price and launch dates.
Apple’s next-gen OS will be shipping starting in July, or about a month from today. Customers who buy new Mac laptops and desktops from this point forward will receive free upgrades to the new operating system. For those of you with older Macs who want to upgrade and take advantage of the new features, it’s only going to cost $19.99. That’s right, just twenty bucks gets you OS X 10.8.
There are a couple of reasons for this – one, Mountain Lion isn’t a huge upgrade to OS X over Lion, similar to the way Snow Leopard wasn’t over Leopard. Apple doesn’t tend to charge much for these releases. The other reason, of course, is Windows 8. Microsoft is extraordinarily unlikely to charge much below $100 for their own new operating system, which does bring a number of new features to the table. By pushing Mountain Lion down to $20, Apple can lord it over Microsoft’s head, with another bullet point to present to consumers.
They really pushed how well OS X Lion has been selling – over 26 million copies so far, with 40% of their now 66 million OS X userbase running the new software. The keynote talks tried to lord this fact over Windows, but come on, Apple – Microsoft has sold more than 20 times the number of Lion licenses that you have.
At Apple’s WWDC Keynote today, Mac maven Craig Federighi officially announced a number of new features into OS X 10.8, many of which show just how tightly Apple’s mobile and desktop operating systems are growing together.
- iCloud: Mountain Lion will ship with full iCloud integration baked into the OS. That means your documents from programs with the right API – Pages, Keynote (hopefully, eventually MS Office), etc. – will be saved to the cloud and automatically synced across all of your computers and mobile devices. This includes reminders and alarms as well as iMessages so you’ll be able to respond to messages from your phone with messages from your keyboard.
- Notification center: Similar to the way notification center on iOS provided a unified alert system for programs to tell you something, notification center on OS X will be doing the same thing. These include updates from apps, messages from email, iMessages, Facebook, Twitter, etc. You can respond to Twitter right there. You’ll also be able to temporarily disable NC for a period of time; Apple will set it to disabled by default whenever you hook your laptop up to a projector.
- Dictation: Although Microsoft’s Windows has been shipping with built-in dictation software for some time, it’s really not all that great. Hopefully the Nuance-powered dictation software that is coming to the Mac OS (and is currently the hallmark of Apple’s cheeky digital assistant, Siri) will fare better. Regrettably, the full Siri AI will not be coming to OS X; only the dictation. Since it’s deeply integrated into the OS, however, you’ll be able to use your voice to talk to Twitter, Facebook, your essay (even in Microsoft Word!) – well, you get the idea.
- Sharing: You’ll be able to more easily share whatever it is that you’re doing with other people in OS X 10.8. The sharing functionality works with photos, videos, and other files, as well as more nebulous properties such as your location. Tied into the OS, sharing will let you quickly send these things to Facebook, Twitter, Flickr, Vimeo, Mail, Messages or AirDrop.
- Facebook integration: Although it seemed like Apple and Facebook were fighting after the former clearly spurned the latter by leaving it out of OS 5, the two are fast friends once again. Facebook is coming to both OS X 10.8 and iOS 6, letting users quickly update their actions, contacts, photos and more from several different OS X applications.
- Twitter integration: Like Facebook, right up there. But, you know. Twitter. You’ll be able to update the fast-moving social messaging service with updates from many of OS X’s built-in software titles. More importantly, as referenced in the new notification center above, you’ll be able to receive and respond to tweets from one central place without the need for third-party apps.
- Power nap: In what seems like an Apple take on Intel’s SmartConnect technology, Power nap will keep your Mac updated while it sleeps. When connected to the Internet, the software will periodically wake your laptop or desktop up and update Mail, Contacts, Calendar, Reminders, Notes, Photo Stream, Find My Mac, and Documents in the Cloud. If you’re powered into a wall socket, your Mac will also download software updates and make Time Machine backups. Since it’s doing it with small sips of electricity, Apple keeps the computer from spinning up any fans or turning on any lights – and when you and your Mac wake up, everything’s already been synced and it’s ready to go.
- AirPlay: AirPlay has been built into the last revisions of iOS. The software lets you tie your AppleTV wirelessly to your iOS- (and now OS X-) powered devices. A click or two on your Mac, and you’re sharing on the television. Whether you want to show off your vacation slideshow or just browsing the web, you’ll be able to send photos, videos, audio, and even your whole desktop to either your AppleTV-connected display, or to any AirPlay-compatible speaker system.
- GameCenter: With a few APIs, any iOS game can tie into GameCenter, Apple’s widely used but poorly understood social network for games and gamers. Now that it’s in OS X, you’ll be able to access your game statistics and see how well you stack up against friends and family as well as strangers around the world. It’s like a less useful Apple version of Xbox Live.
- Gatekeeper: Gatekeeper is Apple’s new security lockdown for applications in OS X. While it’s likely going to be more secure than the current way of installing things, we’re waiting to see the possible harm it can do to 3rd-party developers. By default, Apple will have Gatekeeper block any apps that aren’t from the App Store or “identified developers.” As a result, OS X won’t install any app from someone who doesn’t pay $99 per year to join Apple’s developer program. This might put a hurt onto small time developers that like to write free Mac apps as a hobby.
- Safari: The next generation of Mac OS X brings with it a massive update to the integrated web browser, Safari. Safari in Mountain Lion, like Google’s Chrome, merges the address bar and search box for a simple, unified look. Tab View lets you use multitouch gestures to quickly swerve between all of your open tabs. iCloud Tabs lets you sync open browser tabs just like Chrome does – so you’ll be able to start browsing on one Apple device and quickly switch to any other without forgetting where you were. Finally, Reading List, Safari’s answer to Instapaper, has been updated so that it saves an entire webpage to its data banks, not just a paragraph here or a link there.
That’s the short version of what Apple showed off today. Again, you’ll be able to get it next month for just $20 – and that’ll serve to let you install it on all of your “personal Macs”.