While the next release of Mac OS X might not include Apple’s Siri voice assistant, an early developers preview edition issued this week reveals that OS X 10.8 Mountain Lion will adopt lots of new features first introduced in iOS 5, including Notification Center, Game Center, a new messaging service, and Twitter integration, just for starters.
Slated for general availability this summer, Mountain Lion is set to beat Microsoft’s Windows 8 – an OS still in alpha testing – out the door. Although some have predicted that Apple might ultimately drop OS X in favor of iOS for use on notebook and desktop computers, that isn’t happening now – yet, at least.
Instead, Apple is continuing a move initiated a couple of years ago toward including features in OS X that will make its notebook/desktop OS friendlier to the legions of iPhone and iPad users which keep growing larger.
In the current Mac OS X 10.7 Lion edition, released last June, Apple borrowed liberally from iOS’s LaunchPad, while also eliminating most of OS X’s traditional scrollbars and adding some effects and gestures from iOS.
In Lion’s successor Mountain Lion, the first edition of OS X to be issued since Steve Jobs’ death in October, Apple will do some heavy lifting from iOS 5, a mobile OS released for iPhones, iPads, and iPod devices in September.
Just as in iOS 5, the new Notification Center in Mountain Lion can take messages from any app (or in this case, application) and display them centrally in an organized list.
Instead of srolling along the length of the screen to get to the Notification Center, as you would with an iPhone, you’ll be able to get to the Notification Center in Mountain Lion either by using a two-finger swiping gesture or accessing a new menu bar item in the right-hand corner of the screen. Along similar lines, Mountain Lion also integrates iOS 5 features such as Reminders and Notes.
Interestingly, with the notification service introduced first into iOS and then into Mountain Lion, Apple seems to be following Android’s lead.
The new Game Center in Mountain Lion, also derived from iOS 5, should give a big boost to OS X, which has gradually been building up more gaming momentum.
The Game Center will provide users with views of their full catalogs of games and their gaming friends.
They’ll also be able to launch games from directly inside the Game Center, and to see achievements and leaderboards.
Meanwhile, through a new feature in Mountain Lion called Message, you’ll be able to use the same iMessage instant messaging (IMing) that’s now available on iPads and iPhones.
Although Message replaces the iChat of earlier versions of OS X, you’ll also be able to use it to keep chatting on services such as Google Talk, Yahoo Messenger, AIM and Jabber.
It will support photos and videos, too, and a FaceTime button will be available.
On the mobile side of Apple’s OS, iOS 5 integrated Twitter for the first time Lion will also support Twitter, but through a new and different capability called Share Sheets.
Share Sheets is designed for easy sharing through Twitter, e-mail, the Flickr photo sharing service, and the Vimeo and Airdrop video sharing services.
It will be accessible through a new Share icon that will appear in the Safari browser and other applications, including Notes, a feature that will also allow for synchronization through iCloud with other Macs, iPhones, and iPads. Apple also plans to include a “Tweet Sheet” feature for posting what you want to say directly to Twitter. Facebook integration, though, is absent from Mountain Lion — so far, anyway.
In still another new feature, Mountain will adopt AirPlay Mirroring — for making your TV mirror what’s on your computer screen — from the iPad 2.
‘Gatekeeper,’ But No Siri
Meanwhile, Mountain Lion will also include some new features not offered on Apple’s mobile devices, including Gatekeeper, a new anti-malware capability that lets users control which applications can be installed.
Users will be able to choose from any of three “allowed source options”: Mac App Store, “Mac App Store and identified developers,” and Anywhere. Mountain Lion will be set by default to the second option, which will use a signature system to make sure that a company producing a non-App Store application is actually a registered Apple developer.
Apple’s Siri voice assistant, now built into the iPhone 4S, is one mobile side-originated feature that doesn’t show up in the developers preview released this week. Summer is still a long way off, so it’s theoretically possible that Siri will make a late entrance. Siri, though, hasn’t yet emerged for the iPad, either..