By Jennifer LeClaire / Top Tech News. Updated February 17, 2012.
Although iOS devices are outpacing Mac sales, Apple is nonetheless forging ahead with the next iteration of its computer operating system. Apple on Thursday released a developer preview of OS X Mountain Lion.
Mountain Lion promises to bring apps and features from the iPad to the Mac. Some of the new features include Messages, Notes, Reminders and Game Center, as well as Notification Center, Share Sheets, Twitter integration and AirPlay Mirroring. Mountain Lion is also Apple's first OS X release that incorporates iCloud features.
Mountain Lion previewers also will get a sneak peek of something Apple is calling Gatekeeper, which is a security feature that works to protect Mac users against malicious software by blocking apps that aren't Apple-approved. Mountain Lion will hit the market in late summer.
"The Mac is on a roll, growing faster than the PC for 23 straight quarters, and with Mountain Lion things get even better," said Philip Schiller, Apple's senior vice president of worldwide marketing. He also noted that Mountain Lion is making its debut just seven months after Lion, the current Mac operating system, went on the market.
New Features Up Close
As part of Mountain Lion, the Messages App will replace iChat. Messages lets users send unlimited messages, photos and videos directly from one Apple product to another. Messages will continue to support AIM, Jabber, Yahoo Messenger and Google Talk. Meanwhile, Reminders and Notes are sort of virtual to-dos. And Game Center lets users personalize the Mac gaming experience.
Mountain Lion's Notification Center offers easier access to alerts from Mail, Calendar, Messages, Reminders, system updates and third party apps. Systemwide Share Sheets let users share links, photos and videos directly from Apple and third-party apps. And Twitter is integrated throughout Mountain.
"Apple is being less aggressive than Microsoft is with Windows 8, mostly because Microsoft doesn't have a large installed base on the tablet. But the end result is the same," said Rob Enderle, principal analyst at Enderle Group. "Both companies are driving to a common user interface and no doubt a common experience for the entire class of products that smartphones, tablets and PCs make up."
A Common Multi-Device Experience
Part of that common experience is the cloud. Apple's iCloud boasts more than 100 million users. Mountain Lion works to make it easier to tap into iCloud benefits across all Apple devices. For example, Mountain Lion uses a consumer's Apple ID to
automatically set up Contacts, Mail, Calendar, Messages, FaceTime and Find My Mac.
On the security front, Gatekeeper gives consumers an option to tap into settings that will only install apps from the Mac App Store, along with apps from developers that have a unique Developer ID from Apple. For maximum security, consumers can set Gatekeeper to only allow apps from the Mac App Store to be downloaded and installed.
"When you have the same user interface across different products it gives consumers incentive to try another one of your products," Enderle said. "Apple is taking that opportunity and Microsoft will be doing much the same thing with Metro and Windows 8. So it's a wise move by both companies to create user interface standards."