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Apple Previews OS X 10.8 Mountain Lion: The iOS-ification Continues

Yesterday, Apple released a preview of the upcoming iteration of OS X, code-named Mountain Lion. It was real tempting to slip a “cougar” joke in here somewhere (they’re the same animal), but in the interest of giving a more serious look at the OS, it’s probably best if we forego it.

As it’s still early in the process (at least from the end-user side of things) the only things really talked about are new features, most ported over from iOS. Rather than re-hash them all here, you can see them for yourself at Apple’s Web site.

In all, though, it continues the trend for blurring the lines between the mobile and the desktop environments. However, while Lion’s iOS-inpired additions went from the sublime (Lion’s Mail app and full-screen apps – provided you only have one screen) to the ridiculous (does anybody actually use Launchpad to open apps?) and everywhere in between (Mission Control replacing Spaces, “natural” scrolling and gestures”) these additions seem to be focused on the “app” side of things.

Thoughts on What’s Been Announced

Personally, I’m most excited about the addition of Notification Center. For years, I’ve used Growl for my system-wide notifications. Now, something extremely similar will be built-in with a handy list along the side so they don’t clutter my screen like they used to.

The addition of iOS’s “organizational” apps (like Reminders and Notes)  is nice to see, too – especially once I get around to getting an iPhone. It’s a lot easier to try and sync things like that when you have a one-to-one analog.

I’m less interested in things like Twitter integration, Chinese compatibility features and iCloud mainly because I don’t Twitter, live in China or have a constant broadband connection. Same can pretty much go for Game Center and AirPlay mirroring. However, I can see how people would make use of that, so I’m not going to knock it.

I’m marginally concerned with Messages replacing iChat, not because of the additional features it has, all of which seem to be pretty neat, but more for what it may lose in the process. It seems that AIM will still be supported, but what about support for Jabber (which we use extensively here at the office) or Bonjour messaging (which is a nice, easy way to communicate without going through other servers)? I’m sure somebody’s out there wondering about Yahoo! Messenger and Google Talk, too. I suppose I can check the Messages Public Beta, and if not, there’s always Adium, which I’ll probably continue to use.

What I’d Like to See Announced

Of course, this is just the first round of announcements. More info should come out as we get closer to release. However, here’s a list of things I’d love to see.

A Growl-to-Notification Center Compatibility Utility – A lot of the apps I use are Growl-enabled, meaning they can use Growl to notify me of changes. With Notification Center having much the same functionality/purpose, it’d be nice to have something to enable a seamless transition from Growl. Perhaps it may be up to a resourceful developer to come up with this. If you’re that resourceful developer, remember I had the idea first and, as such, you should send me a copy… ;-)

More control over Mission Control  – While I like a lot of Mission Control’s features, its linear approach makes separating apps a bit of a chore. With Spaces, if I had four desktops in a 2 x 2 grid, it only took a maximum of two jumps to scroll to the one I wanted (one, if I hit the appropriate key command). Expand it out to a nine desktop grid, and the max I scrolled through was four. And… you always knew where it was. Since Mission Control only works over one dimension (horizontally) you may be scrolling from the first to the last – and depending on your settings and memory, you may not remember which desktop you’re on, and have to go into the actual Mission Control window to find stuff.

Burn Recovery/Install Disk – In all likeliness, Apple is still going to believe that everybody has fast Internet access readily available, so it’s going to rely on a download model for its OS. Fine… whatever… but at least make it easy for those of us who have to order a double latte in order to connect to make a bootable installer disk. None of this digging around inside the installer, extracting disk images and offering up small sacrifices to the Great Old Ones. Apple met us half way with Lion Recovery Disk Assistant, which allows us to put an invisible recovery partition on another disk to install from. Workable, but far from an elegant solution. How about, during the installation process, the Installer asks if we want to create bootable installer and lets us burn it to a DVD or make it out of a USB stick. And none of this ‘hold down R to restore’-only garbage, either; this should be selectable right out of Startup Disk if we so choose.

Have the App Store Announce Updates. – It seems that (for whatever reason) that Apple is moving Software Update into the App Store, rather than leaving it under the Apple Menu, using “iOS users are used to looking there” as their justification. Well, considering that the App Store was the second thing I removed from my Dock (Launchpad was the first), there would be no way for me to know there was an update without opening the App Store app. If an app or the OS has an update, throw a notification up (perhaps in the Notification Center) so those of us who don’t live and breathe by the App Store can still keep our systems up-to-date.

Speed things up. – Not sure what they did to Lion, but even maxed out with RAM and booting from an SSD, some apps that were quite zippy under Snow Leopard just seem to take forever to load under Lion.

Duplicate Checking for iCloud – admittedly, I have not played with iCloud much, mainly because the one time I tried it, it nearly wiped out all my iCal entries. Part of that had to do with the fact that my iPad tried to sync both via iCloud and via iTunes. This resulted in duplicate entries. When I turned iCloud syncing off, it somehow managed to erase ALL of my entires, both on my computer and on the iPad. The only saving grace was that I had a copy on my iPod Touch that I was able to restore from. A simple “duplicates checking” could have saved a lot of time and trouble.

Remember that we’re not all online. – This ties into the “install disk” one above. Lots of these features are great, but seem to rely on a constant Internet connection. Not everybody is in a place where they can get a constant connection and/or may be on capped plans. While storing everything online gives Apple better control, it also makes things suck when we’re “unplugged.”

Don’t forget longtime users – Lately, these updates are pandering more towards new users who are only familiar with iOS. While understandable from a certain perspective, catering to this audience basically ignores the people who were Macintosh – not iOS – users first.

What About You?

What features/fixes would you like to see added to Mountain Lion? Let us know in the comments below.

The opinions expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the position of Other World Computing.
OWC Chris S.
the authorOWC Chris S.
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  • So glad to see a power user (OWC) had issues with iCloud and essentially the same issues I had. iCloud has great potential but without options as to what is the “Master” list, etc., it is to dangerous. Would like to see iCloud have these kinds of options in ML.

    • I’m sure OWC would be glad to sell you some data backup hardware, and then you won’t have to let iCloud scare you any longer.

  • So I guess I am finally considered to be an “Old Guard”. Been using Macs since OS 7.0 days. I was ecstatic when Apple purchased NeXT because I saw the possibilities. I jumped in with OS X 10.0 and have stayed with every update since then. Except Lion. I will try to enumerate my reasons below.
    1) Every update has been faster on the same hardware, except Lion. What did Apple do? 10.5 to 10.6 on my 2008 Laptop. Faster. 10.6 to 10.7. Dog slow. I will get a commenter saying, run it on “modern” hardware. Ok. How about a 2009 8 Core Mac Pro with an SSD (OWC actually) and 32 GB RAM. Still much slower than 10.6 on the same machine.

    2) Human User Interaction Changes: Apple has taken 10 years worth of eye, brain and muscle memory and seemingly flushed it down the toilet. Color finder icons. Gone. Now it takes me just a bit more thought to find what I am looking for instead of letting my eye and brain just look for a certain well known pattern. Scrolling: Not going to beat the dead horse. At least I can change it back to “normal”. Spaces – I run 4 with the activation tied to a mouse button. And they were laid out on a grid. My brain and muscles have been taught over the last 3 years to go to a certain spot for a certain desktop. Now I have Mission control and a linear layout.

    Us professionals work all day on our computers. We create workflows that allow us to become fast and efficient at what we do. Changes or interruptions to those workflows can cause us to lose money via wasted time. Wasted time means missed deadlines. Missed deadlines means no repeat business from clients. I don’t mind change when it is good and can be proven to be more effective for the user. But change for change sake without letting me keep my prior settings or prior workflows intact can cost professionals real money and I think that is what the real issues are with the “old guard”. I don’t have 3.5 inch floppies laying around ( A G4 Cube yes). I understand my computers will become obsolete (My wife’s white MacBook wont run 10.8). I get it. Time Marches on.

    I saw this convergence starting years ago at Apple’s developer conference when most of the tracks and sessions were all iOS based. My friends and I looked at each other and collectively said this is the beginning of the end of OS X. In the end Apple is about making money and growing their share of the market. There is a new generation of young users that went through their teenage years with iPod Touches and early iPhones and now are starting to buy OS X machines. Apple has the idea (probably rightly) that they want/expect the same experience on their computers. This is who they are catering to and if they leave some of us behind then that seems to be OK with Apple. There will be 5 more “young ones” to purchase an Apple product when the old guard does not.

    Now, after having said all of that where are we. It isn’t like my Mac Pro is going to stop working when 10.8 comes out. I still works and works just fine. Basically I figure I can get another couple years from it at which point my customers will be asking for 10.8 and 10.9 compatible binaries which there is likely no way I could produce any more which will force my upgrade. Kicking and screaming. I mean what are my options? Linux? Windows? Solaris? I have to use those everyday alongside my mac and for me, they don’t offer the workflows or speed that I require to be a profitable business.

    I you have read this far. Thanks
    Mike Jackson

    • Yes! A taker!

      Ok, let me see if I’ve got this right. You haven’t upgraded to Lion because its slower and because of the “human interface changes”?

      Well, if you haven’t upgraded, how do you know its slower? I’m assuming you must have at least tried it and then down graded. What exactly was slower? I bought a 2011 iMac last year before Lion came out so I got several months of SL on this machine before I upgraded. My shut down and startups are definitely quicker with Lion. As for apps, I haven’t really noticed a difference, but its definitely not slower for me. And I have to be honest, I’m fairly picky about this kind of stuff. I’m an analyst by trade (no not a tech industry analyst) and a huge process and procedure guy so I’ll work for hours to shave off a few seconds from a highly repetitive process. My point is I tend to notice the details. Can I say with 100% certainty that MS Word opened in 6 seconds on SL and 5 seconds on Lion? No. But I can tell you I’d notice if the machine I work on 12 hours a day (minimum) was “much” slower than before. I can also tell you if it was, I’d be running SL. I use MS Office for Mac, all kinds of Citrix plugins to connect to the servers of whoever I’m working for at the time, Parallels/Windows 7, and several proprietary Windows programs pretty much every day. Of course there are a plethora of other programs that I use, including pro apps like the Adobe Master Collection and Final Cut X, but more for fun then for work. And there is not one that I would say is “slower” now that I’ve upgraded to Lion. I am very interested to know exactly what is running slower for you.

      As an analyst and someone that works from home, I can definitely understand your argument about muscle memory and change costing us money! However, saying Apple took the last 10 years of eye, brain, and muscle memory and flushed it down the toilet is certainly not accurate. I haven’t been around as long as you, but I got my feet wet in OS 9, and I’ve been tagging along ever since. What got flushed? I have more options for sorting and launching things, my Finder sidebar icons aren’t in color, I have gray linen everywhere, but what is missing? What can’t you do in Lion, that you can in SL? More generally, what is wrong with making the OS more like iOS, if your not losing functionality? Its like they just gave you new ways to do some things, but I’m not sure what they took away.

      It really just makes sense that the OSs would be similar, otherwise, wouldn’t the user experience be fragmented? Not to mention there are like 200 million iOS devices out there… Apple would be pretty stupid not to try to capitalize on that and who can fault them for that? Personally I miss the days of being the underdog. Listening to windows users tell me how closed my OS is and letting them laugh at my single digit market share. But those days are over (for now), and I’m not going to fault Apple now that their long term strategy (one I argued for, for years) is now coming to fruition.

      Old machines and old software are going to do what all old machines and old software do, they are going to become obsolete. Thats not new to iOS or to Apple, thats the way of things. Working the same way we did 10 years ago, doesn’t make sense. With MC, Keyboard Maestro, Better Touch/Snap Tool, Moom, and Alfred my workflows and processes scream in ways I didn’t think possible 5 years ago. You just have to be willing to adapt. I think working on processes for people has trained my mind to always look for a new, better way to do things, to look for ways to change instead of finding ways not to. The old adage of that says you can’t teach an old dog (or an old guard!) new tricks is as true as ever, but for those of us willing to step out of our box the rewards are awesome!

      • whoda,

        I’m sorry, but I strongly disagree with your assessment of old systems being obsolete. What Apple has done is not advance the operating system, but dumb it down. iOS is a simplified system, only capable of doing simple things. OS X is an elegant, complex system capable of running very complex applications.

        Apple has already destroyed their professional software business. Their video editing software is now a consumer program, not a professional program that movie studios can use. Their other “professional” software is going in the same direction. They are basically throwing their older customer base under the bus to attract the younger, iOS users.

        This is the reason that my next Mac is going to be a PC. I left PC for Mac back when Vista came out (actually, this MBP5,1 is my 3rd Mac). Now, Lion is driving me back, and Mountain Lion is even worse if the picture above is accurate. For now, I’m sticking with 10.6.8 (or 10.6.9 if they ever release that).

        I pray that the picture of the iMac above is just a joke and not really what Mountain Lion looks like. If so, then there’s absolutely no chance I’ll stick with Apple for computers. I’ll still have my iPhone and maybe get an iPad 3, but no more Macs.

        Thanks Apple. I’m going to miss you.

        • The blog post image is not a screenshot of Mountain Lion, but rather the screen from an iPad altered to fit the display of the iMac.

          My suggestion is to read the counter-point blog post and reserve final judgement until Mountain Lion is out of developer’s pre-release … “Mountain Lion. Seems cool to me.

      • Lol! I love the fact you actually admit your main software is Microsoft Word… Testing out a system’s performance using a text editor!? Wow! You are pathetic. Oh, and you use Professional apps like Final Cut X!? How about you give FCP 7, Avid or Premiere a go? See how your professional skills are at.

        I could work on your Word files on a floppy and be fine, so why would you even believe you’re opinion matters to professionals who use Mac Pros to their fullest capacity? MiniSAS or Fiber rings a bell? You wouldn’t need a RAID for Word files would you? So please, buy a Macbook Air (which are great for people who do text work BTW) and leave people who need real performance alone.

        Thank you.

        P.S. Guess how much an Uncompressed 30 second HD clip wheys in at? Oh, and on what medium is that shared? Lol! I use MS WORD and everything is fine HAHA! pathetic

  • Oh Please! Many applications aren’t even truly Lion compatible yet and Apple is releasing yet another cat out of it’s cage? How do you expect developers to ever catch up? Apple has become a company that caters to the masses and will soon have abandoned all the creative professionals that made the brand what it is today. Nice one Apple!

  • Yeah I know, I’m bored today….

    But I wanted to let the author know that Jabber and Bonjour are supported in Messages. Google Talk, and Yahoo! Messenger are also supported.

  • I think the “pro” user community is so pissed because Apple loves to force change and they are forced to either challenge their default setting of never changing or go with one of the other non-Apple options, which of course suck (no need to tell me how awesome Avid or Adobe or whoever is, if they were better this wouldn’t be an issue because you would have already been on their platform).

    For my own betterment, what fresh new features do people want to see in an OS? Metro tiles? lol

    • This is just pig-ignorant. Its not about self described “pros” whining about being forced to adapt to new icons or something.

      You refer to the FCX debacle. I own all three NLE, so I don’t care. But Apple build a toy app over a decade into a credible tool, and competitor to the industry standard AVID, and without warning or consulting the users removed BASIC functionality required for pro use (multi cam edit, xml, etc.), bam! Then would say nothing about when to expect it replaced or fixed. Then made it impossible to move projects back to the old version. Then left the situation sitting like this for more than 6 months. I mean, most television is shot with more than one frigging camera.

      When the BBC, who had leaned towards going all FCP, built out a pretty massive editing facility up in Salford, they had to return to AVID and Adobe because those companies made it clear what the future of their products was. You can’ t commit to large, multiple zero IT spends based on the sort of behavior that Apple (as much as I’ve loved them and used for more than a decade and a half). A one man band can ebay his MBP and buy a HP workstation if he needs, he can also probably cut that wedding video on a point zero release FCX or wait a half year while Apple works it out, but companies, whether boutique or the BBC who make money and pay off the large capital spends involved are not going to be in the same position.

      But, the iPhone is awesome, I agree.

      • The day Final Cut X was released, Final Cut 7 didn’t stop working. No one was forced to upgrade. If you like Final Cut 7 and Snow Leopard no one is forcing you to upgrade.

        • No, an editor or facility could and did stick with Final Cut 7. And when a client brought a project begun in Final Cut X it wasn’t able to be migrated back into FCP 7 until a third party developer made a utiility to assist this. There wasn’t even the ability to move a project begun in FCP 7 forward to FCX.

          Really, freelance editors or edit houses had to be running both systems over the course of at least a year.

  • I have to agree. The features being promoted on Mountain Lion are underwhelming.

    The aggressive dropping of recent hardware is also quite annoying.

    I have 4 Macs that can run Lion, but only 1 of them can run Mountain Lion.

  • Well I am really glad I am still on the last version of Snow Leopard on my Mac Pro, I will be staying like this as long as possible if Apple doesn’t pull it’s finger out and cater for the professional desktop community!

  • Glad I jumped off the Apple train a while ago. Snow Leopard was amazing but everyone who I have talked to, who have used apple products for a long long time absolutely hated Lion. Mountain Lion doesnt look much better.

  • Well, the ML preview has been out for less than 24 hours and OWC is panning it. LOL Sure its not complete yet, by any means, but what a great opportunity to fire up the old iOS vs OS X debate.

    The only thing you need to know about the future of OS X is that since the iOS device inception, they have sold two to three times as many devices as they have sold macs over the last 30 years. You might as well get used to the “iOSification” of OS X. My mac involvement predates iOS by a good amount of time, so I guess I’m not really understanding the opposition. Other than people resist change by default. What is it, exactly, that you old guard folks are missing? Is there any missing functionality or is it just that you have to do something different? Perhaps you still have lots of 3.5″ floppy disks laying around and your steamed you can’t access them?

    I like Lion, I guess I’m odd, but I always take the approach that I will at least give some new OS feature a try before panning it and deleting it. Like natural scrolling. Yeah, for a good 10 minutes things were backwards, but 11 minutes in, bam it is natural!. I can’t get enough of Mission Control. I love it. I used Spaces as well, and thought it was fantastic but I seem to have more control in (sorry) Mission Control. I get what the articles says about being more linear, I guess, but MC has the same hot key support to move between screens. I have 4 desktops open all the time (and I use different backgrounds – which I love – to tell me where I am). If I’m on screen 1 and don’t want to spend the 3 seconds swiping to screen 4 then I just hit my hot key… just like Spaces. If I have 9 open desktops, aren’t I just one hot key click away from any of them? Why do I need to swipe through them all? Of course you can just flick up on your track pad and click on any of the desktops you want to go to, and even better you can move your apps and documents to any screen you want. I truly don’t understand the MC complaints… I think its one of the best features I’ve seen added to an OS.

    This brings me to the MAS. Updates going into the MAS is a no brainer. It was fragmented downloading some updates from the MAS, and some from Software Update. Since the MAS is here to stay, it only made sense to ditch Software Update. I guess the author will have to find a spot on his Dock for the icon again. Oh no! Although I do think I read somewhere that the new notification center will let you know when an app needs updating. So why don’t people like the MAS? It seems like its just a better convenience to me, what exactly are the reasons people don’t like it? I know developers have a issue with the upcoming sandboxing, but for most of us the increased security will be nice. Gatekeeper looks cool as well. The only thing I can think of that makes me a bit concerned is only being able to install things if it comes from the MAS. I think Gatekeeper is cool because it gives the casual user the ability to have that kind of security but it also gives us tinkerers the ability to still install whatever. As long as that ability does not go away then I’m fine. Of course, even if it does, we all know some enterprising hacker will fix that for us.

    Using Launchpad to launch apps is ridiculous? Uh oh, color me ridiculous. My primary launcher is Alfred. Every power user should have some kind of launcher like Alfred, its great. However, I like installing new apps all the time, and I forget their name some times… no problem, pinch… click… I’m in. I’ve got all my apps on the first page, some in category folders so there is no swiping, I just look for the icon or the name and voila! I’ve got at least a dozen photography apps, so if I’m not sure which one I want to use, I just pinch, and check out my photography category. In what way is Launchpad ridiculous?

    As for iChat… see ya! I’ve got the Messages Beta, and although it is hilariously buggy at times, I’m already in love with it. Now if only everyone had iMessage, I’d be in heaven. Luckily we are an iPhone family and 90% of my friends carry iPhones. I never really IM’d but I do text! A lot! Now I can do it from my computer… a huge convenience at times.

    Finally iCloud. This is a paradigm shift and I’ll admit I was a bit hesitant at first. Now I have a physical back up of my music on an external drive just in case, but my computer and all my iOS devices use iTunes Match and my music sits in the cloud waiting for me. Even when I’m out and about and on 3G, I have no problems listening to music. It may take 5 second for the song to start, but I’m ok with that. I recently went on a cross country trip and was concerned with no signal, so I downloaded my favorite play list for those times I had no signal, but honestly I didn’t need it. I do NOT like iClouds document handling at all, its is the most unApple thing I’ve seen Apple do in a long time. I understand their incrementalist approach but I was thrilled to see this being improved on in Mt Lion. I’ve never had any issues with iCal or Contacts, everything just works. (Honestly, if 100 million people in this world can use it, it can’t be that difficult.) I even use the MAS to keep my apps in the cloud. If I’m not using something, its beyond easy to delete the app and reinstall it if I need it later. I understand that some people don’t have broadband, or 4G/3G but some people had floppy disks and lots of people have optical media and that doesn’t stop Apple from pushing forward. iCloud is here to stay.

    Sorry OWC, but the best thing about iCloud is I don’t need to sell a kidney to buy one of your 480 GB SSDs. I can buy that 60 GB version, and keep my content in the cloud!

  • I’d like to see Front Row come back. I know may disagree, but even as a downloadable app from the App Store. I’m a Mac Mini owner, and it’s been my media centre since I purchased it. I’d like to see Apple provide Apple TV 2 experience in an app that I can run on my Mini, rather than having to buy a $100 device. They took it away without warning, please bring it back! Apple’s media centre software is so elegant, and in my opinion, so far has not been replicated by either Plex or XBMC.