Apple announces Mac OS X 10.8 “Mountain Lion”

OS X 10.8 Mountain Lion
Though Mac OS X 10.7 Lion is still just under a year old, today Apple kicked off a new release schedule for the desktop operating system by announcing Mac OS X 10.8 Mountain Lion, due out this summer and available for registered developers today in the form of a developer preview.

With 10.8, Apple plans to move toward an iOS-like yearly release schedule for Mac OS X, which will allow for more frequent incremental improvements that previously would have had to wait for the 18+ month development cycle to complete.

For users this will either be a welcome change or a nightmare waiting to happen, depending on how you view Apple’s desktop OS upgrades. With new versions coming once per year, users will get access to new features and bugfixes faster, but as with every past release there are bound to be unresolved issues with old versions of applications, drivers for various 3rd party hardware or software products, etc.

Like 10.7 Lion, 10.8 Mountain Lion will only be available via the Mac App Store. Pricing is unannounced, but we expect it to be the same as Lion or perhaps cheaper as Apple will of course expect most users to upgrade every year. At some point they may decide to release major version upgrades for free as they do on iOS, however that may not happen immediately.

What’s New in Mountain Lion?

Though developers are just starting to get their hands on Mountain Lion, Apple has put up a preview page for the public.

Some of the major highlights:

  • Notification Center just like iOS
  • Messages replaces iChat with support for iMessage
  • New Reminders and Notes apps like iOS counterpart
  • Deeper iCloud integration
  • Gatekeeper security enhancements
  • Twitter integration like iOS
  • Airplay mirroring

Of course, that’s not an exhaustive list, but there are some very welcome additions to OS X that users will appreciate.

What’s in a name?

An interesting pattern has emerged in OS X version names: Snow Leopard was an incremental but not earth shattering improvement over Leopard, and similarly Mountain Lion will be an incremental improvement over Lion.

This pattern also appears in iPhone hardware models, iPhone 3G -> iPhone 3GS -> iPhone 4 -> iPhone 4S, each time either a major upgrade or an incremental improvement.

There is also a distant relationship to Intel’s Tick-Tock strategy, where a major new processor architecture release is followed by an incremental improvement of that architecture in the form of a die shrink.

Stay tuned for more!

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