Apple unveiled a developer preview of its upcoming “OS X Mountain Lion” on Thursday morning, the latest of the company’s operating systems to be confusingly named after a cat. As with previous releases, Mountain Lion will offer the Mac faithful and fresh converts a host of new features once it launches to the general public in late summer.
This time around, the source of Apple’s inspiration is clear: the iPhone. Apple OS X Mountain Lion borrows the following features from the iPhone and Apple’s other, more recent iOS devices, the iPad and iPod Touch — another sign that the app’s influence is being felt in other areas of technology:
AirPlay is one of the best features of iOS, where music fans are concerned, and now it’s coming to the Mac. Finally, you won’t have to buy the AirFoil software that some say degrades audio quality in order to stream music from your Mac throughout your home using Airport Express, Apple TV, or AirPlay-enabled home stereo equipment. Apple is bundling AirPlay directly into its new operating system, the same way it’s a part of iOS, so you can zap your tunes and movies around the house with ease.
Just like iOS, Mountain Lion is integrated with Twitter on a deep level, so developers can build in the ability to let you tweet stuff from right within apps. (Facebook might start wishing its talks with Apple hadn’t faltered, or it might appear there too.)
You know how Apple can dictate what software you can install on your iOS device by curating the apps in the iTunes app store? Now it can do the same thing on your Mac. You can tweak settings to allow software from anywhere, if you like to be the one in charge of what runs on your machine — or you can “use the safer default setting to install apps from the Mac App Store, along with apps from developers that have a unique Developer ID from Apple.” Yes — the new Mac defaults to installing only Apple-approved software, just like the iPhone. Or, for “maximum security,” you can tell your Mac only to install software from the Mac App Store, the same way non-jailbroken iOS devices can only install software from iTunes.
Apple recently rolled out a text messaging protocol for iOS called iMessage, which takes over for your iPhone’s regular text-messaging feature when it notices the person you’re texting also has an iPhone. That feature is coming to Mac too, replacing the venerable iChat software. Apple pledges that, like iChat, “Messages will continue to support AIM, Jabber, Yahoo! Messenger and Google Talk” — but when you message another Mac or iOS device, you’re in Apple’s world.
Apple’s game-progess-tracking and gaming social network Game Center migrates from iOS to the Mac too. Game Center tracks of what you’re playing, and with whom, if you use it to sign in to a game. This is good news for Mac users who play casual games on iOS, because now it extends to desktops and laptops.
ICloud is already integrated with OS X to an extent, but Mountain Lion meshes with it on a deeper level. For example, when you make changes to an iCloud document on your desktop, it gets reflected in the cloud automatically, while your Contacts, Mail, Calendar, Messages, FaceTime, and Find My Mac information live in iCloud too.
Anyone with an iPhone knows it can pop-up reminders from any app that has “notifications” enabled. Mountain Lion’s new Notification Center works exactly the same way, so that you can create Notes and Reminders that appear on all of your Apple devices, from iOS to OS X.
In summary, Apple might be said to have had a design influence over its desktops and laptops — general computing devices to which we’ve become accustomed, and which grant the user more or less total control over what they can do, for better or for worse. But Apple has far greater control over its iOS devices, and is extending that control to its computers — again, for better or for worse.
For consumers, it’s an increasingly-familiar trade-off between convenience and control. Mountain Lion will certainly make your life better if all of your computers and devices come from Apple. Whether you find that comforting or frightening is your call.
(Also, because I just can’t resist… I told you so.)