Apple’s OS X Mountain Lion is perfectly matched to not just Apple’s hardware but also with a new kind of Internet-centric usage behavior. It is the marriage of form and function. But most importantly, it’s a tip of the hat to the iPhone and iPad.


People often talk about the timeless design of Porsche’s cars: on paper they might not have deviated too much from the original idea, but in reality they have added more oomph, more features, and newer technologies into the car. I suppose one could say the same about Apple’s OS X operating system. I first started using OS X on the first Titanium machine released in September 2000. Sometimes the subsequent upgrades would leave my laptops wheezing, and other times they would make them zesty. But for nearly a decade, Apple has made OS X better and better.

The most recent version, Mountain Lion, went on sale today for $20 a copy and it is a welcome relief for those of us who have been stuck using OS X Lion. Mountain Lion’s predecessor was caught between the past (desktop) and the future (mobile) and as result it was cluttered and had a dazzling array of confounding choices. It was a cacophony of ideas and design. Those choices were in stark contrast to the simplicity of iOS and the subtle improvements Apple made on its mobile devices.

Today, I can safely say that the new OS is perfectly matched with not just the hardware, but also with a new kind of Internet-centric usage behavior. It is the marriage of form and function.

Early this year, I postulated that we were seeing the slow rise of the SoMoClo OS:

But the new Mountain Lion OS X is a step in the right direction for what the operating system (OS) for the Internet Age should be. Up until a few years ago, the Internet was a feature on our desktops, accessed through the browser and used for finding information. Along came broadband, and we all suddenly realized the Internet could be used for a lot more than just looking up facts and figures.

Mountain Lion acknowledges that and also tips its hat to the importance of touch and mobile into our post-iPhone computing life.  After Lion, what I really wanted from the new OS upgrade was stability, nimbleness, better integration with the cloud and, most importantly, the ability to use iOS-inspired gestures and ideas that are now deeply ingrained into my psyche. I wanted less confusion and a more streamlined experience. I wanted an OS that was less in the past and more leaning to the future. What I didn’t want: an OS that is struggling to come up with an identity. I wanted an OS that made touch work for me  — on a desktop.

Why? Well thanks to iPhone and the iPad, touch has become the primary way I interact with information. Facebook and Twitter have made me want a constant stream of updates — much like notifications on the iPad. It is the only way I can deal with the inflow of data into my hyper-connected life. I want to be able to share from anywhere just like I do on an iPad and the iPhone. And on all those fronts, Apple has delivered with Mountain Lion.

Cool like the iPhone

There are notifications. A full notification bar can be opened up and accessed by simply clicking on the notification icon that is at the top right corner of the screen. There is Twitter integration, and Facebook integration will follow soon. Tweet a photo or upload it to Facebook, without having to leave the application you are using. Bring up the notification bar and send out a tweet. Share links and documents from pretty much anywhere in the OS: browser, folders, iPhoto. Safari tabs will sync across Mountain Lion and iOS 6-based devices and you can swipe between tabs using the Tab View.

Just like the iPad, you can now use the dictation feature and start turning voice-to-text on in any application, including those belonging to Microsoft’s Office suite. Like Google’s Chrome, there is a Smart Search field, which is used for entering web addresses and finding information on Google.

Game Center on the desktop now shows results and updates from all your mobile devices. There is AirPlay, which allows you to project the desktop to the big screen connected to your Apple TV.  I like that I can take notes on an app that is like the Notes app on the iPad, and there is almost instant syncing.

My favorite features

Two of my favorite new features: Messages and PowerNap. Messages is a replacement for iChat, and it allows you to send and receive messages from anyone who has one of the iDevices or a Mac. I don’t quite like the way it looks — but I suppose utility trumps looks here. You can drop photos and share them as long as they are not bigger than 100MB in size.  It is dead simple to create group chats much like you send email to multiple recipients. You can send messages to email addresses associated with a friend’s iCloud ID or to their phone number.

And there is PowerNap, a feature that updates your Mac — software updates, emails and calendar invites — silently. You don’t need to turn on the fan or the lights of your machine for it to work. It works primarily on the more recent Macbook Air and the Retina display version of MacBook Pro.

Powered by iCloud

One of the key aspects of this release is iCloud, Apple’s version of Google Drive. Except there isn’t a single iCloud folder that you can open and go searching for files. Instead, it is in everything. If you compose a document using TextEdit and it is saved directly in iCloud and is available on any of your devices. Apple’s iWork apps take particular advantage of the iCloud: I have created documents and presentations on my desktop and continued working on them on my iPad and vice versa.

The syncing is near instantaneous, though it just might be my broadband connection. You can drag and drop a file onto another and create a folder — much like one creates app folders on the iPhone. It would be cool to see more app developers using iCloud API and make it part of their app experience. Information Architects’ Writer is a near-perfect, cross-device app that uses iCloud (and Dropbox) to its advantage.

In case you have not figured it out, I am clearly in favor of this upgrade. It costs $20 and is well worth it. Most importantly if you have more than one Mac tied to your iCloud identity, well you can upgrade any number of Macs. It hides all the blemishes of Lion and instead it offers up an experience that is contemporary. Mountain Lion is the desktop OS of the moment.

PS: If you get a chance, share your experience with me and rest of us.

Related Mountain Lion OS X stories on GigaOM:

  1. Funny how all these people who insisted mobile is a vastly different experience from desktop to justify developing unique, new mobile experiences now for some reason think that it’s great that desktop should more closely emulate mobile.

    1. Karl

      I think the mobile behaviors are making it necessary for the desktop OS and the classic computing experience to be redefined.

    2. The problem with your thesis is that these aren’t “mobile” behaviors. For example, the increasing numbers of multi-touch trackpad gestures leverage the iOS experience in a way that doesn’t involve touching the screen.

      In many ways, this is just the user breaking out of the browser mindset to discover that all of his or her apps are, to a greater or lesser extent, hyper-specialized browsers.

      I fully expect the trackpad surface to grow in size to accommodate ten fingers worth of multi-touch interaction.

      1. I respectfully disagree! I didn’t have all these behavior until recently when I actually started using iPad for most of my on the go computing. Today, notifications seem like a better way to interact with inflow of information and I was trained by iPhone and iPad. I think it is hard to go specific but I would argue that mobile devices have redefined our interaction expectation with machines.

  2. WARNING: Apple’s new “Mountain Lion” OS is infected with a serious virus.

    – Allows others to access the computer
    – Drops more malware
    – Downloads code from the internet
    – Reduces system security
    – Dropped by malware
    – Leaves files on computer
    – Enables remote access

    More info: http://www.sophos.com/en-us/threat-center/threat-analyses/viruses-and-spyware/OSX~Morcut-A.aspx

    Apple is institutionally complacent about security. They famously never even attend the regular Black Hat security conference which everyone else in the industry supports. Apple customers are therefore advised to exercise special caution to ensure that Apple’s negligence doesn’t leave them with a serious problem.

    1. HammerOfTruth Wednesday, July 25, 2012

      Bullsh@t. This isn’t a virus, it’s a Trojan that is not found in the wild, meaning that they acquired it somewhere. It is not known whether this Trojan can affect Mountain Lion since they don’t it to test it on. It works thru using the flash updater and uses java.

      Do some f@cking research before posting BS.

      1. Thanks for dropping the Hammer (of Truth.)

    2. JustDl Betty Friday, July 27, 2012

      It is NOT that is a lie. Research it before spreading stories please and report the appropriate information.

  3. Om, if you talk to Apple PR can you ask whether they’re going to distribute Mountain Lion on a USB Thumb Drive as they did (rather obscurely) with Lion? It was way easier for those of us with multiple Macs.

    1. No they won’t and you can simply download it from the Mac store and it will download on your Mac. I think Arstechnica has a nice technique/hack for you to put it on a thumbdrive

    2. JustDl Betty Friday, July 27, 2012

      You can download it from the MacApp store on multiple PC’s and there is a way to put it on a thumbdrive

  4. Installed Mountain Lion, took 1 hour no problems, as usual Apple moves forward. everything works very well and looks extremely good.

  5. I’m disappointed. My late 2007 Mac hardware qualifies for Mountain Lion. But it doesn’t qualify for Airplay mirroring? What’s up with that? Airplay mirroring was the reason I wanted Mountain Lion. NOT buying it now.

    1. Sorry to hear that. I am so glad I upgraded. It has made me forget the Lion nightmare.

      1. The upgrade cycle and the hype. I love apple products. But your article seems too fan boyish.

    2. Shameer Mulji Wednesday, July 25, 2012

      It has to do with the fact that the GPU in your 2007 Mac does not support Airplay Mirroring. Many features in Mountain Lion are GPU dependent.

  6. This is all mostly fluff. How does the OS perform in general compared to Lion and Snow Leopard for everyday things? Show some performance benchmarks. I downgraded back to Snow Leopard for performance reasons on my mid 2009 Macbook Pro. Lion was just too sluggish in comparison. Has that been remedied in ML? I don’t want to waste $20 (granted, cheap compared to Windows upgrades) and end up going through the grief of downgrading again if it is too slow on my hardware.

    1. It performs better than both Lion and Snow Leopard. It was pretty clear that I was dissatisfied by the Lion and this is a remarkable improvement.

  7. Vibhor Chhabra Wednesday, July 25, 2012

    I completely agree with your thoughts regarding moving OS X forward in the post iOS era. I wrote similar thoughts though not as well expressed as you :) http://www.vibhorchhabra.com/post/27970215360/how-innovative-is-apples-next-operating-system

  8. I’m having a GREAT experience with Mountain Lion. The spinning pinwheel of doom has disappeared for all my applications except for the Mac App Store. Documents in the cloud has made it dead simple to work on whatever device is closest.

    1. Amen. My year-and-a-half old MacBook Air 11 is flying and most importantly it has the feeling of a brand new machine

      1. I’m stuck waaaaay back in the 2000’s with a version of Tiger. I heard that I would have to download leopard first to even get the app store? Is that right?

  9. I’m still impressed by the fact that you have free dictation software built into an operating system.

    Even now, Dragon Dictate for Mac costs $200. Yes DDfM is more fully featured, but its worth noting that you get essentially 80% of the capability for $20 (or less if you’re doing the upgrade for other reasons).

    1. It is fairly solid dictation software. I love using it and have been using to write Notes to myself

  10. Am I the only one that has trouble sharing posts on g+? Om, the hover function isn’t working. The pop up disappears. (using Chrome on ML). Just tried in on Safari also.

    1. clarification: I’m not talking about ML in general, I’m having trouble sharing posts from this blog.


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