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.