Just the other day, Apple announced the major features coming up in their new operating system release, Mac OS X Mountain Lion. Before going into details on Mountain Lion, it’s worth remembering here that less than a year ago, Apple released Lion, which included a host of features that it borrowed from the iPad, including Popovers, the option to use “natural” scrolling the way you do on the iPad, iOS-style invisible scroll bars, iCloud support, full-screen applications, and even some great new enhancements for developers using Objective-C.
So what is Apple planning to do with Mac OS X Mountain Lion? According to the information I can find publicly, here are some of the highlights:
- Game Center – Apple’s game service that provides everything from matchmaking to leader boards, achievements, and even in-game multiplayer voice chat is coming to the Mac. This also means that developers writing games for the Mac will be able to participate in all that amazing goodness that iOS developers have been enjoying since iOS 4.1.
- iCloud – I don’t really know all the details here only that iCloud is even more integrated into the OS now and I’m assuming the developer experience around iCloud is getting better. I’m actually hoping that experience gets better because writing iCloud code on Lion is a pain in the ass.
- Sharing – More iOS goodness comes to the Mac with sharing “sheets”. Every application on Mountain Lion now gets a little sharing icon that uses sharing services, allowing you to share whatever you’re looking at in the application with your buddies via e-mail or whatever other services are registered on the Mac, including Twitter. I would imagine that it wouldn’t take much work, assuming the sharing APIs are good, to add other sharing targets like Facebook, Dropbox, LinkedIn, etc to your Mac – turning it into just as much of a social hub as your phone.
- Twitter – Twitter is a first-class citizen on the Mac just like it became first-class on iOS 5. This means that Mountain Lion users can tweet from pretty much anywhere and using the “sharing” services, they can share pretty much whatever they’re working on in any application (that supports it) via Twitter. Not only is twitter a first-class citizen, but applications can send Tweets on behalf of their users without any extra work. Twitter appears to be accessible in API form to developers without them having to figure out which of the 10 open-source Objective-C twitter libraries they want to shoehorn into their app. This is fantastic news for developers and I hope we get similar integration possibilities with Facebook, Dropbox, etc via Sharing “sheet” APIs.
- Notifications – In what looks to be very similar to the notification center on iOS 5, Apple now has a unified display of messages that are pertinent to the user, including IMs, iMessages (also now a fully integrated part of Mountain Lion), and application-level notifications. In classic Apple style, they are aiming to push popular 3rd parties out of this market with their 1st party offering. Applications like Growl may find it hard to compete with the unified interface, but time will tell how the 1st-vs-3rd party battles are settled.
- Gatekeeper – Again I don’t know all the details, but this feature aims to make your application more secure and, more importantly, provides developers with a secure way of distributing verified, signed applications outside the app store. For most developers, the App Store is absolutely the best way to go. But for some applications, it makes no sense to put in the app store and many people don’t need Apple’s distribution channel and so aren’t comfortable sharing 30% of their profit with the company. Gatekeeper and Developer IDs and signing give developers a way of distributing applications that users can feel comfortable downloading, installing, and using.
- 64-Bit – You simply cannot run Mountain Lion on a 32-bit machine. The kernel is 64-bit and an entire host of 32-bit “wrappers” are missing in Mountain Lion, further drawing a line in the sand against 32-bit apps. If only some other software giant whose name starts with M that makes an operating system would also draw a similar line. In words from one of my favorite movies of all time (Zombieland), “It’s time to nut up or shut up.”
- SSO – In order to support seamless sharing and such, there appears to be some kind of single sign-on facility in OS X much like Windows has been allowing you to link your “LiveID” to your user account for quite some time … only with the Twitter integration I would imagine Apple’s SSO allows for more than just Apple ID storage.
All in all Mountain Lion is looking pretty promising. Again, there’s absolutely nothing groundbreaking in here, but starting with Lion and continuing with Mountain Lion, it appears that Mac developers are finally getting access to the same amount of lovin’ that the iOS developers have been enjoying since iOS 4.