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OS X Mountain Lion: what you need to know

Apple has today released details of its next-gen OS. Dubbed Mountain Lion, it’s the follow-up to OS X 10.7 Lion and prior to that Snow Leopard and Leopard.

As such it’s full name will be OS X 10.8 Mountain Lion.

Let’s make one thing clear – this is not a meghat’s striking about Mountain Lion is how much further towards iOS Apple is taking its desktop OS – Mac purists will be rightly concerned that Apple seems to be moving its operating systems together to a point where they will converge, but for the rest of us a unified OS is a tantalising prospect.

“The Mac is on a roll, growing faster than the PC for 23 straight quarters, and with Mountain Lion things get even better,”

Said Philip Schiller, Apple’s senior vice president of worldwide marketing in a statement.

“The developer preview of Mountain Lion comes just seven months after the incredibly successful release of Lion and sets a rapid pace of development for the world’s most advanced personal computer operating system.”

OS X 10.8 Mountain Lion: release date

Mountain Lion has been released to developers today and should be available for consumers this summer – expect a further announcement at Apple’s Worldwide Developer Conference (WWDC) in early June.

Apple says theMac OS X 10.8 Mountain Lion release date is late Summer 2012. As with Lion, Mountain Lion will be available as a download from the Mac App Store.

OS X 10.8 Mountain Lion: iOS integration

The new OS incorporates a number of features right from iOS – we had some in Lion of course, but Mountain Lion includes reminders, notifications and Twitter integration as well as Messages, Notes and Game Center.

Reminders and Notes help you create and track your to-dos across all your Apple devices.
These all sync to iCloud, as does your gaming record in Game Center.

OS X 10.8 Mountain Lion: iOS terminology

One of the most striking things about the new OS is how Apple is renaming everything on its desktop OS to fall in line with iOS. So iCal is now called Calendar, while Addresss Book has become contacts, for example.

OS X 10.8 Mountain Lion: iCloud integration

Apple says Mountain Lion is the first OS X release built with iCloud in mind for easy setup and integration with apps. Whatever that means.

Well actually what it means is that Mountain Lion will use your Apple ID to automatically set up Contacts, Mail, Calendar, Messages, FaceTime and Find My Mac.

And iCloud will also sync Documents across your devices – any changes are pushed across all your Apple kit so documents are always up to date. Apple has also announced a new API to help developers make document-based apps work with iCloud.

OS X 10.8 Mountain Lion: iMessage

There’s also a Messages app that takes the place of iChat, allowing you to continue conversations started on Mac on any iOS device. iMessages will work much as they do on iPad. Again, messaging is unlimited between Macs and iOS devices.

This includes high-quality photos and videos, while the Messages app will continue to support AIM, Jabber, Yahoo! Messenger and Google Talk. The continued support for the later is especially pleasing.

What’s more, any Mac OS X Lion user can get hold of a beta of Messages from apple.com. The final version will be available with Mountain Lion.

OS X 10.8 Mountain Lion: Notifications

Mountain Lion also nicks notifications from iOS. Again there’s a Notification Center that provides easy access to alerts from Mail, Calendar, Messages, Reminders, system updates and third party apps.

A new feature, called Share Sheets, are supposed to make it easy to share links, photos and videos directly from Apple and third party apps. Sounds like a clipboard to us.

OS X 10.8 Mountain Lion: Twitter integration

Twitter is integrated throughout Mountain Lion so you can sign on once and tweet directly from all your apps including Safari, Quick Look, Photo Booth, Preview and third party apps.

OS X 10.8 Mountain Lion: AirPlay mirroring

Following on from other attempts at computer-based wireless displays, such as Intel’s WiDi, Mountain Lion introduces AirPlay Mirroring. You’ll be able to mirror your computer screen on a TV wirelessly, though you’ll need an Apple TV to connect through. There’s 720p HD support (although other systems do support 1080p, Apple TV doesn’t) and supposedly amazing realtime response rates for gamers using the mirroring app.

OS X 10.8 Mountain Lion: Gatekeeper

Think there’s no need for security software on a Mac? Think again. Apple has introduced a new security feature called Gatekeeper that allows for personalised security settings, working as a kind of safety net for less confident users by offering a setting that allows the Mac to accept only software downloaded from the Mac App Store.

OS X 10.8 Mountain Lion for developers

Apple says it has created hundreds of new APIs for OS X 10.8. As well as that iCloud Documents API we talked about earlier, the Game Kit APIs tap into the same services as Game Center on iOS, making it possible to create multiplayer games that work across Mac, iPhone, iPad and iPod touch.

There’s a new graphics infrastructure underpins OpenGL and OpenCL and implements GLKit from iOS 5, to make it easier to create OpenGL apps.

What more is there? “Using Core Animation in Cocoa apps is easier than ever, and new video APIs deliver modern 64-bit replacements for low-level QuickTime APIs. Enhanced Multi-Touch APIs give developers double-tap zoom support and access to the system-wide lookup gesture. Kernel ASLR improves security through enhanced mitigation against buffer overflow attacks,” says Apple.

OS X 10.8 Mountain Lion for Chinese users

China is now a massive market for Apple. And as such Mountain Lion introduces new support for Chinese users, “including significant enhancements to the Chinese input method and the option to select Baidu search in Safari.”

Apple has also announced easy account setup for some of China’s biggest email service providers including QQ, 126 and 163.

Chinese users can also upload video via Share Sheets directly to video websites Youku and Tudou, and while we like Twitter, there’s system-wide support for Sina weibo.

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