Apple has announced Mac OS X 10.8, aka Mac OS X Mountain Lion today, or rather the developer preview of Mac OS X Mountain Lion, which is the ninth major release of Mac OS X (don’t forget Mac OS X 10.0! – I know we try to forget Mac OS X 10.0, but that was a long time ago). It brings in several features from its mobile iOS platform, including Messages (covered here), Notes, Reminders, Game Center, Notification Center, Share Sheets, Twitter integration and AirPlay mirroring. Mountain Lion also introduces Gatekeeper, which controls/helps secure your Mac. Gatekeeper provides “complete control over what apps are installed on your Mac“.
It’s being built with a focus on making iCloud integration easy to use and easy for developers to integrate with Mac OS X applications, allowing for easy access to your data between applications, as well as an online backup.
There is a lot going on with Mountain Lion, and I’ll be talking more about it as I take a look at the developer preview.
For now, I’m interested to see how well the iCloud integration is, and whether Mac genealogy software developers are able to better use it to provide an easy way to sync and share genealogy information between Mac OS X genealogy applications and genealogy apps on iOS devices. Apple is already doing things that benefits genealogists – easy backups with Time Capsule and iCloud, and pushing the idea of making your data available anywhere, without a lot of effort on your part. A lot of us have probably experienced the issue of losing data due to a computer crash in the past or just not being able to have easy access to our data/information away from our “main” computer or Mac.
I am interested in the AirPlay mirroring – you’ll be able to wirelessly send a 720p video stream to an HDTV using Apple TV. You can already do this with iOS 5 devices that support it, and it’s pretty neat from the perspective of a genealogist wanting to share genealogy information with a large number of people without having to deal with projects and display screens. Many peoples these days have HDTVs, and it’s not hard to think of a situation where it could come in handy.
I think this is going to be a bigger release and have a larger impact on computing and desktop OSes than some might think. Apple is really pushing the the idea of your data being available and being up-to-date on any Apple device you have, whether it’s an iMac, iPad, or iPhone. Right now I have this functionality through some iCloud/MobileMe features as well as Evernote. I don’t think I’ll be replacing Evernote with Apple’s Notes, but I’m not a typical user. Many will love the idea of writing a quick note to themselves on their iMac, and having it sync automatically with their Notes application on their iPhone.
It sounds like a cliché to say it, but Apple is trying to “liberate” your data, so to speak. There are endless debates on the internet over Apple having a “closed” ecosystem and other similar issues and whether that’s good or bad, and the argument that Steve Jobs made (and I agree with) is that Apple can provide for a better user experience because it does control its hardware and software. And because Apple controls the hardware and software on the desktop (iMac, MacBook Air, etc.), and on the mobile side (iPhone, iPad, iPod touch) if you purchase Apple products, it’s now in a position to make your data available to you, no matter where you are. It’s interesting that this is the first major Mac OS X release in the wake of Steve Jobs’ passing, and it definitely feels like something he was involved in.
To give you an example, if you take a picture on your iPhone, you’ll be able to easily make it available to your desktop Mac (iPhoto) through iCloud, and from there, easily available through apps that take advantage of iPhoto such as MacFamilyTree and Mountain Lion is trying to make it even easier. I really need to put together a proper example to illustrate this, because Mountain Lion is really trying to simplify the whole process and make it so that you don’t have to think about it.
Look at Windows, look at Google Android. This kind of access to such a large amount of data is not really possible on either of those platforms, at least not in an end-user friendly way, or in a unified way. I’ve been using Evernote for years, there’s flickr, there’s Skype, and there’s plenty of other cross-platform applications (and when I say cross-platform here, I’m talking about desktop and mobile, not necessarily different OSes). The trick is that Apple is trying to unify all of this, and to make it seamless.
If I had to sum it up, I’d say the important thing is that your data is going to be available wherever you want to use it, and that Apple doesn’t want you to think of your Mac and your iOS devices as separate devices.
The developer preview is available today if you are a Mac Developer Program member (MDP). It will be available to all Mac users through the Mac App Store in late summer of 2012.
If you’d like to learn a little bit more about Mountain Lion, check out Jim Dalrymple’s first look at LoopInsight.com.