My thoughts – Apple announce OS X Mountain Lion 10.8

It was only in July last year that OS X Lion was released, today Apple announced a sneak peek at OS X Mountain Lion, 10.8 the next release of OS X.

The first thing that strikes you is the iOSification of OS X. In Mountain Lion you will find Messages, Reminders, Notes, Notifications, Share Sheets, Twitter integration, Game Centre and AirPlay Mirroring. Looking at the new features you may have mistaken that you were looking at iOS rather than OS X. The Sneak Peek page does say “Inspired by iPad. Re-imagined for Mac.

I do think some of the features in OS X Mountain Lion are much needed if you have and reply on an iOS infrastructure. If your friends and colleagues have iPads and iPhones and you have a Mac, you will have wanted some iOS features on your Mac. With Mountain Lion it looks like we’ll be getting them.

Mountain Lion is all about communication and sharing, it’s about connecting with friends and colleagues and sharing images and content. It’s about making the Mac more like the iPad and the iPhone and merging the experience. The back end means you can still run regular apps you do now, but the essence of the operating system will be familar to those people currently using the iPad.

If you think about it, that does make sense for Apple. Most people using the iPhone are Windows users, the same can be said for most iPad users. In order for them to move to the Mac, they are going to want to have a similar experience and feel moving from iOS to OS X. I know many people who are very happy with the iPhone and the iPad, but either don’t feel comfortable with OS X or are wary of moving to what they view as an alien and very different operating system. You can imagine how these iPhone and iPad users would feel if the Mac they saw in the Apple Store looked and worked like the iOS device in their hand.

This is emphasised in the sneak peek video which emphasises how similar OS X Mountain Lion experiences are to the experiences on the iPhone and the iPad.

From a marketing perspective if you want to convert iPad and iPhone users to Mac then making OS X to be similar to iOS is the way to do it.

So what about these new features for Mountain Lion?

Even though there are other messaging tools out there, such as Skype, the fact that Messages will allow communication with iOS devices has to be a plus, as it is built into the mobile operating system. The problem with Skype is that it requires you to open the Skype app and as that can “drain battery” I guess most people don’t have Skype on as a default and I suspect that the same can be said for other messaging apps. Messages on iOS integrates well with SMS so if you are use to SMS you will feel right at home with Messages. I also like the idea of sending images and video straight from my Mac, I can see it replacing e-mail for a lot of communication.

One of the reasons I’ve not used Reminders on the iPad or the iPhone was the lack of integration with OS X, so I am pleased to see that there may be a simple, yet useful, to do list app that works across all my devices.
For similar reasons I don’t use Notes on the iPad or iPhone either. Somehow I don’t think I will swap, as Evernote has much more flexibility than the Notes app, I like how I can add audio and image notes. For many people though the Notes app will be just what they needed.

I do like the idea of Share Sheets, it is one feature of using iOS that I repeatedly miss in OS X and falling back on copy and paste isn’t that bad I know, but once you get use to that “share” button in iOS you do miss it in OS X. In case you don’t know what Share Sheets means, it’s a simple button that allows you to quickly share links, content, images and stuff to places like Twitter, e-mail or Messages.

What the sneak peek does show is how Apple are betting on Twitter over Facebook. You see Twitter integration mentioned all over the place, but not a mention of Facebook. That issue with Ping and Facebook must still be a real issue!

I use AirPlay a fair bit from my iPad, earlier I wrote about how useful I found it with my Apple TV.

Adding this feature to OS X Mountain Lion will certainly be useful to me, especially with web based video that isn’t available on the iPad. Of course there is an assumption that Flash will be available for OS X Mountain Lion and that isn’t a given. I can quite easily imagine Adobe deciding not to make a version of Flash for Mountain Lion.

My over riding impression of Mountain Lion, combined with my experiences of using Lion on a MacBook is that we are seeing the end of the mouse more than anything. The use of the laptop trackpad and the Magic Trackpad in the Mountain Lion video demonstrates that Apple see the future of the human interaction with a Mac through gestures and a trackpad and not a mouse.

We of course haven’t seen any sign in the sneak peek of Siri for Mountain Lion, and I guess that either may arrive later or this is something that isn’t going to happen and I can’t see that happening; much more likely it will appear in the final release in the summer.

So will you be upgrading? My iMac is still running Snow Leopard due to legacy apps, somehow I don’t see me changing my OS just yet… on the laptop, more than likely as it already has Lion.

Overall what we are going to get with Mountain Lion is an iOSification of the Mac operating system, the upgrade is much more about new apps and a few subtle changes, rather than fundamental changes to the operating system.

Roaring and Trackpadding

Having now used Lion OS X much more I am still getting use to the gesture interface through the Trackpad.

I did try “natural” scrolling for a while, but in the end, and I am sure partly because I still use Snow Leopard on a regular basis, I had to turn it off.

If you are wondering what “natural” scrolling is, well Apple decided that in OS X we had to use the same scrolling technique that was used on the iPad. On the iPad you generally “pull” the page up and “push” it down, so if you move your finger up the page the document scrolls down, and if you move your finger down the page the document scrolls up. This is completely the opposite to how the trackpage on existing Snow Leopard Macs work, likewise if you have a scroll wheel on your Mac. Then if you push up, you expect the page to go up and if you pull down you expect the page to go down.

So though “natural” scrolling feels somewhat natural on the iPad, I don’t like it that much on a trackpad on a Mac. I am sure if all my Macs (home and work) were Lion then I probably would go with “natural” scrolling however as my main Mac at home and the one at work are still Snow Leopard I am sticking with “unnatural” scrolling!

The use of three finger gestures to move around the desktop and applications is something that I feel should be smooth and effortless, however as not all the applications are use are full screen capable I have found it to be less than satisfactory when moving from a full screen application such as Safari to Chrome, or from Pages to Twitter. I am finding it confusing for example when I have two instances of Safari running in full screen mode. This can happen if I open a link in a new window rather than a new tab. Still haven’t also got the hang of Mission Control in finding what I have open, I think I actually prefer the chaos of the older Expose when every window was displayed… Though I do quite like how the three finger gesture upwards brings up Mission Control. Must remember to use that more often!

The four finger gestures for opening Launchpad take a little getting use to and if you have a small trackpad (and big fingers) you have to carefully do the gesture otherwise I have found it doesn’t work for me.

So far I am not that impressed or that contented with the gesture interface and the trackpad. Likewise the Lion additions of Launchpad and Mission Control are still taking some getting use to.

Installed the Lion

I have now installed Mac OS X Lion on the kid’s computer. Well it’s a good test machine and it it goes all wrong, I can just format and reinstall Snow Leopard. It’s an older Core 2 Duo iMac so not state of the art, but still does a great job as a home computer.

The install process was quick and easy and the Mac seems to work just fine.

There are quite a few old apps on there and some now no longer work as they were for my old PowerPC Mac and relied on Rosetta, which isn’t part of Lion and doesn’t work on Lion.

No real problem as I don’t use those apps myself, but something to be aware of if you do use older apps. To find which Rosetta apps are on your system, use System Profiler.

System Profiler > Software > Applications

Select by Kind and look for PowerPC.

These apps won’t work in Lion, do you will either need to find alternative apps or not upgrade!

Though there are some fundamental differences between Snow Leopard and Lion, you can “ignore” much of the changes and have a system that feels and looks more like Snow Leopard than the iOSation of many of the features of Lion.

Having said that I quite like Launchpad and certainly much easier to use than the Applications folder in Finder.

Still not 100% sure if I will install Lion on my main production iMac as I do have a couple of key PowerPC apps that I still use and there aren’t currently Universal or Intel alternatives. Also still have a few concerns about Adobe. What I will do though is install it on an external drive connected to my iMac and by using that on a regular basis I will have a much better idea if I like it or not.

1 million downloads

Apple have announced that there have been over one million downloads of the Lion OS X operating system from the Mac App Store.

That’s a lot of data at 3.49GB per download and £21m worth of revenue to Apple. Though with £47bn cash reserves that is mere pocket change for Apple, but not bad for one day methinks.

I haven’t downloaded it yet, but concerns about my Adobe software is making me hesitant about installing it on my main iMac. Adobe have published a list of known issues with Lion 10.7 and Adobe products. Previous experience with Adobe tells me they rarely update their current software, but release a completely new version that is compatible with the new operation system…

I will probably install it on an external drive and possibly on the kids’ computer and try it on there first.

So have you downloaded and installed it? What do you think? Is it a worthwhile upgrade?

Roar!

The Lion is here!

Apple’s latest version of its operating system, Lion 10.7 has arrived. Unlike previous versions that you needed a DVD for, this version is only available via the Mac App Store and costs £20.99. The server version is £34.99.

OS X Lion is the next major release of OS X, the world’s most advanced desktop operating system. It includes over 250 new features that will transform how you interact with your Mac.  Tap, swipe, and scroll your way through your apps using fluid Multi-Touch gestures that make everything you do feel more natural and direct. Full-screen apps take advantage of every pixel of your display — perfect for reading email, surfing the web, or browsing photos. Launchpad gives you instant access to all the apps on your Mac in a stunning new layout where you can quickly find any app and open it with a single click. And Mission Control brings together Exposé, full-screen apps, Dashboard, and Spaces in one unified experience. With a gesture, your desktop zooms out, displaying a bird’s-eye view of everything running on your Mac and making it easy to navigate anywhere with a click.

I won’t be installing it straight away and will wait to see what happens with everyone else first. I will also probably first install it on an external drive before installing it on my “production” iMac.

It’s one big download 3.49GB and even if you have broadband, on a typical connection this is going to take hours to download. For those on rural broadband or 3G connections I have no idea how they are going to download it! Thankfully I have my BT Infinity fibre connection so it shouldn’t take me too long to do.

There is one advantage to downloading it through the Mac App Store and that means you can install it on all your Macs (legally).

Update: You can only download it and install on as many Macs you own or control if it is for personal use only (so not for commercial or educational use).

The screenshot was taken from the OS X Lion 10.6 License Agreement as linked to in the Mac App Store on the right hand side of the Lion App page.

Though in theory it does mean you need to download it each time for each Mac! I am sure there will be some workarounds soon.

This version of OS X combines the traditional elements of the desktop operating system with some of the features you will find on the iPad and the iPhone.

The use of gestures is much more useful in the OS, but I am sure will take a lot of training and getting use to.

I still smile when I see Apple talk about full screen apps, this is something that has been in Windows for ages. Often when people I know used Windows for the first time they would ask me how to make an application full screen, I said that it “wasn’t possible” and that the maximise window feature was there to put the application window at the ideal size for working with. So with Lion we now have full screen apps.

I have been using iPhoto full screen on Snow Leopard, however most of the time I have found I hadn’t needed to click the “full screen” button and have worked with it the same way I always have.

Apple have said that most of the refinements in Lion are behind the scenes, they have improved the way the operating system works rather than lots of new features, which in some ways is a good thing, but I am guessing provides less of an incentive to people to install it, if they can’t see what it brings to their Mac.

So if you have downloaded and installed Lion, what do you think? It is an incremental change with little new, or is it making a radical difference to the way that you work on your Mac?