Apple surprised everyone by announcing the launch date of their new operating system, Mountain Lion, during their earnings call yesterday. Even more surprising was that the launch date was today, July 24. Most Apple fans have probably already downloaded Mountain Lion and are already playing around with it to find its secrets. For those who still haven't upgraded, here's what you're missing.
First and foremost, Mountain Lion is Apple's next step in combining iOS with Mac OS X. That doesn't mean that Mountain Lion is like the experience you get on your iPhone, but a lot of the features popularized in iOS are now present in Mac OS X. That's undeniably a good thing as iOS is arguably the best thing Apple has going for them right now.
So what's new in Mountain Lion that's worth getting excited about? The answer is pretty much everything. I realize that blanket statements serve no one, but it's true in the case of Mountain Lion. Apple has gone back and pretty much fixed all the major complaints people had with Lion while adding a host of new features that you never knew you wanted.
One of the biggest new features for Mountain Lion is the addition of dictation. A little known feature of iOS is now on Mac OS X and it's pretty handy. OS X typing what you speak is not only cool, but it's incredibly useful in certain situations. There are third-party applications that offer the same thing like Dragon, but Mac OS X has it built in. That's a pretty incredible value for such a feature. Dictation also supports four languages which hopefully means that Siri on Mac OS X is not too far behind.
iOS 6 is bringing Facebook integration to the platform in a big way. A small preview of that integration is available in Mountain Lion. The biggest is most definitely single sign-on. With this, you can sign in to Facebook once and all Facebook compatible apps on your Mac are ready to go. It also sets up the Notification Center to work with Facebook so you can post to the social network without having to sign in. That also means Facebook notifications will be sent straight to your desktop.
To prove that Apple is getting serious about gaming, they have added Game Center from iOS to Mac OS X. Gamers can set up matches with each other across the numerous games built for iOS and Mac OS X. Yes, you heard that right, cross platform play between Mac OS X and iOS is now a thing. It's going to take Microsoft another few months before their first title that's playable across both Windows 8, Xbox 360 and Windows Phone comes out.
Another feature making the leap from iOS to Mac OS X is iMessage. Now you'll be able to send messages not only to those on iOS devices, but Macs running Mountain Lion as well. Mac users will also be able to message people using only their phone number. Another great feature is that users will be able to send large attachments over iMessage - up to 100MB in size to be precise.
You already know that the Notification Center is the place to be for Facebook crazed individuals. Mac OS X also makes the Notification Center the place for Twitter fans as well. You'll be able to send and receive Tweets right from the desktop without having to open a separate app or Web page.
Power Nap also gets beefed up with the addition of push notifications while the computer's asleep. That means that you won't have to sync your mail box or Tweets when the computer is turned on again. They'll be available right when the Mac is turned on again. It will also download software updates to Mac OS X while the computer is asleep.
The new Safari for Mountain Lion has a number of new features as well including a Smart search field. In reality, it's just Safari playing catch up to Chrome. In other good news, Safari also supports the "Do Not Track" mode for better privacy.
These features are just the tip of the proverbial iceberg. Mountain Lion has over 200 new features just waiting for you to try out. For the full list, check out Apple's site for Mountain Lion. If you find yourself wanting to upgrade, you can do so from the Mac App Store. It's only $19.99 and you can install it on all your Macs. That's the best deal you're going to find on an operating system anywhere.