OS X Mountain Lion: My Favorite New Features

Ben Bajarin / July 25th, 2012

Tim wrote earlier this week about his conviction that when it comes to post PC platforms Apple will keep OS X and iOS separate rather than merge the two as many expect. What Apple has done with OS X Mountain Lion proves that a desktop class OS can live in harmony with a pure mobile OS and provide a seamless experience across them all.

After using OS X Mountain Lion for a little while now, I have to say that the full experience of seamless integration between all my Macs and iOS devices is quite profound. The funny thing is upon hearing of OS X Mountain Lion’s new features I fully expected it would be, however, it was even more pleasant when I finally got to integrate it into my personal computing ecosystem.

Apple took advantage of their iCloud infrastructure, and tightly integrated it into this new OS release. Apple has continually emphasized a works better together philosophy with their products and iCloud has been a key puzzle piece in this philosophy. Apple executives have referred to iCloud as a strategy for the next decade, but it is most likely the strategy for much longer. iCloud is the glue that ties all of your Apple products together and never is that more clear than with OS X Mountain Lion.

In this analysts opinion, OS X Mountain Lion brings Apple customers one step closer to a seamless and more importantly continuous personal computing experience. Apple has been heading in this direction for a while with things like Photo Stream, iBooks, and others that let you instantly keep experiences in sync. But OS X Mountain Lion takes us even further with things like documents in the cloud, iCloud Tabs, Game Center, and more.

Continuous computing will be a key driver for Apple’s ecosystem going forward. As consumers realize that not only does all you key data, documents, personal settings and more stay synced in real time across all your Apple products but that you can switch from one device to another and feel like you can always pick up where you left off.

Let me know share my experience with a few features that I found particularly useful.

Safari and iCloud Tabs

The updated Safari for OS X Mountain Lion is easily one of my favorites. Primarily because I use Safari as a large part of my daily computing time. The new sharing feature is particularly handy and I used this quite a bit more than I thought. I like to share quite a bit of what I find on the Internet to Facebook and Twitter and being able to share right from Safari without having to jump to a different application or website was extremely useful.

But the biggest new feature that I truly appreciate is iCloud Tabs. I have a Mac and an iPad and I use them both in different ways. Within my personal work style I use them both in conjunction together as a solution rather than as separate products. Because of that I can’t tell you how many times a day I come across a website on the Mac and then want to read that website on my iPad or vice versa. A common use case where this happens is when I am using my Mac and looking up recipes. Once I find the recipe I want I used to have to email it to myself so I can then pick it up on my iPad, which is the tool I use in the kitchen quite often. Now with iCloud Tabs any open tabs in Safari, whether that is on the iPad, iPhone, or Mac is accessible to me. It seems small, but for me it is extremely useful and appreciated.

Notifications

To be honest I have wanted notifications on my Mac for quite a while longer than I wanted notifications for iOS. What is really nice is that you can customize which applications notify you and which ones don’t. For me the most important notifications are email and this one feature has served me greatly.

In my day to day I get well over 100 emails and somedays twice that much. I could literally sit all day and just answer email and it would keep me busy. Obviously because of that I have to prioritize. Pre Notifications in iOS, when I heard an email come in I would click on mail and see who its from then determine if I needed to respond immediately or later. This routine can be quite disrupting to ones work flow. Enter Notifications for email and now as I am working I quickly see who an email is from and without ever having to change applications and quickly read said e-mail, I can choose to respond or keep doing what I was doing.

Since I also text message with work colleagues, friends, and family, quite often having iMessage notify me of a new message was equally pleasant. This kept me from having to disrupt my work flow to check iMessage or my iPhone to see who it was from. Notifications is just one more way that Apple is extending features we know and love on iOS and bringing them to the desktop in a relevant way.

Air Play Mirroring

Air Play support on iOS and even in iTunes on the Mac has been one of those features that I use way more than I expected to. So it was no surprise to me that when Apple brought it to the OS X Mountain Lion that it was on the features I found most valuable. This is key for reasons in my professional life and my personal life.

In my professional life I give a lot of presentations and work collaboratively with teams of executives and product groups. More often than not in these meetings most of the content we are working off resides on my Mac. With Air Play Mirroring we don’t need to huddle around my computer or fiddle with chords and cables and projector issues with inputs or resolution scaling. Now we can simply broadcast the whole of OS X and all the content on it to the large screen or projector. Because of this one features I expect many more Apple TVs in conference rooms.

In my personal life, this is the feature I have been waiting for. Primarily because I watch a lot of video on my Mac. This happens to be because currently many sites I frequent still use Adobe’s flash player– especially the network TV sites. I stream a lot of TV shows from network sites or the web directly and many of them are still on Flash. Unfortunately many of these sites still hold prime TV content from their apps or Hulu + so it is hard to get access to all their content from the apps they release on iOS. Often times I would literally connect my Mac to my TV just so I could watch some shows on my TV. That is why this was one area where Air Play mirroring in OS X Mountain Lion came in for me big time.

I can honestly say that thanks to Apple TV and Air Play Mirroring my living room will never be the same.

Lastly I want to touch briefly on Game Center. This is a feature that I believe may be incredibly disruptive. Now that Game Center games and experiences are unified across all of Apple’s products, the Apple ecosystem has become a fully cross platform gaming environment. I was able to play games with my kids from my Mac while they were on their iPod touches or other iOS devices. Apple is a sleeper in the gaming category and I believe they will soon be a major player from a gaming platform standpoint. And add what I pointed out about Air Play and all of a sudden Apple has a game platform for the big screen as well.

The overall key takeaway for me is what I said a while back in a column about Apple’s promise to their customers. Which is that when you invest in the Apple ecosystem, Apple promises to keep making your experiences better.

And they did just that with their latest release of OS X Mountain Lion.

Ben Bajarin

Ben Bajarin is a Principal Analyst and the head of primary research at Creative Strategies, Inc - An industry analysis, market intelligence and research firm located in Silicon Valley. His primary focus is consumer technology and market trend research and he is responsible for studying over 30 countries. Full Bio
  • FalKirk

    “iCloud is the glue that ties all of your Apple products together and never is that more clear than with OS X Mountain Lion”

    Many a naysayer has called Apple’s iOS “old” or “dated” and many a pundit has said that Apple’s doesn’t “get” the Cloud. I would respectfully submit that Apple focuses on the big picture first and that just because Apple does things differently, doesn’t mean that Apple doesn’t “get” the Cloud.

    Steve Jobs said that Apple was demoting the PC and elevating the cloud as the hub for all of one’s digital data. I think that this is exactly what is happening. Geeks may be bored with the iOS interface, but Apple now has one consistent user experience spread across the iPod Touch, iPhone, iPad and Mac. What’s “boring” to some is called “consistency” to most and it’s extremely valuable to users and extremely profitable to Apple.

    Further, iCloud is the “big picture” at Apple that most everyone seems to be ignoring or overlooking. Google believes that Apps do not need to be fitted to the screen size. One size fits all. Microsoft believes that you do not need to have two operating systems to run touch and desktop devices. One OS fits all. Apple has made it very clear that they think that Touch devices need a touch OS and Desktop devices need a desktop OS. So how will those two very different worlds work in practice?

    Apple is not making OS X more like iOS. “Apple…is optimizing each of its operating systems for the device it’s intended to be used on.” – Jim Dalrymple, The Loop.

    Although iCloud metaphorically resides above both OS X and iOS, it is actually the bedrock that both are being built upon. Further, it is the bridge that makes the two Operating Systems run not the same as one another but in harmony with one another.

    Apple has announced that OS X will be updated yearly in conjunction with the annual releases of iOS. Accordingly, expect the OS updates to be smaller and more incremental. But also expect them to be more harmonious and more in step with iOS.

    Google is betting that one size fits all. Microsoft is betting that one OS fits all. And Apple is betting that iCloud will make iOS and OS X fit seamlessly together. Which philosophy is superior? With the Nexus 7 having just arrived on the scene and with Window 8 expected for the Fall, we’ll know the answer to that question, and many other questions, soon.

  • Rich

    iCloud is great for the user. Being able to update something on one of your devices and have it show up on all the others is wonderful. But iCloud is also the most ingenious way to lock a user into one manufacturer that I’ve seen in a long time. If someone wants to change to Android, what are they going to do, replace all 4 of their devices? Not likely. Married to Apple for life! I’m a big fan of Apple because of the high quality of their products, but damn…superior gear plus total capture of your customer? No wonder Apple’s on top…

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