¶ Lion, Refined

I awoke this morning, reached for my iPhone, and began my ritual of reading some recent tweets to get oriented with the day’s early news. I saw a tweet by Jason Snell that announced he had a hands-on first look of OS X Mountain Lion, coming this summer.

I honestly thought it was a joke, at first. I tapped the link, expecting a Rick Astley video on YouTube, but was met with a very thorough and official looking article at Macworld complete with official looking screenshots. So I got up and went across the hall to my Mac, opened it, and fired up Apple’s site.

Yep, it’s official. OS X Mountain Lion is real. And it’s coming this summer.

iOS-ification, Refined

Apple is a company of habits. And one that is plain to see is their habit of big change, then iterate. Think of the iPhone 3G, then the iteration of the 3GS; the iPhone 4, then the iteration of the iPhone 4S. On the Mac, we can look back at OS X Leopard, which brought big changes, then Snow Leopard, which refined those new technologies; and then Lion, which was, again, a big change, and now Mountain Lion, which is a refinement of those changes.

When we got a sneak peek of Lion in October of 2010, Apple said they were bringing the best of iOS “back to the Mac”. And what we saw was the beginning of the iOS-ification of OS X. We saw things like the Mac App Store, Launchpad, Full-screen Apps, FaceTime, and a slew of new gestures come to the Mac, and they had an iOS scent to them.

Where Snow Leopard gave polish to Leopard’s underlying foundational technologies and some tweaks to newer UI, Mountain Lion is refining and polish the “back to the Mac” features introduced in Lion.

Where Lion brought us some of the way to having many of iOS’s concepts on the Mac, Mountain Lion is bringing us a lot closer.


iCloud didn’t make its appearance on Lion until the 10.7.2 update. At that time it usurped MobileMe and took over the syncing functions of email, calendars, contacts, bookmarks, notes, and reminders. But its implementation has felt a little lacking. Documents in the Cloud are present in the backend, but there isn’t a user interface for it. Some apps are rolling their own for now.

Mountain Lion fixes that. Documents in the Cloud are now a new section of the Open/Save Dialog. Click the On This Mac button, and you get the traditional Finder-based file system. Click the iCloud button, and the dialog changes to the same linen and iOS-folder look that you can find in Apple’s iOS iWork apps.

iCloud is also featured prominently when set up a new Mac, or create a new user account. Sign in right at the beginning to pull down Store credentials, contacts, calendars, reminders, notes, email, etc.


One of my favorite features of iOS 5 is iMessage, which is integrated into Messages, which used to just handle SMS/MMS. iMessage allows iOS users to communicate with other iOS users via text, pictures, or videos, free of charge.

By far, the best part of iMessage is being able to start a conversation on my iPad while at home, and pick right up with it on my iPhone if I need to head out the door, with all the context of the entire conversation present on both devices.

(The worst part is hearing notifications go off on multiple devices throughout the entire conversation).

In Mountain Lion, iChat has been rebranded as Messages and gains iMessage support. It’s awesome. How do I know? Because Apple has released Messages as a public beta for Lion users.

It really is nice to have it on the Mac, other than now I have three devices dinging at me for message notifications.


Speaking of notifications, Apple is bringing Notification Center to the Mac in Mountain Lion. Swipe on the trackpad or click a new button in the menu bar to reveal the Notification Center. The desktop slides off toward the left a little to reveal it as a linen layer underneath the desktop. It looks just like it does in iOS 5.

The banner notifications appear over the desktop descending from the upper right, just like Growl does. And let’s be honest, Growl just got Sherlocked.

Notes, Reminders, Contacts, & Calendars

From an article I wrote last month:

I do, however, have one little annoyance about Notes and Reminders — the way they are integrated into the Mac. On iOS, Notes and Reminders get their own apps. On the Mac, they are relegated to being apps within an app. Notes and Reminders are shoehorned into Mail and iCal, respectively.

I would much rather Notes and Reminders have their own apps on the Mac, with similar interfaces to their iOS counterparts. Notes, on its own, could effectively replace the Stickies app on the Mac.

My problem with Notes and Reminders being integrated into other apps is consistency. A great example of consistency between the Mac, iPhone, and iPad is Twitterrific. The app offers the same experience across all three devices. The user never has to question how to do anything on each device. Learn once, apply everywhere.

This is another instance where Mountain Lion refines the iOS-ification that Lion heralded. Notes and Reminders will no longer be shoehorned into Mail and iCal, respectively. They’re getting their own apps that look a lot like their iOS counterparts, with a Mac flair.

Furthering the pursuit of consistency, Address Book and iCal are being renamed to Contacts and Calendars, respectively (and getting a couple usability tweaks in their skeuomorphic UIs).


The share button that is prevalent in iOS is going to be more widely used in Mountain Lion. This button will collect appropriate services for sharing content, based on which app you’re using.

For instance, in Safari, you can share a link to Twitter. Twitter, by the way, is also now integrated in OS X like it is in iOS 5. So, when you share something to Twitter, you’ll see the Tweet Sheet.

Another way to share things is via AirPlay. Since my wife & I got an Apple TV last year, there have been a number of occasions where we wished we could mirror our Macs to the Apple TV.

Game Center

Also, Game Center is coming to the Mac, and will allow you to play, on your Mac, against users on other Macs and even iOS devices. I’m not a heavy gamer, so this doesn’t interest me much, but I know a few folks who will love it.


Gatekeeper is a new level of security to help protect against malware. It works by only allowing apps that fall within a certain security level to run. It has three levels of security that the user can choose from:

  • Mac App Store: Only apps from the Mac App Store can run. These are the safest apps because the developers are known to Apple and the apps are reviewed by Apple prior to being published to the store.
  • Mac App Store and identified developers: In addition to the Mac App Store, developers who do not want to distribute their apps on the store can obtain a free developer ID from Apple to cryptographically sign their apps.

    Apple’s Gatekeeper site states:

    A developer’s digital signature allows Gatekeeper to verify that their app is not known malware and that it hasn’t been tampered with.

    If an app is discovered to be malware, Apple can revoke that developer’s signature certificate and stop the spread of the malware.

  • Anywhere: This allows apps from anywhere — Mac App Store, signed, or unsigned — to run on a Mac. This is the current behavior in OS X Lion.

This seems to be causing quite a stir among some folks that don’t particularly like Apple. I’ve been seeing a lot of sentiments of “They’re locking down OS X!” and “I’m going to get my data ready to jump ship, just in case”.

I can understand the fear, but I don’t think these people really understand Apple. There are a lot of smart, technologically minded folks who seem to think Apple is going to slowly tighten their grasp on developers until only the walled city of the App Store is left. I’ve also heard the sentiment that once that happens, the Mac is doomed, because developers won’t stand to have 30% of the price of their app gobbled up by Apple.

I couldn’t disagree more with all of that.

The fact that Apple went to the effort to make Gatekeeper at all shows their commitment to indie software development. Albeit, they are committing to secure indie software development. Apple always thinks of its users first, then developers.

One of the most popular OS X software developers in the world, Wil Shipley, seems to think Gatekeeper is the way to go:

(Seriously, go read that article Wil wrote and linked to above).

Simply put, Apple always supports their way, and the standard way. On iOS, they support native, cocoa touch apps via the App Store, and they also fully support (and do the best job at it) web apps. In iBooks, they support their own iBooks format and fully support ePub and PDF. On the Mac, there is the Mac App Store and developer ID and — at the user’s discretion — the old way of unsigned apps.

I firmly believe that Apple’s effort to secure indie app development outside of the App Store indeed secures its existence. If Apple wanted to go Mac App Store only, I don’t think they’d take the “boil a frog” approach. I think they’d just do it, and if you don’t like it, well, so long and thanks for all the fish.

Does Apple prefer that developers go with the Mac App Store? You bet. I’m sure that 30% cut plays a part in the motivation. But I think running a super secure system plays a bigger part. And that in itself will drive the bottom line as more people buy Apple’s technology.

Is there a carrot enticing developers over to the Mac App Store? You bet. Only apps on the Mac App Store can access iCloud and Notification Center.

Is Apple going to shut down indie development outside of the App Store? I seriously doubt it. However, I could see Apple shutting down unsecured indie development on the Mac. Maybe the successor to Mountain Lion will take away that Anywhere option within Gatekeeper, which isn’t a bad thing.

And hey, maybe I’m reading too much into this, but that Gatekeeper icon has one gate closed, and one open. How appropriate.

I have to say, it was an extremely pleasant surprise to be truly surprised by Mountain Lion’s announcement. There wasn’t an inkling of it that I saw in the rumor mill. While the rumor mill can be quite fun, it gets tiring finding out about stuff beforehand and sullies the excitement of when Apple makes an announcement. It was great to see how Apple handled this announcement, which was very different from the past. Be sure to read John Gruber’s account of finding out about Mountain Lion.

I am honestly blown away with how fantastic Mountain Lion looks, and I am going to be one very impatient person until it launches this summer.