Messages

One of the more tangible features of Mountain Lion is Messages, the iChat replacement that's long overdue. The main attraction is the ability to send messages to iMessage users from your Mac. The feature works and is available to Lion users as well through a beta, however the final version will be a Mountain Lion exclusive.

AirPlay Mirroring & QuickSync

Since Arrandale Intel has been offering its own flavor of wireless display technology called Intel WiDi. The premise is simple - take the display buffer, encode it in real time as a video (originally MPEG-2, later H.264), send it over WiFi to a box that can decode the video stream and display it over HDMI to an attached display (e.g. a HDTV). Apple enabled something similar on its iDevice platforms called AirPlay Mirroring. Deploying AirPlay Mirroring on iDevices made sense since all of those platforms ship with hardware encoders on their SoC. With Mountain Lion Apple is bringing the same functionality to Macs. The only requirements are that you have a second generation Apple TV and that it's on the same network as your Mountain Lion Mac.

AirPlay Mirroring isn't functional currently but by the time ML ships it should be. The usage models are plentiful (presentations, quickly tossing videos on the big screen for many users to watch, etc...) and the feature should do a good job of selling Apple TVs to Mac users.

Apple isn't being very specific on what hardware platforms will support AirPlay Mirroring. Sandy Bridge and later Macs shouldn't have a problem and I hope that Apple will leverage Intel's QuickSync technology to keep CPU utilization low. It's possible for earlier Macs to handle the encode workload but there's obviously a performance tradeoff. Apple is usually very sensitive to maintaining user experience over guaranteeing functionality so it'll be interesting to see where it draws the line for AirPlay Mirroring compatibility.

Unfortunately there's no update on QuickSync support elsewhere in Mountain Lion. Thus far all Finder and Quicktime initiated video transcoding is done in software on the x86 cores and doesn't appear to leverage QuickSync at all. Why Apple generally refuses to use one of Sandy Bridge's most valuable features for consumers remains a mystery to me.

Server

I won't dive too far into Mountain Lion Server, since this is just supposed to be a quick first look at a very early version of the product. However, for users of the product (and/or readers of our huge Lion Server review) there's one important change that comes in with 10.8 - Lion introduced a new program, Server.app, which took over some (but not all) of the functionality provided by the legacy Server Admin Tools. The tools are still provided as a separate download to close the functionality gap left by Server.app.

In Mountain Lion Server, more functionality of the Server Admin Tools appears to have been integrated into Server.app - NetBoot, the System Image Utility, DNS, and a few other services can now be managed in Server.app. There are still a few services that appear to be missing (DHCP, NAT, and a few others appear to be absent) - it's too early to say whether these services will be included in Server.app when Mountain Lion is launched, whether the company will offer a new version of the Server Admin Tools, or whether those services will be removed from OS X Server altogether.

Supported Macs

The last thing I wanted to talk about is something we've already touched on, but it bears repeating - Mountain Lion is dropping support for any Mac that is not capable of booting OS X's 64-bit kernel. Lion requires a 64-bit capable Core 2 Duo processor or better, but included the legacy 32-bit kernel to enable support for computers missing one of the other two components required for a 64-bit boot: a 64-bit EFI, and 64-bit graphics drivers. The complete list of supported Macs is below:

• iMac (mid 2007 or later)
• MacBook (13-inch Aluminum,  2008), (13-inch, Early 2009 or later)
• MacBook Pro (13-inch, Mid-2009 or later), (15-inch, 2.4/2.2 GHz), (17-inch, Late 2007 or later)
• MacBook Air (Late 2008 or later)
• Mac Mini (Early 2009 or later)
• Mac Pro (Early 2008 or later)
• Xserve (Early 2009)

Generally speaking, if you don't want to use this Apple Support document to see whether your Mac supports the 64-bit kernel, there are a few rules of thumb you can use: if your Mac uses either the ATI Radeon X1600, Intel's GMA 950 or X3100, and any NVIDIA GeForce card older than the 8000-series, your Mac is likely disqualified from running Mountain Lion. This list includes computers (like the pre-unibody white MacBooks) sold just a little under four years ago, which is no doubt unwelcome news to users of those systems - unfortunately, you'll either have to upgrade your system or stick with Lion if you've got one of the unsupported Macs.

Some have reported that the Mountain Lion Developer Preview will install and run on some of these unsupported Macs without issues, but if you'll recall, early Lion previews could also be made to run on 32-bit Core Duo and Core Solo processors that were dropped from the support list. If the system requirements for the preview are in fact representative of the requirements for the shipping version of Mountain Lion, expect booting on those older machines to be blocked at some point in future previews.

Software Updates & Moving Toward the Mac App Store Conclusions
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  • B3an - Sunday, February 19, 2012 - link

    Completely agree. I develop apps for other platforms but will never develop for OSX, it's obvious where things are heading here. And jumping through Apples hoops to get your app on iOS is a nightmare, so i've stopped that too.

    MS will have an App Store for Win 8 but thats just for Metro, and atleast it's easier to deal with and get your app on there, plus i cant ever see MS doing anything like this to desktop apps. If anything it gives MS even more reason not to, so developers and people have an alternative and a better option. Theres always Linux, but we all know that wont be going anywhere even near to 5% market share any time soon.
    Reply
  • ex2bot - Monday, February 20, 2012 - link

    I think you misunderstand the signed applications option. They don't have to be in the Mac App Store, the developer just needs to pay Apple $100 for an ID.

    I love Apple! There awsome!

    Who do you love, microsoft? There awsom to! And much less evil than apple.

    And, by the way, this really is . . . the end.

    Ex2bot
    Mac Fanbot
    Reply
  • GotThumbs - Monday, February 20, 2012 - link

    Love? You appear to live outside of reality. An OS is a tool for accessing applications for work and entertainment, It's NOT a relationship. Either you prefer one OS over the other. That's your choice. Don't be disillusioned about what Apple and MS are...They are companies in the business to make money....and they are very good at marketing to consumers. Just don't drink the Cool-Aid.

    Best wishes
    Reply
  • MobiusStrip - Tuesday, February 21, 2012 - link

    Not to mention that it's ANOTHER $100, even if you've already paid for your developer membership for iOS. Lame. Reply
  • ex2bot - Tuesday, February 28, 2012 - link

    They send me all that stuff for free. You know, inner circle (shhh!). Reply
  • ex2bot - Tuesday, February 28, 2012 - link

    No, I prefer iced green tea. Slightly sweetened. Yum. Reply
  • KoolAidMan1 - Monday, February 20, 2012 - link

    The problem with your post is that developers don't need to sell through the App Store to benefit from Gatekeeper.

    Any applications that are from the App Store or signed with a developer certificate (the free one you get for registering with Apple) can be launched without any warning with Gatekeeper's default settings. If you want to launch an app that hasn't been signed then you either get a UAC style warning, or you can just turn Gatekeeper off globally.

    The entire point is that Apple wants to be able to blacklist developers who write malware. Mountain Lion does a check of that blacklist once a day. Without this security method, Apple can only blacklist app identifiers, which take 5 seconds to change, and even malware can adapt to work around that (simply hijack safe identifiers). But there is no easy way for malware to hijack other developer's certificates because they are encrypted like any other security certificate is.

    In one fell swoop Apple gains control of easily blocking malware, all while making it brain-dead simple for developers since they can be whitelisted without even needing to release their software through the App Store (your concern).

    If a developer chooses not to get on the whitelist, they can still release their software and users (the same ones technically savvy enough to turn off Gatekeeper or manually dismiss it per application) can install it themselves. They'd just get a UAC style warning like they do right now if they want to manually dismiss it.

    Lots of worry about nothing.
    Reply
  • repoman27 - Monday, February 20, 2012 - link

    "...If your non-Mac app store app doesn't have access APIs reserved only for those who distribute through the App Store than you are at a serious disadvantage thus you need to make a version for the app store.

    Doing so you basically scar your customers who buy directly, basically forcing you to give Apple 30% and go through the app store."

    The API's that require Mac App Store distribution are the ones that use Apple's servers. I don't think it's a mystery as to why they want a bit of the action in return for this privilege.

    As was noted in the article, the developer can just produce a small add-on module for the Mac App Store if they want to leverage the reserved API's. If they make the add-on free, they only have to pay Apple $99 annually. No one gets "scarred" in the process.

    Gatekeeper is merely an attempt at protecting users from their own actions. It's not much different than Windows User Account Control—just another way to deal with the age old problem of giving administrative privileges to the accounts that many people use 100% of the time. If Apple came out with an OS that didn't allow the end user to have elevated privileges at all, that would be much more sinister (like iOS).
    Reply
  • kmmatney - Tuesday, February 21, 2012 - link

    The App store is good for a majority of people. I have to admit that when I try Linux, I always have trouble installing Apps, and the "App Store", or Software Center is by far the easiest way to get Apps installed. I remember trying to run Linux without centralized application management, and it was a nightmare for me, as least for a Linux noob like me. Reply
  • MobiusStrip - Tuesday, February 21, 2012 - link

    Holding Linux software installation out as any kind of comparison is ludicrous. A much better example would be Windows, which has had excellent installers for many years. It has also had UNINSTALLERS, which OS X inexplicably still lacks after a decade.

    Double-clicking to launch an installer is plenty "elegant" and has been understood even by noobs for many years. Ignoring that fact is a weak strawman.
    Reply

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