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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  • FWCorey - Tuesday, May 01, 2012 - link

    And what makes games so much less relevant on a platform that has more consumer users than commercial users?
    Windows has given them a high priority for ages despite the fact that OS's demographic balance swings in the opposite direction.
    Reply
  • marioyohanes - Monday, February 20, 2012 - link

    Thanks for extensive review on the new upcoming OS X Mountain Lion.

    Since you guys are the most reliable sources for SSD, I was wondering whether OS X Mountain Lion has better support for SSD or not, specifically with 3rd party SSD?

    I have 2 different SSDs, Intel 320 and Vertex 3 installed on both 2011 MBP and 2009 MBP, and it always gets corrupted right after OS X update or Safari update under Mac OS X Lion (never have this problem on SL).

    I really hope Mountain Lion could brings better support for 3rd party SSD than it does on Lion. Because why bother buying new hardware if you'll get stuck with 5400 rpm hdd :)
    Reply
  • vectorm12 - Monday, February 20, 2012 - link

    Considering Apple would much rather charge you 500+ USD for a 256GB SSD that's a decent performer at best I'd say we're out of luck on any kind of support on 3:rd party SSDs. In fact I wouldn't be the least bit surprised if Apple in fact chose to limit booting from 3:rd party storage in the near future.

    Interesting about your Vertex 3 being corrupted after OS X updates. I've been running Lion for the better part of a month on my early '11 13" macbook pro I have for work with a Vertex3 Max IOPS and haven't seen any real issues thus far.

    I do however see intermittent slowdown at times which I've thus far figured to be TRIM related. Especially when waking the system from sleep/hibernation. Perhaps I've been to quick to jump to conclusions about those issues?

    All in all I see where Apple wants to take OSX and their platforms in general, but I can't help but pray people won't keep accepting all the limitations since it's really bad for all consumers in the long run.

    Otherwise we'll be running IOS 8 on mac hardware and being forced to jailbreak new mac pros as well.
    Reply
  • KPOM - Monday, February 20, 2012 - link

    From what I have seen on the developer preview, it does not. I'm assuming the hacks still work, but I haven't tried them. My guess is that we'll see the MacBook Pro line either merge with the Air or become less user-upgradable in the future (perhaps RAM will still be upgradable), at least in the 13" and 15" models, so I wouldn't bet on adding TRIM support for third party drives. I've heard that Apple makes as much or more money on NAND as the manufacturers of the NAND themselves. Reply
  • zdzichu - Monday, February 20, 2012 - link

    First page discussing rapid release cycles fails to mention Linux distributions. Major distributions shifted to half-year release cycle few years ago (pioniereed by Fedora in 2003 and Ubuntu in 2004). This pace works very good for consumer software. Reply
  • damianrobertjones - Monday, February 20, 2012 - link

    "Microsoft announced a planned shift to a 3-year OS release cadence."

    Didn't they previously have this 3 year release thing? Pretty sure that they did
    Reply
  • cjs150 - Monday, February 20, 2012 - link

    Actually I do not hate apple, it has a philosphy that does not work for me.

    Mountain Lion is clearly yet another step towards the walled garden approach that Apple wants. This approach will result in thinks that "just work", like any number of consumer electronic products. This is why many people at my work love Apple.

    But this approach has its downside, if all you want is something that "just works" then you do not need to know how it works and you are stuck with Apple's design decisions (eg no true HD on Apple TV). I want to know how things work, I want to be able to fiddle with settings, add programs that genuinely extend or enhance my working experience.

    A simple example. I have a young daughter (10) who is starting to ask for a computer in her bedroom. I have said that if she wants one and can explain why, she can have one but on the condition that it will arrive in bits and she will have to build it herself and install all the software. Admittedly this is a good parent trick to ensure the computer issue is deferred by at least 6 months, but assuming it happens it will teach my daughter very quickly how computers work, what bits are in a computer and how to install software and generally ticker with the computer. Apple take all that away - the computer should be simply a higher priced version of a washing machine - plug it in and away you go.
    Reply
  • tim851 - Monday, February 20, 2012 - link

    What if your daughter wants a laptop?

    I've been managing my parents' PC for a while now. I could be a dick like you and tell them they have to do build it themselves, but I realized that not everybody is a nerd or has the time to become one and ultimately a PC is just an appliance like a fridge or a tv. I didn't make my mom assemble her car either.

    Next time you go into the supermarket to buy a steak, I hope they hand you a knife and point to a nearby cow.
    Reply
  • bji - Monday, February 20, 2012 - link

    The obvious difference between your hypotheticals and his real situation is that he is the parent and its his responsiblity to educate his children and guide their development. It is not your responsibility to educate or guide your parents nor is it the responsibility of the supermarket to educate its customers on how cows are turned into steaks. There's no need to call cjs150 a dick just because you couldn't formulate this simple concept yourself. Reply
  • vectorm12 - Monday, February 20, 2012 - link

    While I do agree with you for the most part I see a problem with "our" view of how things are supposed to work.

    The big issue is a lot of people want the "washing machine"-experience with computing devices. Heck even at times I do and it's something that is required at this point in my mind simply because most people choose the simplest/easiest way to get things done whenever possible. Most people simply choose rather not to use a function than actually learn how to use it.

    However I feel Apple as well as all others should provide a simple switch to disable to "walled garden" and expose the OS to people who choose to do so. In my mind that's the best of both worlds. Dumb it down for the people who couldn't care less, keep the techs happy who actually use and promote the devices.
    Reply

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