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
POST A COMMENT

96 Comments

View All Comments

  • ananduser - Monday, February 20, 2012 - link

    Your description fits W8 entirely. Reply
  • steven75 - Monday, February 20, 2012 - link

    Or... Mountain Lion, since you CAN install apps from the internet willy-nilly or drop down to the terminal if you really want to. Reply
  • ananduser - Monday, February 20, 2012 - link

    The Metro interface that W8 sports is much more dramatic than the effect some features from ios integrated in OSX might have.

    The Metro/Classic duality is also much more akin to ying/yang than the OSX interface which is technically a mash-up.
    Reply
  • Scannall - Monday, February 20, 2012 - link

    My mom is in her 70's. About a year and a half ago I finally talked her into ditching her Windows ME (Yes, the hated ME) computer. Got her a 27 inch iMac, transferred all her photos and other documents for her. And she has just been thrilled. She has since purchased an iPad 2 and an Apple TV box to go with it.

    And, since setting it up initially, she hasn't needed ANY tech support from me.

    But for the more hard core, and those that like to tinker the Terminal program is still there, with all the command line goodness (Or destruction...).

    Also, it's pretty easy to add either Windows and Linux to your iMac. I have both on mine. Most days anymore I just want to get things done, so I boot into OS X. On the days I feel like tinkering more there is Windows and Linux there for me to play with.
    Reply
  • bji - Monday, February 20, 2012 - link

    I had a similar experience with my 65 year old mother. After 10+ years of supporting her on Windows computers, I finally bought her a mac mini after her most recent Windows virus infection. It's been the smoothest 6 months of her computer life so far, and the amount of tech support I've had to provide has been much lower. She even figured out how to resize pictures and email them, on her own, something that for some reason after 10+ years of Windows use she still hand't figured out.

    This is just anecdotal evidence of course, and someone else's mother may find the Windows way of doing things comprehensible, but my mom didn't, and given how many similar comments I've read, I have a feeling there is something to Apple's UI design that works well for novice users.

    As a software developer, I have no problem with Apple's approach, as long as they leave the door open for third party applications that don't go through their app store, which so far, they are.

    I personally have never owned a Macintosh, but have alread set aside the money for a 15 inch Macbook Air, just waiting for them to come out. It will be nice to finally be able to port my software to OS X.
    Reply
  • cyabud - Monday, February 20, 2012 - link

    "I feel Apple as well as all others should provide a simple switch to disable to 'walled garden' "

    This switch you talk of is called Terminal.app

    And I suppose on iOS it's called a jailbreak, but we're talking about OS X here.
    Reply
  • solipsism - Monday, February 20, 2012 - link

    Andrew and Anand describe the Gatekeeper controls in System Preferences and how you can bypass them at anytime by holding down a couple keys.

    Apple has no reason to force you to only buy Mac App Store apps otherwise they would not have offered code signing for external apps which make non-App Store apps safer. They also don't get so much profit from apps that it makes sense to limit to the number of potential Mac buyers.

    Apple is by far the most profitable PC maker in the business and they plan to stay that way, hence their move to faster OS X updates and trying to make OS X as familiar as their more popular iOS platform without negatively impacting usability. So far they are doing a good job of it.
    Reply
  • Conficio - Tuesday, February 21, 2012 - link

    Terminal.app is not an open field (as opposed to a walled garden). It's more like the trenches of the [battle of the] somme.

    Really, while a terminal window is nice, the functionality it opens up is undocumented, unsupported and mostly hidden from view. and if you start the app from the terminal it still bitches about "being downloaded from ....", scaring the daylight out of "ordinary" users.

    Really why I give credit to Apple to break the walled prisons of the cell phone carriers (mostly the US variety) on phones, they only did in order to replace it with their own walled garden. At least they allow different producers of the same kind of apps to compete, as they profit from all of them equally, where cell phone carriers pick and choose.
    Reply
  • TEAMSWITCHER - Monday, February 20, 2012 - link

    Just because you can buy the individual parts for a computer and assemble them doesn't make you an expert - you're more like a mechanic.

    Your entire argument is based on a false assumption, that Mac's are simple computers for simple people - a "walled garden". While that is true for those who like it that way, Mac's also include many high knowledge tools that Windows does not. Terminal provides access to these tools that have been a foundation for computers since the early Days of the C programming language and the UNIX operating system. Sorry, the MSDOS box is not even close to comparable.

    Windows is more like a "Theme Park", you can ride all the attractions, but remember you are only a park visitor, and cannot go into areas marked "Authorized Personnel Only." They made damn sure of this by not providing the same tools that are included in each and every MAC OS X installation.
    Reply
  • cjs150 - Monday, February 20, 2012 - link

    Interesting comments to my post even if one (Tim) is obviously Mr Angry.

    I would not ask my 70+ year old mother to build a computer, I would buy her an Ipad because she does not need to understand how is works merely use it.

    But my 10 year old needs to understand computers properly and best way is to start by making her build one (OS will probably by Linux). Maybe that makes her a mechanic (Teamswitcher) but it will also give her a better appreciation of how computers work.

    Yes W8 worries me, it is supposed to be a more mature OS but looks like it was designed by someone whose only previous experience was an Ipad and kids cartoons.

    The problem is that as the computing market matures a lot of assumptions are being made about how people should use the computer. I do not want someone else making assumptions about how I should work, what I want is the software to allow me to work the way I want to.

    Please understand my original post was that the Apple philosphy does not work for me not that I hate Apple.
    Reply

Log in

Don't have an account? Sign up now