Last week, Apple previewed the next version of OS X -- 10.8, code-named "Mountain Lion," which is due in late summer. Mountain Lion will contain more than 100 new features, and continues the "iOSifcation" of the Mac OS. In case you missed it, here are the highlights:
Replacing iChat on the Mac, Messages will allow you to chat with anyone using another Mac, iPhone, iPad or iPod Touch, completely for free. Introduced in iOS 5, Messages is a no-brainer for anyone who sends a lot of text messages. It automatically detects if the person you're talking to is using an iOS device (and now a Mac) and, if so, bypasses the cell data connection so your message doesn't count against your text limit. If your buddy isn't on an iOS device, you will be charged your standard rate. If you want to try it now, a beta of Messages is available for 10.7 Lion users on Apple's website.
REMINDERS AND NOTES
These two apps do exactly what you think they do, but the newness here is syncing with iCloud. For example, let's say I'm at my desk and my wife calls asking me to pick up several items from the grocery store. I type the list out in Reminders and save. At the store, I pull out my iPhone and open the Reminders app -- there's my list without any action on my part.
Anyone using Growl on OS X will be happy with the new Notification Center in Mountain Lion. Just like on iOS, Notification Center will display your emails, chats, alerts and more on your desktop in one handy window.
Sign in once to your Twitter account from your Mac, and from there posting to Twitter will be available in any OS X app that supports it. This means never having to leave Safari or Mail to tweet links, never leaving iPhoto to tweet a picture, etc.
This feature alone makes the upgrade worth it for me -- use Airplay Mirroring to stream whatever is on your Mac to your HDTV via Apple TV. The possibilities of this are endless, but for someone who, say, needs to be able to put "Cars" or "WALL-E" on the big TV for his 2 1/2-year-old at a moment's notice because Mommy and Daddy need to make dinner now and can't wait three minutes for the DVD to load, this will be invaluable.
Taking another step to make your Mac more secure, Gatekeeper helps prevent you from installing malware. You can choose levels of protection -- download and install anything as long as you give it your password (the way it is now), download apps from the Mac App Store with a Developer ID (to know who you're downloading from) or download and run apps only from the Mac App Store, which locks down your Mac completely.
OS 10.8 Mountain Lion will be available exclusively in the Mac App Store (Apple says no more USB install option). No word yet on pricing, but OS 10.7 Lion was $29.95.