Home Apple’s OS X Mountain Lion Explained: Everything You Need to Know

Apple’s OS X Mountain Lion Explained: Everything You Need to Know

Five months after Apple first previewed the latest version of its desktop operating system, Mountain Lion is here. Mac OS X 10.8 will be available from the Mac App Store today, Apple CFO Peter Oppenheimer announced during yesterday’s quarterly earnings call.

What’s New? Over 200 Features, That’s What

We’ve been hearing about big new features like deeper iCloud integration, Notification Center, AirPlay, social sharing and voice dictation since Apple first teased us with a glimpse at Mountain Lion in February. Mac users are also getting Game Center, a new security suite called Gatekeeper and Power Nap, which manages software updates and incoming messages in the background while your computer sleeps. Not only that, but – hold onto your hats! – there are even a few new screen saver animations. 

Apple has the complete list of more than 200 features with which Mountain Lion will equipped. 

Beyond the Features: What Mountain Lion Means

More than just an iterative upgrade to an OS, Mountain Lion represents a larger shift for Apple. With this version, the company pushes OS X closer to the look and feel of iOS, the mobile operating system that runs on the devices that now make up the majority of Apple’s revenue. 

This slow convergence between the mobile and desktop experiences, which Microsoft is also working toward, is a natural progression for computing as smartphones and tablets proliferate and more of our digital lives happen in the cloud. For Apple, devices running iOS have been the real cash cow, propelling the company into the position of being the world’s most valuable technology firm. It only makes sense that their other product lines would be slowly molded to match the user experience of iOS. 

The glue holding this cross-device experience together is iCloud, the wireless syncing and cloud storage service first rolled out last year in iOS 5. Mountain Lion extends iCloud’s functionality to documents and brings support to more applications. It’s used to keep content update in new desktop apps like Reminders and sync Safari browser tabs across devices. 

Most of the major new features in Mountain Lion will look very familiar to iOS users. Notification Center, Notes, Messages, Reminders, Siri-powered dictation and in-app social sharing are all things lifted directly from Apple’s mobile OS. 

Apple’s screen-by-screen takeover goes beyond mobile devices and desktops. By bringing AirPlay to Mac OS X, Apple further bridges the gap between its devices and our televisions. All signs point to more ambitious plans for the living room, but for now Apple is slowly getting its customers used to the idea of using their increasingly unified OS on bigger screens.

Is Your Mac Ready For Mountain Lion? 

Not every Apple-made computer under the sun will get to experience the 200 some-odd new features in Mountain Lion. The new OS can only be installed on computers running Lion or the latest version of Snow Leopard, and they must be one of the following machines: 

  • iMac (Mid 2007 or newer)
  • MacBook (Late 2008 Aluminum, or Early 2009 or newer)
  • MacBook Pro (Mid/Late 2007 or newer)
  • MacBook Air (Late 2008 or newer)
  • Mac mini (Early 2009 or newer)
  • Mac Pro (Early 2008 or newer)
  • Xserve (Early 2009)

Still not sure? Check out our own Brian Proffitt’s write-up on how to tell if your machine is Mountain Lion-ready.  Apple has an official rundown of feature-specific requirements and more detailed tech specs. 

How to Get It

Unlike previous versions of OS X, Mountain Lion will not be sold on physical media like a DVD or thumb drive. Instead, the new upgrade is available exclusively through the Mac App Store. 

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