Apple has announced that its new Mac operating system, OS X Mountain Lion, is scheduled for release this summer. While that's not necessarily big news, business users should note that Apple has dropped "Mac" from the desktop and laptop operating system name. That is big news; the omission is purposeful as Apple works diligently to unify user interfaces and experiences across all its devices. Here's a brief look at several Mountain Lion features that will impact business users as Apple begins replicating popular iOS elements on desktops and laptops.
OS X Mountain Lion brings Notification Center to Mac desktops and laptops. Alert windows notifying users of new emails, messages, invitations and other events, originally proved innovative. Many users began to feel overrun by the sheer number of notification messages generated by different applications, however. Notification Center simplifies the process by collecting all the myriad notifications within a single window, now accessible on Macs using a left swipe gesture.
To do list items are a critical element that business users track daily. That's why Apple introduced Reminders within iOS on iPhones and iPads. Mountain Lion extends the task list feature directly to Macs, eliminating the need to integrate Reminders within another Mac app. Combined with Apple's iCloud service, Reminders offers the ability to synchronize to-do list items across numerous devices, including Smartphones, iPads, Macs and even Windows machines running Outlook.
Messages, which replaces iChat in Mountain Lion, provides business users with iMessage the same as found on iOS 5-powered iPhones and iPads. The instant messaging software enables users to send unlimited messages and supports maintaining conversations across multiple different devices. Encryption, meanwhile, assists business users in keeping the instant message conversations secure.
Notes, which began as a very simple text app on the iPhone, adds support for different fonts, styles, colors and images in Mountain Lion. As an IT consultant, I've found myself frequently recording critical information (data center rack locations, IP addresses, DNS servers, new user names, lock codes, names, numbers, parking locations, etc.) using Notes. Unfortunately, those notes haven't always been available across all the devices I use. Now, with Mountain Lion, iCloud integration makes it possible to synchronize Notes across all my devices. In addition, important notes can be pinned to the Desktop, thereby making them even easier to access.
New non-iOS features
Mountain Lion possesses some important non-iOS features for business Mac users, too. Here's a quick look at two.
Many new Mountain Lion applications will benefit from new Share button. The new icon will make it even easier for users to share links, photos, tweets and more via Mail and Messages. Business users will find it even easier than before, as a result, to send hyperlinks, photos, videos and more to others.
Potentially Mountain Lion's most important new feature is Gatekeeper. The new innovation enables users to better lock down Mac desktops and laptops by restricting which Mac App store programs can be downloaded and installed. By protecting against malware and enabling businesses to specify even which specific developers' apps can be installed, Mountain Lion further enhances OS X's security profile.
Erik Eckel owns and operates two technology companies. As a managing partner with Louisville Geek, he works daily as an IT consultant to assist small businesses in overcoming technology challenges and maximizing IT investments. He is also president of Eckel Media Corp., a communications company specializing in public relations and technical authoring projects.