Using several media outlets, Apple has just announced major details about Mac OS X 10.8, the next version of the company's desktop operatng system. The new release, codenamed "Mountain Lion," will be available to people with Mac developer accounts soon in the form of a preview, and a release to the public is expected late this summer. This short development cycle, unheard of since the early days of Mac OS X over a decade ago, reflects a desire at Apple to mirror the roughly yearly release cycle of iOS.

Despite the name, which suggests a version relatively light in feature changes over the previous version (like the transition from Leopard to Snow Leopard), Mountain Lion is intended to be a major new feature release that continues the work of bringing iOS features to the Mac: many of its major features are iOS transplants, including the Notification Center (which will bring unified notifications to OS X, replacing third-party apps like Growl), Game Center, iMessage support (in the form of an app called Messages, which replaces iChat - there's a free beta available for Lion users now), AirPlay Mirroring, a Notes app, Reminders, Twitter integration, tighter iCloud integration, and others. Frankly, this list of iOS imports actually seems to make more sense for the Mac as a platform than did some of the features (like Launchpad) that were brought over in Lion.

Mountain Lion will also include some new features all its own: Gatekeeper, which is aimed straight at system administrators, will allow admins to lock down the type of apps allowed to run on Macs. You can choose to allow apps only from the Mac App Store, apps from the Mac App store as well as those from developers you approve, or apps from anywhere (which is the default behavior in OS X currently). This can be seen as another step toward disallowing non-Mac App Store programs from running in OS X, but taken at face value it appears to be a solid compromise between the security of iOS-like behavior and the flexibility to install code from anywhere that users have always been accustomed to in OS X.

We don't have any information about system requirements yet, so we don't know whether Mountain Lion will run on any Lion-compatible Mac (which seems technically possible) or whether it will drop support for some older machines (which has historically happened with new OS X releases - see this page of our Lion review for in-depth information on what got dropped from the support list and why). The Apple developer site is currently down, but as soon as it comes back up those with developer accounts should be able to download and play with the next version of OS X. We'll continue to cover the new OS as details are made public.

Update: As we suggested might happen in our Lion review, Mountain Lion's developer preview appears to do away with support for any Mac that cannot boot into OS X's 64-bit kernel. I'll link you to that page of our Lion review again if you'd like deep technical information about what that means, but the short version is that a wide range of Apple's products from 2007 and 2008 are being dropped regardless of whether they include a Core 2 Duo processor. The list of supported Macs includes:

• 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)

The cutoff happens in different places for different products, but here are some rules of thumb: if your Mac uses the ATI Radeon X1600 graphics chip or the Intel GMA 950/X3100 integrated graphics chips, you're out of luck. If you've got a white iMac or one of the very first Mac Pros, you're out of luck. There are a few easy ways to check whether your Mac can run the 64-bit kernel, and Apple outlines all of them in this support document.

It should be noted that this information comes from the developer preview's release notes and may not be indicative of the final support list, but Lion's dropping of Core Duo Macs (and Snow Leopard's dropping of PPC Macs) were known quantities pretty early in the development of those operating systems - support for these older Macs may be added before the final release, but history suggests otherwise.

Source: The Verge

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  • nicklad - Thursday, February 16, 2012 - link

    It was unstable and unfinished, no?
  • macuser2134 - Thursday, February 16, 2012 - link

    I've been living in complete ignorance of this whole problem. So no proper x84_64 kexts ever existed for the GMA 950. Madness eh?

    Recently figured out how to modify the Lion 10.7.3 installer to install onto these old Core Duo -> Core2Duo upgraded systems. I witnessed Lion install cleanly and boot up just fine. But apparently you're saying that this must have been into forced into 32-bit kernel mode? Never bothered to check up on this while it was running. Because I was under an impression that the Retail distributions of Lion had already completely ditched 32-bit kernel support. So they kept 32-bit in Lion for those few overlapping computers (eg 2008 era Core2Duo with GMA3100 ?) Its a genuine question.

    Just tried forcing my Snow Leopard to boot into 64-bit Kernel and it point blank refused to do so. Tried both methods 1. and 3. recommended by the Apple KB Article. No luck whatsoever it just boots into 32-bit all the time.
  • Andrew.a.cunningham - Thursday, February 16, 2012 - link

    Correct - the 32-bit kernel was supported in Lion specifically for the Core 2 Duo machines that are being dropped by Mountain Lion. There's actually a screenshot on this page of our Lion review taken on one of the very same 2008 MacBooks that you mention:

    That page also outlines in depth what a Mac needs to boot with the 64-bit kernel. Tl;dr version: 64-bit EFT, 64-bit CPU, 64-bit graphics drivers.
  • Andrew.a.cunningham - Thursday, February 16, 2012 - link

  • tipoo - Thursday, February 16, 2012 - link

    Hopefully that also means people will be quick in finding ways to get ML on Core 2 Duo machines whos only fault is lack of driver support. Some of the dropped ones are just above 3 years old, I'd be pretty mad if I was in that situation.
  • hubrob - Thursday, February 16, 2012 - link

    After having several Skype calls during the day from my Mac, I installed the iMessage Beta s/w linked to in the above article. Subsequently, I can't make a call to my contacts or even to the Skype Call Test number.

    Anybody else having this problem?
  • name99 - Thursday, February 16, 2012 - link

    "whether it will drop support for some older machines (which has historically happened with new OS X releases - see this page of our Lion review for in-depth information on what got dropped from the support list and why)"

    Oh come on --- why do you have to spoil a reasonable post with an outright stupid comment.

    Lion is a 64-bit OS --- it doesn't run on 32-bit Intel Macs. Simple as that.
    Snow Leopard was an Intel-only OS. It doesn't run on PPC Macs. Simple as that.

    Apple has a long tradition of throwing away the past when it thinks that doing so improves the customer experience. If you are obsessed with the idea of being able to run the latest OS on your fifteen year old computer, don't buy Apple --- it's simple as that.

    To insinuate more than that, to suggest that Apple will just drop support for older machines "for the hell of it" is unreasonable --- the sort of thing said by idiots, not by adults.
    What ARE the next fault-lines likely to be? (Bearing in mind that historically these are distinctions of real engineering merit, not random BS.)

    - A >2GB RAM cutoff is problematic because Apple has sold so many machines in the recent past with 2GB RAM.
    - Likewise any sort of cutoff that requires an especially high level of graphics card.
    - A wild card MIGHT be a requirement for the virtualization extensions --- I don't know, it's possible that both all Apple's recent machines have these extensions, and some interesting new idea for how to architect the OS requirement them?

    But honestly I can't see an obvious cutoff for a few years --- nothing that both so simplifies the OS that it's worth making the cutoff, and that is part of every machine sold in the past few years.

    The one cutoff I DO see coming soon (perhaps as soon as Mountain Lion) is tossing the 32-bit Intel runtime environment and so requiring all code on Mountain Lion --- drivers, plugins, apps, command-line, etc --- to be 64-bit only. Once again --- part of simplifying the world so that Apple doesn't have to waste time in duplicating effort. At that point Apple will be supporting only two OS's --- 32-bit iOS and 64-bit OSX --- for the first time in a long time, which should free up some talent to run a little faster. (Of course, VERY soon that talent will be engaged in moving iOS to 64-bit and handling that transition!)
  • Andrew.a.cunningham - Thursday, February 16, 2012 - link

    Thanks for coming here, calling someone who provides you with completely free news and expertise a name, and then ignoring half of the article and the linked resources by posting a comment that completely disregards our very thorough, detailed, and objective grasp on the technical information at hand.

    I said that new OS X releases tend to drop support for older machines (true) and linked to a clearly written analysis of what Lion dropped and why. I then went on to describe the machines dropped by 10.8 in a clearly written addendum. None of these facts as reported assign any blame or suggest that Apple does these things for no reason - just that Apple *has* done them in the past and will likely continue doing them in the future.

    I usually don't like to roll around in the mud with commenters who waste my time by ignoring what I've worked to report, but this one really got to me for some reason. If the relaying of facts (enhanced by relevant contextual details) by third parties strikes you as "stupid," maybe you should just stick to reading press releases.

    Thanks for reading! Come back real soon.
  • tim851 - Thursday, February 16, 2012 - link

    I'm running Windows 7 on my desktop and Snow Leopard (10.6) on my Macbook Air.

    Nothing I've seen in Windows 8 and (Mountain) Lion previous seems relevant.

    Windows 8 is just Windows 7 with the metro interface, which would probably mean something to me, if I had a windows tablet. I don't. And OSX is just implementing more and more useless stuff from iOS.

    Is it me, or did MS and Apple run out of ideas what to do with PCs?
    Is the PC a dying concept? Have desktop OSes reached their peak?

    I will agree that both 7 and 10.6 are pretty sweet. Except for the quirks (minor bugs and annoyances) that have been around for ages and that just seem to be to uncool to be fixed.
  • addicted4444 - Saturday, February 18, 2012 - link

    I think at least the following in Mountain Lion are tremendously useful features:
    1) Messages (now you can send Text Messages to phones)
    2) Notification Center (Growl supported by nearly every Mac App....need I say more?)
    3) Gatekeeper (assuming Apple doesn't go to the MAS only route, which I really doubt, Gatekeeper if widely used will be one of the most significant advances in preventing mass virus like situations, IMO)
    4) Airplay (this is what a true "Home Media Center" should have been)
    5) iCloud (access to all your documents, across all your Apple devices...what is missing now is support for non-Apple devices)

    In general, however, the biggest issue with a lot of Apple features are that they are sharing features, however, they are largely limited to Apple devices only. Since the mac is gaining on Windows without any help, and is anyways a much smaller future market for them than iDevices, Apple might be enticed to devote significant resources towards building Windows versions of FaceTime, iMessage, iCloud, iWork, iLife.

    I don't think it will hurt Mac sales at all (maybe slightly, but I doubt it) but more importantly, it will make the iOS ecosystem extremely strong allowing Apple to fend off Android and WP7 far more easily.

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