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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  • damianrobertjones - Sunday, February 19, 2012 - link

    "Nothing I've seen in Windows 8 ..." Was that from using the 'not even' alpha version?
  • Kodongo - Friday, February 17, 2012 - link

    Andrew, it seems now that Windows is being updated every 2-3 years and Ubuntu has Long Term Support versions which are updated biennially. OS X is not in the blossoming stage of its existence (like iOS) so major advances in the desktop OS are less likely and a lot of the changes in Lion seem either geared to funnelling people towards their iServices (e.g. iCloud, iTunes et cetera) or generic changes which were more about aesthetics than efficacy (flashy animations, Calendar colours, all grey icons). Can OS X really justify a yearly cadence for releases, especially if a lot of the changes are just going to be minor refinements?

    And for name99 above:

    "...the sort of thing said by idiots, not by adults"

    Firstly, have a modicum of respect for the people who take the time to prepare these free articles for us to read and discuss.

    Secondly, being an idiot and an adult is not mutually exclusive. Draw a Venn diagram of the two groups and you will find a rather large intersection. All that's left is for you to identify which group you belong in.
  • Andrew.a.cunningham - Friday, February 17, 2012 - link

    Thanks for the kind words. I know plenty of adult idiots, myself. :-)

    I definitely agree that a lot of the major additions to Lion and Mountain Lion serve the most purpose if you've got a lot of Apple products in your life, but with every version it seems like there's at least a couple of new features (full disk FileVault is definitely a Lion addition I couldn't live without) that justify the lowered price of entry.

    In software development now, you see a trend of shorter product cycles that add fewer new features with each release, but that get new features out to users as soon as they're ready (rather than having one or two large changes hold up a bunch of smaller ones). This is especially true of browsers, but as you mentioned OSes also seem to be moving to this more incremental schedule. Transitions like the one between XP and Vista (or OS 9 to OS X) are becoming the exception rather than the rule. Some people (especially IT admins, who got awful comfortable supporting XP while Windows Vista and 7 gestated) hate this new change, but tech these days is more consumer-driven, so we'll have to put up with it for better or worse.

    So, I guess to answer your question, I'd say it's less about Apple adding a whole OS's worth of features every year, and more about changing our expectations of what constitutes a new OS. For $29 (a price which applies whether you own one Mac at home or ten), I think Apple has found a decent balance between price and features. Does that make sense?
  • solipsism - Friday, February 17, 2012 - link

    I think it was the last event Jobs spoke that he said the Mac was "just another device." I could see Apple changing the accounting for Macs that would make yearly updates free of charge.

    This could end up being more profitable for Apple as it could...

    1) Increase Mac ownership since free yearly OS updates would be considered value added.

    2) Lower the cost of the support since more users would be getting the latest OS updates since no cost is being applied.

    3) Eventually shorten the timeframe in which older Macs are supported to something more akin to the 3 years for iOS-based devices instead of going back 5 to 6 years for most machines.
  • Andrew.a.cunningham - Sunday, February 19, 2012 - link

    Re: your third point, I don't see the support timeframe getting much shorter than it is now - Macs are at least twice as expensive as iOS devices (and the difference can be much more than double in a lot of cases), and desktop/laptop silicon is improving a lot less between generations than ARM-based SoCs are at present. Macs are bigger purchases than iOS devices, so I'd hope to continue to see the 5-6 year average support window stay open.

    OS X usually drops computers for technical reasons - dropping support for the G3, PPC, 32-bit processors, and now the 32-bit kernel were all done (ostensibly) to get rid of old code and keep the platform streamlined.
  • Penti - Sunday, February 19, 2012 - link

    I think they should support the older versions a bit longer and bring the new features over there too (it's just a matter of packing up a few binaries). I.e. backport and maintain security updates, workstation users would love it, it takes time to move over major applications to rather large releases/updates as Apple does. Apple does some larger changes and pretty much brakes everything in the process, binary compatibility aren't high on the list. It's not like XP was the same OS in 2008 (SP3) as in 2001 either way. Their you pretty much had the same amount of difference as between OS X 10.0 and 10.4 at least. Microsoft does add new features in the service packs, in the server releases the R2 is actually a whole new OS from a licensing perspective.

    Apple should bring changes to both the new bleeding edge and the older OS so that people can opt in, opt out, do testing and change over in a timely matter, machines that can't be updated because of applications shouldn't be totally left out. That should at least happen under that 18 month period it is supported. 0.1 releases even happen less often now when the focuses has changed somewhat. So maybe it should be more focus on apps/system updates rather then large releases when it comes to Apple.
  • Andrew.a.cunningham - Sunday, February 19, 2012 - link

    That sort of thing would introduce some extra complexity to the system that Apple usually avoids. The first reason is financial: why offer a new OS X version for money but backport most of its features for free? The second is support: under the current system, a support person (either from Apple or otherwise) can tell some key things about a system just by finding out what OS version it runs.

    Lastly, old versions of OS X *do* tend to be supported for awhile before they're completely dropped, both with security patches as well as new features that come in with Safari and iTunes upgrades. It's not documented anywhere, but Apple usually supports two versions of OS X at once - the current version and the version immediately preceding it. Your old system isn't completely cut off just because it doesn't support the latest OS X.

    And, about point updates, the timing has actually stayed remarkably consistent between versions:

    10.5.0: Oct 26, 2007
    10.5.1: Nov 15, 2007
    10.5.2: Feb 11, 2008
    10.5.3: May 28, 2008 (7 months after 10.5.0)

    10.6.0: Aug 28, 2009
    10.6.1: Sept 10, 2009
    10.6.2: Nov 9, 2009
    10.6.3: March 29, 2010 (7 months after 10.6.0)

    10.7.0: July 20, 2011
    10.7.1: Aug 16, 2011
    10.7.2: Oct 12, 2011
    10.7.3: Feb 1, 2012 (about 7 months after 10.7.0)
  • Penti - Sunday, February 19, 2012 - link

    Airplay mirroring sounds like a great feature that has been missing since airplay pretty much. Much like Intel's WiDi so you can share your whole screen. It has been a missing feature as we are moving away from cables and simple airplay/DLNA streaming of video files. Moving away from fat HTPC's costing 1000 dollars too, as well as desktops.

    It's becoming a bit schizophrenic though as they are moving closer to integrating with Microsoft and enterprises, dropping their proprietary server stuff, integrating their software with Active Directory and Exchange and at the same time keeps developing their proprietary apps and services that's certainly not cross-platform and ever more closed off. It's developing a huge divide between consumer and enterprise as well as prosumer. Sure companies can use Mail and Calendar against Exchange, use Active Directory to store users and contacts, but add Sharepoint, Office etc and the divide between iCloud/Pages/Mac App Store alternatives becomes pretty huge. Still at the back end you will pretty much end up with Microsoft at a mac shop. You will not be able to fully make the mac an appliance, not if you still want it to make inroads as a workstation and enterprise desktop. Appliance-ification won't really work on a computer platform and Microsoft will feel that too. It works on the app level not OS/system level in the same way. With their own schizophrenia with WinRT, Metro style and updated Ribbon look and UI. Major projects their will just as always be stuck with older tools, libraries and such. Corporations and desktop users won't really sit there with iCloud, Skydrive and such. Yet everything goes into different directions that aren't really connected.

    Dropping 32-bit support in Lion has pretty much been bullshit any app is still 32-bit pretty much, Lion supports some machines booting 32-bit kernel and running 64-bit programs and you can modify it to run on 32-bit only machines still, universal binaries means like all the apps except the new finder is still startable in 32-bit mode, most drivers still need to be available in both. Major releases of the OS as means of update starts to look bad too, it has been pretty ok though. I guess moving over developers to iOS will generate some pain soon too.

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