Apple has unveiled some of the new features of OS X Mountain Lion. As many of us expected, it shows Apple further blurring the distinction between its desktop operating system, now called OS X instead of Mac OS X and the mobile iOS system.
More iOS Features On Your Mac
Mountain Lion further embeds the sharing and social features of iOS and promises to make working across devices easier. For example, start something on your iPhone, work it up on your Mac, then effortlessly share it on your iPad.
As an everyday Mac user, I’m excited by the features in Mountain Lion. It’s certainly going to make communication and collaboration easier. As much as I love OmniFocus, it seems Reminders just became a whole lot more useful for smaller daily lists. And pulling Notes out of the Mail and giving it some of the old Stickies features makes it a whole lot more useful and useable.
In particular, I’m thrilled to see the AirPlay Mirroring feature coming to Macs. Right now I watch English Premier League football on my MacBook Pro via a mioStadium pass. But, with Mountain Lion I will be able to painlessly stream that feed to my TV, wirelessly. Yet one more nail in the coffin for conventional cable TV!
The Zen Of One Screen
Mountain Lion suggests the end of the device dance – where users have to keep their iPhone at hand while using the computer, in order to answer messages and handle some other needs. In fact the only big missing feature is the ability to easily route phone calls from the iPhone to your iMac, or MacBook Pro (I assume that’s coming).
This is bringing us closer to what has clearly been Apple’s goal for a long time, namely, the ability to do any software related task with whatever computer screen is available to us as the time. You could call it the “zen of one screen.” To see how deep this thinking goes in Apple’s DNA, check out this video of Steve Jobs from 1997,
Licences and Levies
Using the cloud to work across OSX and iOS devices (not to mention the rise of the App Store and the new Gatekeeper function) is going to challenge existing models for licensing and pricing software. We’ve already seen where Apple is going with the unbundling of the old Logic Pro package (and before that the Final Cut suite) into it’s constituent parts.
It’s kind of obvious, but consumers will reward companies that make it easier to use their products across the two operating systems and will tend to avoid those that seem to double (or triple) charge for versions of the same product.
That’s why I’m fascinated by the direction Abode have taken with their CreativeCloud offering. For $49.99 a month Adobe are not only offering storage and sync capability, but also licensing their whole Creative Suite package (including Photoshop, Dreamweaver, InDesign, Illustrator, Premier Pro and After Effects), as well a TypeKit subscription and eventually Lightroom.
What About Productivity?
What does this mean to creative professionals? I’m inclined to agree with Peter Kirn that this update doesn’t fundamentally change things for those us who use Macs to make music, images or other original creative work. As Peter says,
“You can safely ignore the debate – on all sides – likely to rage about what this OS update means. The stuff that matters most to us as musicians isn’t necessarily what matters to other people.”
The real big question is how (and if) we include notifications and social functions into our daily work. I’m in two minds about this.
My MacBook Pro is the computer I use for doing email, posting to the web, sharing photos and managing calendars and projects. As I mentioned above, I really like the idea of updating to Mountain Lion for this machine. But, my Mac Pro, the machine I use to make music (and heavier photo projects) may well stay on Snow Leopard until it becomes obsolete. I’ve worked hard to build a distraction-free environment around that machine; I don’t even bring my iPhone into the studio!
That said, I do like the idea of sharing features in Pro applications. Why not make it easier to share a mix from Logic to Twitter (maybe via SoundCloud)? Moreover, it would be great if we could integrate calendars (and email/message notifications) into production notes in Logic and Final Cut.
Some may claim that Mountain Lion is not a “game-changer.” That kind of misses the point. The game changed a long time ago. What Mountain Lion offers us, assuming it is stable and doesn’t break too many existing apps, is a chance to get more mileage out of the devices and applications we already own. That, in and of itself, is reason enough to be excited.
So, I will look forward to working with Mountain Lion while I wait patiently to see what, if anything, Apple does with the Mac Pro range.