It's been three weeks since Apple released OS X 10.8, or Mountain Lion, and so far it has proven to be a worthwhile —maybe even must-have— upgrade for Mac users. In its first four days of availability Mountain Lion has been downloaded more than 3 million times, making it the most successful OSX release in Apple's history. It offers 200+ new features, an enhanced security application, and various bug improvements at an affordable price of $19.99. And just like its predecessor it is conveniently available for purchase via the Mac App Store.
But despite Mountain Lion's array of attractive selling-points many Mac users are still asking that one important question: is it worth it? It's a fair question to ask considering Apple didn't strongly deliver with last year's release of OS X Lion which gave users software compatibility issues and features that weren't necessarily worthwhile.
But this year Apple has delivered on Lion's promises with Mountain Lion. Social networks like Twitter, Vimeo, and Flickr have been directly integrated into the software making it the most social OS available, and iOS devices are even more connected to its OS X counterpart thanks to the addition of a new notifications menu and some cleverly redesigned native applications.
Apple still fell short on a few things with its latest release, specifically with its weak iCloud integration, and until iOS 6 is released iMessages will continue to be difficult to use. The great thing about Mountain Lion is that it will steadily release new features in the following months that will help correct some of these shortcomings.
So the question remains: is OS X Mountain Lion worth the download? Well let's take a look at some of the high, average, and low features of the operating software before making a consensus.
Social Network Integration: With social network integration users can post to Twitter, Vimeo, and Flickr with in-app sharing sheets (ie. post a photograph from within iPhoto directly to a designated Flickr account.) Unfortunately YouTube isn't an available option, which may be no surprise since the search engine giant is slowly becoming more of a competitor of Apple instead of an ally. Facebook seems to have mysteriously disappeared from its appearance in the golden master version of Mountain Lion, but Apple has announced that it will be made available again in the fall. The social network integration feature has tremendous potential to becoming a revolutionary sharing option for OS X users, especially once third-party developers take advantage of it.
Notifications: OS X now displays notifications similar to that of iOS notifications and provides a swipe bar located to the right of the screen where users can view recent and past notifications. Now incoming email, Twitter updates, and other in-app notifications are easily complied within one easily accessible location.
Dictation: It may not be Siri, but Dictation is the beginning of the hands-free desktop experience. Users can speak anywhere where text can be entered by simply pressing the designated shortcut. It's just like using dictation on the iPad.
iOS Consistency: iCal has been renamed 'Calendar', Reminders has become its own app separate from Calendar, and Notes has become its own app separate from Mail to mirror their iOS equivalents. iOS and OS X are slowly merging in functions and feel to establish one consistent system.
Safari: Some users may shun Safari, but the latest version of Apple's native web browser features an omnibar, which intelligently combines the address bar and search field into one, and iCloud tabs which picks up in-browser viewing between OS X and iOS devices.
Gatekeeper: Apple introduces a new anti-malware application that prevents any illegally created apps from infecting Mac devices.
AirPlay: AirPlay for OS X is a highlighted feature since it enables screen-sharing between a Mac desktop or laptop and a 2nd generation Apple TV. It will prove useful for PC gaming, watching movies, sharing a Skype conversation, or even presenting a Keynote. The only problem is that it is not available on Mac models created before 2011 due to hardware limitations, which leaves many users out of the loop of a fantastic feature.
AirDrop: Just like AirPlay, AirDrop also suffers from hardware restrictions and only caters to devices created in 2008 or later.
Speed: Depending on the computer's processor Mountain Lion will run extremely fast or will barely reveal any improvement from OS X Lion. The boot-up has received a noticeable bump in speed despite the processor's capabilities.
Download & Installation: Some users had better luck than other users when it came to downloading and installing Mountain Lion, but the unlucky users experienced extremely slow download speeds with Apple's servers and unexpected error messages halfway through installation. Users who plan to download Mountain Lion now shouldn't experience as many issues due to the decrease in download traffic.
iMessages: Until iOS 6 is released iMessages will confusingly merge messages sent to Apple account emails and iPhone phone numbers into one application without proper organization.
iCloud Integration: iCloud has yet to receive a dedicated application, which is becoming a higher demand by users as switching to the Cloud becomes the norm.
OS X Mountain Lion definitely fills the gaps that Lion had left behind but its true potential will not be shown until the rest of its features are rolled out in the coming months. Users who have recent hardware will benefit more from the operating software with the AirPlay and AirDrop features, which are worth the upgrade alone. However, users who are currently using older versions of OS X, especially Lion, should upgrade regardless of their Mac's hardware since many bugs have been corrected. Mountain Lion's adoption of iOS functions will fancy iPhone and iPad users alike and socialites will heavily enjoy the social integration features. Avid texters should avoid the iMessages app for now and users looking for a stronger iCloud integration may have to wait until the next version of OS X.
In the end Mountain Lion is worth the $19.99 download. Whether it's for the rich features or to simply step up from an older version Apple's latest operating software will remind users why they chose OS X in the first place.