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  • The Mountain Lion Report: Apple Doubles Down on iOS Integration

    February 22nd, 2012

    The biggest complaint about Lion was, without doubt, the extent to which it was influenced by the iOS. Some referred to Lion as "dumbed down," because of the changes in the look and (by default) actions of the scroll bars, not to mention Launchpad. What was Apple thinking?

    As to public response, Apple reports that 30% of Mac users have upgraded to Lion since the July 2011 release. That's a faster pace than previous versions of the Mac OS, but you have to factor in the millions of new Macs sold with Lion preloaded. It's not as if Apple made it easy -- or even possible -- to downgrade to Snow Leopard. It's a matter of acceptance more than choice in many cases.

    For me, Lion has been a pretty decent upgrade. The disappearing scrollbars are easily made visible 24/7 with a System Preferences setting. You can even restore the direction of scrolling to the traditional Mac way, rather than "in the direction of finger movement" with another preference setting. Two checkboxes, and Lion's behavior returns to what most of you might prefer. Apple wanted to follow the iOS way, but gave you an out if you wanted one.

    Some changes in Mountain Lion aren't so simple to reverse unless you switch to third-party software.

    However, the Notification Manager, for example, can be switched off. While I haven't tested Growl with Mountain Lion, I suppose there's no reason why it shouldn't continue to operate if you prefer its expansive support for apps, other than Apple's of course.

    If you think Gatekeeper is too draconian in attempting to prevent you from opening any app you want, regardless of its source, you only need to select the preference to allow you continue to do things that way. The default appears to be the middle choice, which limits you to software from the Mac App Store, and from developers who have a valid Apple ID certificate. Even there, control-clicking an app's icon will bypass the warning, which is not repeated, and only applies to stuff you download. If you use an app copied from a USB stick, a DVD, or your local network, Gatekeeper doesn't get involved.

    For Messages, it operates the same way as iChat, with a different and wider message window, while adding iMessages support and other features. So your world doesn't change. But you can always use AIM, which works quite well on the Mac and does support several different IM schemes.

    For contacts, notes, reminders and calendaring, well, it's Apple or the third-party. If you like the way its done on the iOS, fine. If you don't, look for a third-party alternative. Nobody forces you to use Apple's solution.

    Mail is not that different in my limited experience with Mountain Lion, so it's a non-issue to me. If I had a problem with the few changes, I'd be limited in my options, however. I'm not enamored of Thunderbird, and Outlook for the Mac is still underdeveloped and sadly in need of performance improvements and bug fixing. I do hope that the forthcoming Lion-savvy version of Office for the Mac might fix most of the ills, and I also hope it arrives shortly and will be a no-cost update from the existing Office 2011. Microsoft would be wrong to charge you to fix bugs, but it's not as if they haven't done that before. Consider the first Mac OS X version that was virtually identical to the previous version other than support for the new OS and a handful of minor feature changes.

    Apple's strategy makes a whole lot of sense to me. They want you to be able to seemlessly move among Apple products, and having apps with the same name and same functions on both the iOS and OS X is a good thing, so long as you don't lose functionality on the desktop version. That helps both newcomers and existing Apple customers, and it makes it harder for the competition to take customers away. Departing customers have to learn new apps and new skills, which may be an obstacle, although people who don't like Apple's products would no doubt be willing to sustain a bit of a learning curve to make that move.

    But I do not yet subscribe to the opinion that Apple plans to merge the iOS and OS X in the near future. For now, mobile and desktop computers meet different needs, even if many functions overlap. I cannot, for example, imagine handling my workflow on an iPad, although I realize that might be possible some day. Moving to ARM processors doesn't make sense either, because Intel chips provide the extra performance that's essential for many of the things people do on personal computers. The ARM chips will probably get there eventually. But there's no reason now for Apple to force developers and customers to endure another processor transition in the near future.

    My initial exposure to Mountain Lion has been encouraging. I wouldn't be ready to move my workflow over to a prerelease OS without a lot of careful testing, however. But if all my apps continue to run when 10.8 is released, I'm certainly going to upgrade.



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    2 Responses to “The Mountain Lion Report: Apple Doubles Down on iOS Integration”

    1. DaveD says:

      I am always thankful to the many that took a test drive with Mountain Lion and provided feedback. The reports of their impressions to those of us who are thinking about upgrading are invaluable. I've been prepping my early 2011 MacBook Pro that boots into Snow Leopard or Lion. While most of my time is in Snow Leopard, I know that Lion is the future and have spent some time becoming familiar before making the move into mostly full time. So, there are no surprises and all of my third-party apps work.

      I find it amazing to have seen how stable the Mac platform had become over the so many years. In those days of the classic Mas OS, crashes and freezes were almost a daily part of the experience. Moving into Mac OS X from Puma (10.1) to Tiger (10.4), the platform was slowly stabilizing as the number of kernel panics decreased. Leopard was rock solid and Snow Leopard has continued on the same path.

      When Apple introduced a new feature such as "natural scrolling" in Lion, I would always first move the "wrong way" before making a quick adjustment. It is just like using a PowerBook/iBook and realizing that there is no two-finger scroll feature. One make that quick adjustment back to the old way of the scroll bars. Just adapt and move on.

      With the major upgrades on a yearly schedule, I would expect that 10.8.0 will be a "more solid" release.

      Gene Steinberg Reply:

      @DaveD, Apropos of nothing, I haven't had a crash in ages with Lion. But every week or two, I need to restart because one app or another acts flaky. I don't have enough time on the Mountain Lion preview to speak on stability, but it's quite decent for a beta.

      Peace,
      Gene

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