OS X Mountain Lion was unleashed today. The new Mac operating system makes the Mac even more like an iOS device. This is good in some ways. It creates a synergistic ecosystem between all Apple devices. If you are working on your Mac and want to add something to Reminders, you can do it on your Mac now. The reminder will sync across all of your Apple devices. The continual integration of select social networks, however, is a mixed blessing. The favoritism for Twitter and Facebook is based solely on popularity. Thanks to Apple, the competition has an even harder time. I personally prefer Google+ and Tumblr. StumbleUpon is also an excellent social network for randomly exploring websites based on your interests. It has been extremely helpful in promoting this site. Apple could have created a more open system for integrating social networks.
If you do not own a Mac, you need to know one thing about OS X upgrades — they happen quite often. Apple releases new operating systems almost annually. There have been 9 new OS X operating systems in a little over a decade. It is inexpensive to upgrade a Mac. Lion was $30 and Mountain Lion (the new one) is only $20. There have been complaints that it really isn’t a compelling upgrade. This is par for the course. The difference between Leopard and Snow Leopard was almost indistinguishable and mostly internal. Lion was a bit of a jump, offering vastly improved gesture controls and the first convergence with iOS. Mountain Lion also appears to be quite a leap, considering the OS X release history of small, incremental changes. Apple realizes competitors are hot on their heels. Unfortunately, the more changes they make, the more quality is sacrificed.
Mountain Lion continues its convergence with iOS. We now see, beyond Calendar and AppStore, many iOS 5 apps included with OS X. Reminders, Notes, Notification Center, Game Center, Messages and AirPlay Mirroring are now part of OS X. iCloud has been enhanced, allowing users to store documents “in the cloud”. If you edit a document on your Mac, it will reflect the changes on your iOS Device.
Dictation and Gatekeeper offer convenience and security. While the dictation feature seems a bit superfluous, the increase in malware and viruses that infect Macs necessitates Gatekeeper. Both will hurt the bottom line of speech recognition developers like Nuance, as well as the slew of anti-virus software makers. Nuance does have a partnership with Apple in iOS development. Also, Nuance’s Dragon software is superior to the dictation in OS X Mountain Lion, as it works when the user is offline. Apple provides more built-in apps than Windows (although less than most Linux distros), which harms third-party software developers. If Apple drives off too many developers, their technology could stagnate. Indeed, Apple wooing developers has enabled a tremendous amount of innovation.
Tight integration with social networks is baked into Mountain Lion. This makes more sense with iOS devices, which are crippled from uploading files. The file upload form element is not supported in iOS. You cannot upload a file from your iPhone or iPad’s web browser. Nonetheless, users will be able to Tweet and update their Facebook status from various apps within Mountain Lion. This offers a moderate convenience, not a necessity, as in the case of iOS. iOS should have functional uploading from Safari — just limit it to safe stuff like the camera roll, notes, etc. This would make it easier to work with any social networking platform, and enable the “full web” experience that Apple claimed since the first iPhone.
Apple’s preference for Twitter and Facebook, although driven by consumer demand, virtually destroys competing social networking portals. I like Twitter. I think Facebook is mediocre, hyped and has future prospects akin to an American Idol winner. Tumblr seems to be the best of breed, with a very clean and slick interface. Tumblr is like the offspring of Twitter and Facebook. The social networking phenomenon is hype-driven. Facebook is not the best, merely the most popular. Twitter’s micro-blogging format leaves much to be desired. I think Google+ and Tumblr are the best. Does anyone remember MySpace? What will Apple do when Facebook falls out of favor. It makes little sense to tightly integrate a fad into an operating system. This may be where “democratic design” fails in the long run. Some people are still laughing about “Mobile Me”.
Facebook is not impervious to competition. Facebook’s IPO was a disaster, and six months after the IPO, their employees will be able to sell off their stock options, which could devalue the stock further. Many have criticized Facebook for their lack of privacy, as they sell information about their users to a variety of interests. As Rory O’Connor points out, Facebook will eventually succumb to a challenger offering similar features with enhanced privacy. Facebook’s revenues are entirely from advertising. All their eggs are in one basket.
Integrating social networking into an operating system with only two partners, Twitter and Facebook, is a bad idea. A better solution would have been to store the data in a format, such as XML, and have various processors, such as XSLT templates, transform it into social content for a variety of networks. Well, there’s many ways to skin that cat. The Rails guy in me considers XML to be obsolete and “enterprisey”. The point is that they could have done this generically — make it work for “n” social networks. This would allow third-party developers to integrate their social network into OS X. Ah, but that would be fair. Facebook and Apple, in particular, seem to be birds of a feather. Maybe I need to change my site to Facebappledystopia, but I know it would only hurt my page ranking!
Is it worth upgrading to Mountain Lion? Yes! Just make sure to wait for Apple to find and fix bugs. Stay tuned to Appledystopia for breaking news on Mountain Lion bugs. I think this will be their buggiest operating system to date. Even in the later beta releases, there are egregious defects like Facebook friends birthdays’ flooding Calendar and AirPlay mirroring not working on certain models. I started this site because AirPlay worked just fine for me, up until 6 months ago. Their fiddling and feature-cramming ruined a very stable and essential wireless media conduit.
Mountain Lion is also Apple’s most exclusionary OS. Only the newest Macs will be able to upgrade. The oldest Macs eligible are from mid-2007. My Mac Pro just barely makes the cut off. I think this may be the last upgrade I can get. I thought I would get more than 4 years of current OS upgrades from a $2500 computer. I used to shrug off the notion that Apple is forcing obsolescence. You typically have to buy a new Windows machine with every new OS, and Bill Gates said this was by design. Microsoft designs Windows to run on contemporary hardware. Manufacturers affix labels on computers, such as “designed for Windows 7”. Apple is, quite transparently and obviously, designing their products for planned obsolescence. Given the cost of Apple products, this may backfire.