So I managed to spend some time with a preview release of OS X 10.8 (don't you dare call it Mac OS X anymore, you Luddites), or Mountain Lion in the parlance of Apple's aloof-yet-deadly themed naming system. After tooling around on my own and checking several online articles from people who were actually sent the pre-release to try out to make sure I wasn't missing any new features, all I can say is, "Are you sure this isn't 10.7.4?"
Because what Mountain Lion is, at its core, is an update meant to graft on some iOS 5 features while upping the iCloud integration level. As the name suggests, it's supposed to be more in line with the Snow Leopard (10.6) update than full-on, strawberry-tangerine burst of new UI goodness. Except Snow Leopard, which was released a full two years after Leopard (10.5), was actually a vast improvement over its forebear (forecat?) with tons of rewritten code, new bits like Grand Central and OpenGL, and a smaller memory footprint of both the RAM and HD-eating variety.
Mountain Lion has Game Center.
To be slightly more positive, Mountain Lion's iOS additions are, in general, welcome. Notification Center is quite welcome. I can't say that it's a replacement for Growl because I haven't retried Growl in years. But you can set it's noise level anywhere from Marcel Marceau to Gilbert Gottfried, and even set which email contacts trigger a notification. Unless you like being notified 129 times a day just how SmALl your Matthew Weiner is.
A new sharing feature lets you zap web pages, PDFs, QuickTime movies, pics, inappropriate feelings and other flotsam to your friends or Facebook "friends." You can do so via email, AirDrop (has this caught on yet?), the new Messages app or laser pigeon. You are now free from the tyranny of copying links or dragging-and-dropping files. Yay.
More Twitter integration = More LOLs.
A port of iOS 5's Reminders app works like a port of iOS 5's Reminders app. Except there's no Siri to automatically fill in your meds schedule. Or location-based reminding, even though Apple's notebook-to-desktop sales ratio is approximately a zillion to one. Yes, you might have to open your notebook to get the reminder. Unless you have a 4S and it's all synced together. Which it should be. Or at least should be able to be.
Apple has killed iChat and plopped iOS's Messages in its place. I've been using the beta in 10.7 for a couple of weeks now, and it's nice. Actually, it's not all that different from iChat. Except your past conversations automatically load when you start a new one, which is nifty for referencing an insult you made last week without having to search old sessions. And if you have everything synced correctly, you can start a Messages session on your iOS device and continue it uninterrupted on your desktop when you finally stumble into the office. Assuming both you and your chattee are using your Apple IDs and not AOL IM IDs carried over from iChat. I think. Someone chat with me to find out. So lonely.
Did I mention Game Center? I did? Sorry about that.
AirPlay mirroring, which is now integrated at the System Preferences level, is awesome. Probably. I have no way of testing it because I don't have a current gen Apple TV, and the hack I used to get AirPlay working between it and my iPhone is limited to said iPhone. But sure sounds nifty. And it'll be even niftier if the rumored 1080p Apple TV hits next week. Especially if Apple doesn't do something like block streaming from Hulu.
Finally, Vinz Clortho has found his OS of choice with the addition of Gatekeeper. Gatekeeper is an attempt to prevent malware from being installed on users' machines. Naturally, all App Store programs are allowed, as well as outside apps that receive an Apple-approved digital certificate. For those of us feeling frisky or with a clue, we can bypass Gatekeeper and install whatever we want. I guess so we don't have jailbreak our own machines. Eventually, if more evildoers attack Macland, Gatekeeper may indeed be handy. But for now it seems like a fairly transparent attempt by Apple to push developers into the App Store since Grandma probably won't install a non-certified batch of code.
And that's about it. Some decent stuff that, at least in my limited usage, didn't appear to break anything I like and improved some of OS X's usability. But if you think this update is a must-have, you must have more invested in Game Center than I obviously do. Obviously.