Apple parades its Mountain Lion

Well, now we know what the next release of OS X will look like. Apple has officially lifted the curtain over OS X Mountain Lion, putting up a sneak preview subsite, rolling out a developer preview, and giving journalists first dibs on the new software.

The guys at The Verge whipped up a nice hands-on piece. From the looks of it, Mountain Lion is merely an evolutionary step up from last year's release, Lion, but it goes further along the same path—namely, bringing in features from iOS to make Apple's desktop and handheld experiences more consistent.

The latest iOS hand-me-downs include Notification Center, iMessage, Game Center, Notes, Reminders, and OS-wide Twitter integration. Behind the scenes, Mountain Lion also borrows iOS's walled garden approach to third-party software. There's now a system preference to disallow apps not downloaded from the Mac App Store. Aside from that, Mountain Lion still looks like the same old OS X, with the dock at the bottom, menu bar at the top, and stoplight buttons at the top left of windows.

It's interesting to see how differently OS X and Windows are evolving. Apple and Microsoft are obviously trying to blend their desktop and handheld experiences. Apple is taking a best-of-both-worlds approach, making OS X more like iOS without fundamentally changing its identity. Meanwhile, Microsoft is taking the opposite approach with Windows 8, offering clean-slate and legacy experiences side by side.

Starting with a clean slate is nice for sure, and I really believe Metro will make computers easier to use for non-techies. As a power user, though, I think there's something to be said for the slow, gradual, and non-disruptive renovations OS X is undergoing.

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