Mountain Lion is out in the wild. The latest version of Apple's OS X operating system is now on sale at the Mac App Store.
On Tuesday, the technology giant announced Wednesday's availability of Mountain Lion, version 10.8. The $19.99 update offers a variety of new features, including notes and reminder apps, Twitter integration, Apple's Game Center, iMessage services, and a new security feature called Gatekeeper.
Michael Gartenberg, research director at Gartner, called the new version "an evolutionary release with major new features." He added that, "in the post-PC world," Mountain Lion includes integration with Apple's iCloud storage service, and, "at $20, it's a no-brainer."
The integration with iCloud helps bring the Mac closer to the company's iOS devices. A file created on a Mountain Lion Mac in Apple's Pages , for instance, is automatically backed up on the cloud service and synced with the same file on, say, the iPad. Currently, such file synchronization is limited to Apple's apps, although it is expected that other app makers will enable their products to operate similarly.
The new OS also contains iMessages, an app available on the iPhone, iPad and iPod Touch. iMessages replaces iChat, allows for the sending of unlimited texts to others with Apple devices, and synchronizes conversation histories on all Apple devices.
Twitter is integrated into the new platform, enabling signed-in users to use Notifications Center for tweeting and to use sharing functions through various apps. A similar Facebook integration is being planned. The Notification Center and Game Center are similarly akin to their iOS cousins.
Gatekeeper Wards Off Malware
Gartenberg said the new OS "ties the various Apple devices together." He added that, while "things don't work exactly the same in the new Mountain Lion as they do on iOS, they feel the same."
Gatekeeper is intended to increase security by making it more difficult for a user to mistakenly install that could contain malware. Apps from the company's App Store or from certified third-party developers are easier to install than others, for which the user has to manually override Gatekeeper's protections.
In the last year, Mac users have experienced several widely publicized malware attacks, and Gatekeeper is one of several new Apple efforts to maintain the platform's reputation for being less virus-prone that Windows machines. For developers whose apps do not come from the Apps Store, an Apple-issued certificate is the key to getting past Gatekeeper. Reportedly, Mountain Lion can tell if a certificate has been tampered with.
The new OS requires a Mac equipped with an Intel Core 2 Duo, Core i3, i5, i7 or Xeon processor, 2 GB of RAM, 8 GB of available storage and either OS X Lion or Snow Leopard 10.6.8. A free version of Mountain Lion is available to customers who bought a new Mac on or since June 11.