After working on Apple’s updated operating system for more than a week, KARTHIK SUBRAMANIAN discovers Mountain Lion merges the desktop and mobile experience

The Mac OS (operating system) has been known for its design simplicity — both visual and functional.

Apple’s latest iteration of its operating system Mountain Lion or OSX, as the company likes to brand it, is not much of an improvement on the visual frontage of the OS itself. Apple has retained its core and it is impossible to tell the difference between Lion and Mountain Lion just by looking at the screen.

But the difference becomes evident in the experience, especially for power users who do a lot of social networking and cloud computing-linked work. There are plenty of tweaks that make the upgrade worthwhile. Besides which, Apple has aggressively priced the OS upgrade at $19.99 or approximately Rs. 1,150. (The 4GB plus installer is available at the online Mac App Store.)

Apple has always prided itself on ensuring that most of its users upgrade and use its latest OS, in order to lure developers to work on its current platform. Looks like Apple may have achieved that target with Mountain Lion too.

Experiences converge

With Mountain Lion, Apple seems to have taken the lead in presenting a computing experience that remains the same across desktop and mobile devices.

Those who have multiple Apple devices — across iMac, Macbook, iPad, iPod and iPhone — will be able to appreciate this convergence better as most of the improvements to Mountain Lion are inspired by Apple’s mobile operating system iOS.

The OS brings to the desktop a “notifications” service through which users can configure their mails, social networks and other services. Through the notification centre, users will be alerted about their latest emails as alerts from their social networks, even as they work on other software. In a way, this is similar to the notifications in a smartphone.

A distraction

However, some power users might find this a distraction. So there is an option to temporarily turn off notifications for a day.

The theme of convergence runs right through the Mountain Lion upgrade. Users will be able to send out tweets — be it while writing documents, editing photos or browsing the web — once they configure their Twitter account. Apple has promised to add Facebook integration too in a similar manner very soon.

The world’s biggest technology company has also moved to the desktop space its popular iMessage service, which will now make it convenient for people to communicate within Apple devices — Mac to iPhone or iPad to iMac, etc.

Cloud-friendly

Another key aspect of Mountain Lion is the close integration to Apple’s iCloud service. The biggest change in personal computing in the last five years has been the shift from server environment to cloud storage. There is a never-before trust that has developed when it comes to storing personal documents, files and data in the cloud.

Though Apple had introduced iCloud already, and started services in its previous OSs, Mountain Lion makes iCloud integration ubiquitous.

All the positives said, there are a few negatives too. I’ve been a Windows PC user for a very long time and migrated to the Apple ecosystem only recently. And in a typical Apple scenario, I have not stopped with just one gadget. I have now an iMac, iPad, iPod and an iPhone. Though I am sold on the Apple experience, I find the file systems complex and trying to share data in a Mac among different users challenging. So those who are used to Microsoft Windows PC all their lives may not necessarily take to some of the Mac restrictions easily.

Also, the emphasis on integrating the various cloud-based social networks with computing may not necessarily be a great idea when, say, you are trying to immerse yourself in work. But whether or not you consider notifications and alerts a distraction depends entirely on you.