As expected, Apple has today released OS X 10.8 Mountain Lion. Mountain Lion costs just $19.99 to upgrade and brings OS X one step closer to the iOS experience found on the iPhone, iPad and iPod Touch.
Mountain Lion introduces a number of new features familiar to iPhone and iPad users, such as Messages (iMessage for Mac), iCloud, Facebook and Twitter integration, Notification Center, Dictation, Game Center, Gatekeeper, AirPlay Mirroring via Apple TV, and an enhanced Safari browser.
There are over 200 changes in all listed by Apple but here are my top 5 favorite new features in Mountain Lion:
1. Instant syncing with iCloud
The most important innovation in Mountain Lion is the integration of iCloud with the iPad, iPhone and iPod Touch. Whatever changes you make to documents, contacts, calendars, music or any other files that are common to all devices, iCloud will sync them instantly without you having to do a thing. This is particularly useful if you're someone who is constantly working on the move and want to pick up directly where you left off when you get to your Mac. It's also a great backup solution, should you ever lose your Mac or iOS device.
When you first install Mountain Lion, you're prompted to enter your Apple ID details although you can ignore this if you don't want to use iCloud. Once entered, you're done. iCloud keeps everything backed-up and in sync.
2. Integrated Facebook and Twitter
Facebook, Twitter and other social media sites are now fully integrated into OS X. This means that you can now easily share things from apps such as iPhoto, Safari and Preview without having to leave what you're doing. All you have to do is make a one time sign-in to your Facebook or Twitter account and then you can share things at any time without having to leave your current app.
So if you want to share a link from a web page you're viewing in Safari, just look for the share button next to the URL bar, and select which network you want to share it to. Even better, you can update your Facebook status without having to open the Facebook site:
3. Messages (iMessage for Mac)
Messages is the same as iMessage on iOS and the replacement for iChat. Among other things, Messages offers unlimited free iMessages to iOS devices , video conferencing with Facetime and photo/HD video file sharing. You can also start a conversation on your Mac and continue your chat later on your iPad, iPhone or iPod Touch later.
4. Notification Center
Notification center is one of the most immediately noticeable changes to OS X. It's an excellent replacement for Growl and neatly collates all of your most important updates along the right-hand side of your desktop. As notifications arrive, they will appear as Growl-like pop-ups in the top right of your screen.
It might still feel a bit weird to talk to your Mac but iPhone users are already doing it with Siri and Dictation could save a hell of a lot of time. Although Dictation doesn't enable you to make your Mac carry out actions, it does turn speech into emails and the exciting thing is that the more you use it, the more it learns your accent and improves in accuracy. I'm looking forward to using Dictation quite a lot to see how much typing it can really save.
These are my top 5 highlights but don't forget to check-out our full review of Mountain Lion.