Mountain Lion: Initial Thoughts

Apple’s released the first look at MacOS X 10.somethingorother, “Mountain Lion.” Like Lion, it’s a further adoption of iOS technologies at the desktop. Unlike Lion, these adoptions are more than skin deep. Mountain Lion becomes a peer device with your iPad and iPhone. Whether that’s a promotion or demotion of the status of the Mac in your digital life is certainly debatable.

First off, there’s all the new apps. Bringing iMessage into a new iChat replacement, a better to-do manager than iCal’s half-assed handling of the same, and Notes taking on the best of the old Notepad desk accessory and Stickies looks great. Even if I’ll never use most of these things, since I already have half my life in OmniFocus and Evernote, they’re still fine additions.

But then there’s iCloud and Gatekeeper.

Gatekeeper is the most immediately controversial. It simply controls what applications are allowed to be installed, sort of a user security policy. If you want to be able to install applications that are made by developers who have not registered with Apple, you’ll need to change a setting. While this is billed as the “middle ground” between App-Store-Only and the current wide-open standard, I think that misses the point that in order to be able to easily distribute apps, you must register with Apple first.

Next, we have iCloud. Keeping all my files sync’d up across all my Macs without any hard work sounds great. I love DropBox and ChronoSync, and making that system level sounds zippy. Well, except that lots of apps won’t support it at all, especially all of the ones that won’t be distributed through the MAS, which will thereby be ineligible for iCloud.

Not so trouble free, is it?

And in either case, I’ll need to register with Apple, because iCloud’s become a necessity, not the really-just-a-payment-method AppleID of old.

Basically, Apple’s pulling a Google here. They’re taking more and more data on its developers and users, and taking more and more of its consumers’ digital stuff onto its own servers.

This is, I’ll admit, a little alarmist. They’ve always asked for product registration, and an AppleID is pretty much a must-have and with XCode’s distribution on the MAS, a requirement to be a developer. But it still shows a level of personal-level control and management that Apple’s never taken on before.

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Written on February 16, 2012