Turn the time machine dial to October 2010 and you'll remember when Mac OS X Lion was unveiled by Steve Jobs and Co. Apple called the event "Back to the Mac" and showcased some iOS-esque features that were coming to Apple's desktop operating system. By February 2011, there was developer preview and in summer 2011, Lion was ready for the world. That's a quick turnaround between teaser, preview and launch. Now, a year later, Apple is at it again. The latest developer preview for OS X 10.8 Mountain Lion is available and it's packed to the gills with more iOS features than you can shake a stick at.
Apple is bringing the much-loved iOS notification center to the Mac, along with iMessages (which frankly seemed inevitable) and the rest of the stock iOS apps we use every day, including Notes, Reminders, Gamer Center, iCloud and even inline Twitter integration across the operating system. In addition, AirPlay has been natively enabled across the OS, so video- and photo-sharing from your Mac to your AppleTV will be super-easy.
Plus, Apple is introducing a new member to the OS X family, Gatekeeper, whose purpose is to ensure malicious applications don't run on your machine. It's almost like white-listing: Pop over to your system settings and you can set limits on your machine to run only Mac App Store apps, applications not from the App Store but from Apple "identified developers," or any application.
Detecting a trend? Apple is hyping native applications and the Mac App Store. Is Apple trying to get more control over the Mac? Undoubtedly, yes, but it's a smart move. As the Mac becomes more popular, with more people using the iPad and the iPhone as "gateway drugs," Apple is smart to make the Mac not only as friendly as its iOS counterparts also also as familiar. While many users worry that Apple will eventually lock up OS X as much as iOS, I'm confident Apple will always leave a switch to ensure the OS is as open as it's always been, capable of being used in the traditional way, file systems and all.
A careful reader will notice Apple dropped the "Mac" from the operating system moniker. This could raise more eyebrows than Apple's iOS-ification of OS X. It could imply the operating system will eventually run on more than Macintosh computers. Does that mean OS X and iOS will merge? Possibly, but I also think Apple could have a new device around the corner that is neither Mac nor iOS device. At the very least, Apple is simplifying its technology nomenclature. Once upon a time Jobs spent part of a keynote explaining the move from "Apple Computer Inc." to "Apple Inc."
While the hype ramps up around OS X 10.8, I'll be scouring the web (or pestering some of my Apple developer friends) to send me the developer preview for an actual test drive. Get excited.