Apple Unveils Mountain Lion, Due this Summer

Apple offered a first look at the successor to OS X Lion, dubbed Mountain Lion, on Thursday. The next version of the Mac operating system adopts even more iOS-like features and is scheduled to ship some time this summer.

Apple is calling Mountain Lion “Inspired by iPad. Re-imagined for Mac,” which nicely sums up what’s known about the new OS so far. Mountain Lion offers tighter iCloud integration with support for syncing documents, contacts and calendars, Mail, Safari bookmarks, notes and to-dos, and more.

Mountain Lion on the iMac and MacBook AirMountain Lion on the iMac and MacBook Air

Mountain Lion will include a Reminders app just like iOS 5 for managing to-dos. The Notes app, which has been included in iOS since the original iPhone, will be part of Mountain Lion, too. Notes will support text as well as attachments, web links, and in-line photos.

Social Networking fans get a nod from Apple in the new OS thanks to built-in Twitter support at the system level, just like iOS.

Apple is retiring iChat with Mountain Lion and replacing the app with Messages. That means users will finally be able to easily send unlimited messages to iPhone, iPad, iPod touch and Mac users without worrying about which device they’re using or SMS message caps. Messages on the Mac will also support AIM, Jabber, Yahoo! Messenger and Google Talk.

Growl users may have an alternative notification option in Mountain Lion’s Notification Center — another feature borrowed from iOS. Like the iPhone and iPad version, it displays alerts from the system, Mail, events and alarms, reminders, messages, and third-party apps.

Apple is also beefing up security with its new Gatekeeper. The app lets users control where apps can be downloaded.

Apple said,

You can choose to install apps from any source, just as you do on a Mac today, or you can use the safer default setting to install apps from the Mac App Store, along with apps from developers that have a unique Developer ID from Apple. For maximum security, you can set Gatekeeper to only allow apps from the Mac App Store to be downloaded and installed.

Developers will have access to hundreds of new APIs which should let them add new features to their apps. Chinese support will be improved with better input methods, support for Baidu search in Safari, QQ, 126 and 163 email support, and more.

Mountain Lion will also offer Game Center support, and AirPlay support for wirelessly mirroring your display through the AppleTV, too.

Apple hasn’t set an official launch date yet, or said how much Mountain Lion will cost. It will be available through the Mac App Store as a download, and a developer preview is available now.