14 Aug 2012

Roar of the Mountain Lion

How does Apple’s latest release compare with Windows 8? Apple’s latest operating system, Mountain Lion, recently roared into the headlines. Unlike Windows 8, which will be a total overhaul, Mountain Lion is more of an update to Apple’s previous OS, Lion.  But it still contains several interesting features that PC users may also be hoping to see in Windows 8. Seamless mobile-desktop experience The key trend for operating systems is creating a more seamless experience between the desktop and mobile devices, both in terms of features and user interface. Mountain Lion has introduced the notifications feature seen on the iPhone and iPad.  New messages and calendar appointments pop up on screen, and are collected in a new Notifications Center. Windows 8 is also set to get notifications, but it’s not known if it will share Mountain Lion’s convenient list view. Mountain Lion will also let iOS users view their SMS text messages on a Mac, and send and receive iMessages.  It also has built-in Notes and Reminders that sync over the cloud with a mobile device.  Windows 8 is likely to get these via third party apps. Emulating touchscreens Mountain Lion has Launchpad which replicates a screen covered with iOS’s “squircle” (part square, part circle) application icons. Windows 8’s new Metro-style user interface will also have a new Start screen, similar to the one in Windows Phone 7, with live application tiles. Streaming to a TV screen Computer-to-TV connectivity is another important trend.  Mountain Lion’s AirPlay Mirroring feature wirelessly streams video from a Mac to a TV screen, via Apple TV or a compatible third party device. Microsoft is expected to release a SmartGlass app to allow tablets to stream content to the Xbox 360. Given how useful this feature is for business presentations, enabling it on third party devices – given most offices don’t have Xboxes – would seem an obvious feature. Voice dictation Mountain Lion allows users to press the Function key twice in any application, and start dictating text. Windows 8 offers voice dictation more as an accessibility feature, not intended for general use. Into the Cloud Cloud features are a critical area where Microsoft is currently ahead.  Apple’s iCloud is essentially a syncing service for content between different devices, whereas Microsoft’s SkyDrive has a visible file structure and allows you to store and access what you like. What OS you use most likely depends on what hardware you have.  But, if there’s a feature of one OS that you’d like on the other, with time there’ll be plenty of opportunity for third party developers to fill the gaps. What are the key features you want from Windows 8?  Let us know.