Performance and conclusion
Apple’s historical practice of tightly integrating hardware and software has paid off yet again. It might seem harsh to exclude Macs that are only four or five years old, but the decision does ensure that you can always expect certain level of performance. We noticed no stuttering or instability after upgrading the 2008 MacBook and 2011 MacBook air to Mountain Lion.
The price is low enough that we can recommend this upgrade to everyone, and the download and installation process couldn’t be simpler. A few years ago Mountain Lion might have been treated as an incremental OS update rather than a whole new version, but the world has changed and Apple is pushing everyone into a new era.
The awkward inclusion of social media accounts shows that there's a way to go before OS X and iOS merge completely
In that sense, Mountain Lion is just the face of the very earliest beginnings of a much, much larger shift. At every step of the way, you’re encouraged to put your files on iCloud, connect your apps to iCloud and sync your settings through iCloud. This is where everything is headed, and this is why Apple is so intent on unifying its points of entry, ie iOS and OS X, into a much more consistent experience. Microsoft is doing the same across Windows 8, Windows Phone, Office, and its various online services, so you’re probably going to have to choose one camp or the other at some point. Once all your data and devices are hooked into iCloud, it’s going to be very difficult to switch allegiances. Even now, if you’d rather just save files to your hard drive, you’re going to have to understand what iCloud is in order to bypass it. And what does all this mean for hardware? Will future devices evolve to support a completely cloud-based file storage model? Will Internet access infrastructure be able to keep up?
Unfortunately, it isn’t easy to describe or explain the multifaceted online service in a single sentence, and there’s no one app where users can, for instance, browse through all their stored files. We expect users to be a bit confused when they start seeing prompts about uploading files or running out of space—and considering that a single iPhone or iPad backup can occupy up to 3 GB (without app data), that free 5 GB quota will run out very quickly. We expect Apple to at least double the free quota and put a lot more effort into explaining what iCloud does for users in the near future. There are other constraints as well: those used to an always-on Internet connection will find themselves without the most recent versions of their files if they’re ever cut off. Our quick experiments with text files and JPEG images worked flawlessly, but we can hardly imagine storing a lifetime’s worth of photos or working on heavy files in professional video editing and animation software via iCloud. Those of us with 2 GB and 5 GB “fair usage caps” on our Internet service are shuddering at the thought.
Mountain Lion reminds us that the computer is in no danger of dying and that even Apple doesn’t imagine that everyone will be able to live happily with only an iPad despite the fact that millions of people have already moved over to one as their primary computer. The computer is, however, evolving to a new middle ground which will probably prove uncomfortable for anyone over 25 today who considers themselves a “power user”. On the other hand, this will be well received by anyone who has been frustrated by what they see as unintelligible instructions and illogical conventions.
Mountain Lion and Windows 8 are going to escalate the Mac vs PC argument to a whole new level, and it soon won’t be as easy to make a choice between the two as it is now. This is where computers are headed, and if you can’t get used to these seemingly “dumbed down” operating systems, now is the time to take a fresh look at Linux.