Mountain Lion: Most Skippable OS X Upgrade Ever?

There’s a good reason Apple let Mountain Lion out of its cage this morning with no fanfare or event. Like Lion, the improvements are minor at best and some less than useless. Lion hasn’t sold particularly well, and few of its “improvements” have caught the attention of the public, except when they try to scroll down and it goes up. Personally, I thought being able to resize windows from any edge was worth the price of admission alone, but the rest, not so much.

And now here is Mountain Lion, a collection of iOS apps and features already available elsewhere. And a shady “security” feature that by default prevents you from getting apps from any non-Apple-approved source (the default is not Mac App Store only, as was written earlier).

Apple-flavored versions of Growl and SimpleNote, great. A desktop version of Game Center, a network built around mobile gaming. Why? And you can now tweet things from anywhere, super easily. Except 95% of your tweets are done either in a client, on your mobile, or within a browser, where there is already a wealth of plugins and bookmarklets. A chat client. A screen-casting thing that requires an Apple TV, and can prohibit some content from being transmitted. The share button might be nice.

And Gatekeeper – kind of a heavy name for a single setting. It’s not a serious security feature, just a way to shunt people into the Mac App Store by default (we worried about this back in 2010). It wasn’t long ago that Facebook and Google were facing withering criticism for similar “defaulting” strategies. The shoe is on the other foot today, though as usual it’s really more a philosophical problem than a practical one. Just change the setting.

I’m not trying to be overly negative, here. I like my Mac. But neither Lion nor Mountain Lion (also known as the Puma or Panther) has made me excited about using it. On the contrary, I’m worried about it. The features added have been increasingly imitative, restrictive, and questionable from a user-experience point of view. I know there are big changes coming down the line, and I look forward to them, but these holdover releases are toothless.