OS X Mountain Lion 10.8: Early Impressions

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Yesterday I got a shock:  Apple was planning on releasing OS X 10.8 a year after Lion was released.  The development process for OS X has accelerated, which comes with it's own share of problems when it comes to training and Certification.  That being said, I couldn't wait to download and install the OS to give it a try!DownloadingOnce I got my voucher from the Apple Developer's website, I was taken to the Mac App Store to download and install the OS.  This isn't surprising, as Apple started this process with OS 10.7.  It took about 30 minutes to an hour to download, it being a large file in and of itself.  I then quickly backed up some critical files on my computer (always a good idea before upgrading!), and started the install. InstallationNothing changed much from the Lion install here.  It was pretty straightforward in upgrading.  Once installed I did get one update (which surprised me), but the update was for an HP printer driver.  Within 40 minutes I was looking at my new Mountain Lion Mac. ChangesThe first major change that I saw was the Notifications button in the top right hand corner.  This is something that has been sorely needed on the Mac, though Growl has done a decent job with notifications to date.  But I like the iOS feel of notifications, and how they are accessed.Next, Messages.  I have to say, I'm glad that Apple has opted to add their iMessages into iChat.  It's a move I hope will be seen in iOS soon, because I'm all about centralized communications.  It helps me keep connected when I need to be, and that's a good thing.  There is a potential to be too connected, but I think that's more of an issue with how you use your messages.Then I needed an update, and instead of opening Software Update, it opened up the Mac App Store!  It seems that all system updates will now be coming through the Mac App Store, as clicking on Software Update from the Apple menu launched the App Store as well.  It was a surprise, but seems logical given the installation process.  Of course, this begs the question: will you need to authenticate to an Admin account AND to the App Store to update your computer?  If so, it looks like mass deployments of updates may need to be rethought.  I might have a better idea once I get a chance to play around with Mountain Lion Server.Contacts surprised me a little bit, as it took the place of the Address Book.  Though, technically, nothing changed really that I can see other than the name.  It took me a little while to find the Contacts app, as it is not in alphabetical order in Launchpad. But, the new search tool in Launchpad helped narrow that down.  That, by the way, is very much welcome.  I tend to have more than three pages worth of apps on my Mac, and the search tool in Launchpad definitely helps me find the app when I'm thinking about it.  Technically I can use Spotlight to find it as well, but if I'm in Launchpad already, it's nice to be able to search at that point.I'm excited about Reminders and Notes being their own apps in OS X 10.8.  Previous to this, Notes was in Mail, and Reminders in iCal.  Not that it's bad to have them in there, but separating them out makes it easier for me to focus on that aspect.  It's another feature of iOS that is very welcome on the Mac.The minor change in Safari that I didn't notice until today is definitely a welcome change!  Now, there is no longer a separate search box.  It seems Safari has finally updated to take the same feature of both Chrome and IE 9 and integrated the search box into the address box.  Not a critical, game-changer when it comes to browsing the web, but it's a nice change.  Here's hoping in the new iOS release the same will come to the iPhone/iPad/iPod Touch.The updates to the Mail, Contacts and Calendars preference pane were great, but I started to see some bugs at this point.  It appears that selecting an account doesn't necessarily select that Account:  it may still have a previous or next account selected and you are editing preferences for it instead of the intended account.  Again, this is a Preview release of OS X 10.8, so bugs like this are expected (hence why I didn't install it on my main production computers).The one thing that I was disappointed with was AirPlay Mirroring, if only because I couldn't get it to work.  When I got home, I looked for the AirPlay Mirroring display option to show up, just to see how it worked.  But it never did.  Now, it could be that I have my Apple TV wired to my router and the computer is wireless, but they were on the same network so it shouldn't have been a problem.  I'll keep playing with it and see if I can get it to work.  To date I'm not sure what use I would have for it at home where I have an Apple TV, but I could see a benefit in the workplace for a quick and easy remote monitor solution without needing dongles for VGA or DVI. Assuming, of course, you have an Apple TV box hooked up to your projector/HDTV.Anyway, those are the features that I had a chance to play around with.  Notifications, I'm sure, will start to grow up as more apps start to utilize the process.  Game Center is nice, but doesn't interest me a lot right now, though I do like the connection between the Mac and iOS for similar titles.  To me it shows a level of growth and maturity in the Mac App Store to parallel the iOS App Store, and that's a good thing for the Apple ecosystem.  Gatekeeper, at least for now, doesn't seem to have a lot of application for me.  I can definitely see the benefits of it, and for anyone concerned about security in a fairly public arena (Office computers, family computer at home), it's definitely a good idea, though I can see one option missing: only identified developers (no Mac App Store).  I'm not sure that's going to happen, as all the updates come from the App Store, but we shall see.Has anyone else had a chance to play around with Mountain Lion?  What are your thoughts?