Apple’s new version of OS X, 10.8 Mountain Lion, bakes in a lot of new features that may make existing third-party apps obsolete. Notification Center, Reminders, Messages and Twitter all step on the toes of independent developers. And worst of all, these apps come from some of the most popular categories in the App Store.
Notifications were one of the biggest features of iOS5, and now they are coming back to the Mac. Swipe to the left on your Mac’s trackpad and the familiar linen sheet will sweep in from the right side of the screen showing new Twitter messages, emails, FaceTime calls, App Store updates and more. If you use notifications on iOS, it will be immediately familiar.
And if you use Growl on your Mac, it will also be recognizable. Growl is an open-source notification framework which developers can choose to support, sending notification to one central hub.
In this case, though, the Growl developers are unlikely to be too sore. They actually started the project as a way to force Apple to make its own version. Looks like they finally succeeded.
Developer Annoyance Rating: Medium
Messages is the long-awaited Mac client for making FaceTime calls, sending photos, videos, documents and even signing in to your existing IM accounts (AIM, Jabber, Google Talk and Yahoo Messenger are all supported). It is also, unlike any other part of Mountain Lion, available to the public from today.
Messages clearly steps on the toes of several other apps. Nobody will lament the passing of the execrable Yahoo and AIM clients, but there seems little point in using the excellent Adium IM app any more. Adium is the most popular OS X multi-service IM client right now, but again it is open-source and nobody will actually be losing a job if it withers away.
Skype is another matter. Adding FaceTime to the Mac in a proper way (the previous FaceTime beta was rather poor) suddenly ties together all those FaceTime-capable iOS apps. Skype is so entrenched that it probably isn’t going away anytime soon, but if anyone can kill its bloated corpus, Apple can.
Developer Annoyance Rating: Medium
A quick count reveals roughly one gazillion To-Do and reminder apps in the App Store. But who will buy them now that Reminders is built in? People like me will keep using apps like OmniFocus because we need the extra power, but most people will stick with the simplest option.
And simple it is: You make lists, and set reminders. But the killer feature is that it syncs with iCloud, so all your devices carry the exact same up-to-date to-do list.
Developer Annoyance Rating: High
Mountain Lion’s Twitter integration is almost exactly the same as that in iOS. The new “Share Anywhere” sheet (the familiar iOS arrow-and-box) contains an option to Tweet pretty much anything you like. Select text, share a photo or a web page, all right from the app you’re in.
Reading Tweets is a different matter, though. While Notification Center will pop up your mentions and direct messages, you’ll still need a Twitter client to read your timeline. In fact, Twitter integration might just boost sales of standalone Twitter clients.
Developer Annoyance Rating: Very low
Apple has a history of adding features that used to be paid applications. You know the Command-Tab app-switcher you use hundreds of times a day? That was an app called LiteSwitch X. The Dashboard? Konfabulator. It isn’t the first time Apple has been “inspired” by others, and it won’t be the last..