Apple Speeds Mac ‘Mountain Lion’ to Take On Windows 8

(Corrects figure in fifth paragraph in story that ran Feb. 16.)

Apple Inc. (AAPL) will release an upgrade to its Mac operating system later this year, making its laptops and desktops more like iPhones and iPads just as Microsoft Corp. (MSFT) prepares a new version of its competing Windows software.

A preliminary version of the new software, dubbed “Mountain Lion,” will be made available to developers today, Phil Schiller, Apple’s senior vice president of product marketing, said in an interview. He didn’t disclose pricing for the upgrade, which will be available only via download from Apple’s online Mac App Store. Mountain Lion will be widely released in late summer, he said.

Like its predecessor, called “Lion,” the new operating system is designed to make Macs feel more like Apple’s mobile devices, which use an operating system called iOS. Windows 8, built to work on both traditional keyboard-centric computers and touch-based devices, represents Microsoft’s attempt to come from behind in the market for tablets such as the iPad.

Mountain Lion -- version 10.8 of the Mac’s OS X operating system -- comes more closely on the heels of its predecessor than other updates. While each of the last four Mac upgrades has come about two years after its predecessor, Version 10.7 was released just seven months ago.

Schiller said Apple was able to get an early start on Mountain Lion because of all the work done to prepare Lion, which reviewers said marked the most sweeping changes in OS X since its 2001 inception. He said the company has so far shipped 19 million copies of Lion, making it the company’s best-selling release ever.

Courting Chinese Users

As part of the effort to unify the user experience, Schiller said, the new Mac operating system will replace Lion’s iChat real-time messaging program with a version of iOS’s Messages application. The new software will let Mac users exchange text messages with iOS devices, as well as continue conversations seamlessly from one device to another.

Mountain Lion also expands Apple’s iCloud service to let Mac users access and share saved documents across the Internet, as well as letting them create and access reminders and notes, and receive notifications, on all their Apple devices.

The new software also provides the ability for users to easily share information on Twitter Inc.’s microblogging service from within Mac apps, and makes it easier to wirelessly mirror the Mac’s screen on a large-screen television hooked up to the company’s Apple TV adapter.

Schiller outlined a host of new features that will be specific to Chinese users, including changes aimed at making it easier for them to type in information and access local e-mail providers. Apple added built-in options to use the Baidu Inc. search engine, Sina Corp.’s Weibo microblogging service and Youku Inc. and Tudou Holdings Ltd.’s video sites.

To contact the reporter on this story: Rich Jaroslovsky in San Francisco at rjaroslovsky@bloomberg.net.

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Tom Giles at tgiles5@bloomberg.net

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