Apple's OS X 10.8 is expected to be available to the public before the end of the month.
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Apple on Monday released the gold master version of Mountain Lion, a finalized build of the next iteration of the company's OS X operating system, to registered developers.
Developers can use the associated software, specifically an updated version of Apple's Xcode integrated development environment, to submit apps utilizing Mountain Lion APIs to the Mac App Store for review. Barring a flood of new app submissions that overwhelms its review team, Apple is likely approve compliant apps in time to be sold when Mountain Lion is released to the public through the Mac App Store later this month.
Mountain Lion, OS X 10.8, will be available for $20 as a Mac App Store download. It includes over 200 new features.
Apple released a developer preview of Mountain Lion in February and explored the software in more detail during its developer conference in mid-June. Among Mountain Lion's new features are several improvements borrowed from Apple's mobile operating system, iOS, such as Messages, an iChat replacement, Notification Center, a system-wide API for displaying alerts, and Reminders, just like the self-explanatory iOS app of the same name.
Mountain Lion includes deeper integration with iCloud, Apple's hosted file and application service. It also supports the sharing of various types of files through a wider variety of applications, such as AirDrop, Mail, Messages, and Safari, and through third-party services like Facebook, Flickr, Twitter, and Vimeo.
OS X 10.8 also adds automatic updates to iCloud apps--Mail, Contacts, Calendar, Reminders, Notes, Photo Stream, Find My Mac, and Documents in the Cloud--even while one's Mac is asleep. And it supports speech-to-text typing through the new Dictation feature.
Mountain Lion boasts improved security, through Gatekeeper, a setting that can prevent the installation of apps that lack Apple's newly implemented Developer ID signature, and through a sandboxing mechanism, which restricts app access to computing resources that could be misused for malicious purposes.
Such restrictions may help mitigate malware threats but they also limit the flexibility of software. In February, developer Steve Streeting, creator of the free SourceTree version control client for Macs, published a post on the Atlassian blog stating that Apple's sandboxing restrictions would hinder SourceTree's usability and that SourceTree will no longer be offered through the Mac App Store. While acknowledging that sandboxing is a good idea, he characterized Apple's implementation as too limiting.
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