Apple OS X Mountain Lion: simplification, killed by Microsoft?

Those of you that know me know that I transitioned to a MacBook Air about a year ago as my main machine. I’d say that I’m a pretty heavy “professional” user: Internet, Collaboration and Content Creation as well as a smattering of other tools. The MacBook offers me a nice blend of portability and performance, with the Apple “just works” thing going on.

That machine came with OS X Lion, which was a step forward for Apple. And this weekend, its successor OS X Mountain Lion arrived. What’s it like? Much the same, and here come some of the complaints. And since by now, I am an Apple-invested household with 2 iMacs, 3 MacBooks, 2 iPads, 2 iPhones and a bunch of other stuff, I figured that if anyone could make a case for Mountain Lion, it should be me. So I invested some time on Sunday to see what gives. Here’s my conclusions:

Messages: Simplifies my life

Good technology doesn’t add an extra element to your life, it simplifies it. For example my iPhone is a pager, cellphone, camera, WalkMan and 100 other things. However I receive messages via e-mail, text message, iChat, WhatsApp, Skype, Twitter, Facebook and who knows what other mechanism.

And Messages goes some way to address this. For casual messages, it combines text messages, iChat, WhatsApp and Skype for my uses, into one app – and on all my devices. So I can continue a conversation I was having on my Mac when I pick up my iPhone and head out the office – including the context of the conversation. Neat.

I’d love it to go further by offering support for FaceBook messages, Twitter DMs and for it to sync my actual SMS between my iPhone and Mac. One place for all my private message would be awesome.

Safari: I started using it as my main browser

I’ve been using Google Chrome as my main browser for over a year now, because I found it faster and features like the combined search and browser bar made it easier to use.

That changes in Mountain Lion: first, Safari has caught up with Google Chrome’s usability – and surpassed it with the pinch and swipe feature to move between tabs.

Second, if you are running iOS6 on your iPhone and iPad (I am) it provides neat features like the ability to sync tabs between your Mac, iPad and iPhone which means you can continue to browse wherever you are. Nice!

Third, you get all the neat sharing integration, though I’ve not really used it and I’m not that sold on it. But whatever, I only use Chrome now as a backup browser.

Reminders: Great idea, feels first generation

I love the principle: I have multiple apps for reminders. Microsoft Office Reminders, Growl, and every other app that bothers me with a pop-up. I’ve now configured Reminders for OS X and it combines Calendar, Mail, Twitter, Messages and FaceTime reminders into one place. Presumably other software will integrate with it soon.

Less good is the Twitter integration: click on a Tweet and it opens Safari with the Twitter web app, despite me having the “official” Twitter app installed. And it gets far worse when you start to deal with the Microsoft Office suite.

Microsoft: Can’t get the integration right

It starts with Reminders: if you want Calendar and Mail to work then you have to run the Apple versions. Microsoft Outlook won’t integrate. This means you end up with two lots of emails downloaded and two lots of programs running. With Calendar this is tolerable, because the Apple software is better.

With Mail it’s not and I don’t think that Apple Mail is a reasonable replacement for Microsoft Outlook especially when, as we are, we are a big Microsoft Exchange shop for corporate e-mail.

So you end up with two sets of reminders and then it gets worse because you realise that Microsoft Office doesn’t integrate anything like well enough. There’s no iCloud support for uploading documents. It crashes on Mountain Lion worse than before. And of course Microsoft Update is still separate.

Promises, promises?

Also, I noticed that a bunch of the functions are “coming”. Facebook integration for example, as well as a bunch of iLife features. For those of you not running iOS6 on your iPhone or iPad, you will also be missing functions like the Tab Sharing in Safari.


Mountain Lion simplifies my life in a few key places – even in nice simple ways like combining System Updates and App Store Updates. That it pushes data to all devices in a consistent way means I spend less time worrying about the integration of my devices. E-mail, Contacts, Documents, Reminders, Notes, Photos, everything is synchronised seamlessly between devices.

What’s more, it seems that version 10.8.0 of OS X Mountain Lion is just the beginning: they are going to be offering a bunch more things in later versions that simplify life further.

But the real lack of Microsoft integration with Apple is – for my use case at least – killing the experience. Apple needs to take a slug of its $110bn reserves and spend them on Microsoft’s suite of apps.

What do you think? Has anyone dumped the Microsoft Office suite for Apple’s iWork product set? Maybe this is the solution, and what Apple is hoping people like me will do. Let me know.

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7 Responses to Apple OS X Mountain Lion: simplification, killed by Microsoft?

  1. Borut says:

    Hi John,

    what about SAP GUI for Java, are you using it on ML?
    As for the Apple replacement of the MS Office Suite, the main problem for me is Word and Excel.
    Numbers and Pages are not a sufficient substitute for me (and I’m NOT a heavy user).

    Thanks for the useful review!


    • John Appleby says:

      I use SAPGui for Java but I’m a very light user. If you do any kind of heavy work then it’s not great.

      Word 2011 and Excel 2011 aren’t bad on the Mac. And you don’t need integration with those for Reminders etc. It’s Outlook that’s the killer.

  2. Michael says:

    Hi John,

    Do you use your MacBook Air for your work with SAP HANA? Do you run the HANA client and developer studio on the Mac, or do you have to boot Windows for this? I can see that with the release of ABAP for Eclipse, this should improve the experience of using and developing for SAP on the Mac.

    I have been using Mountain Lion on my home MacBook Pro and I really like it so far.

    Thanks for your review,

  3. MWS says:

    Hey man, I have come across the same problem. I have M Office on my Air which has become my primary work station. I find it a little annoying that Im getting one separate notification from my 3 accounts linked through outlook and then all other social media ones through Mountain Lions new notification centre.

    This is a simple case of one company doing something better than the other. Msoft Office suite is far superior than Apples competitor and I for one would pay money for some sort of Office intergration

  4. Colin says:

    Running both Office and iWork side by side, I tend to favour one or the other for different jobs.
    The categories feature on Numbers is truly superb, really,really….great! I deal with data that contains 7 or 8 different factors and with categories I can spin the data around in moments to view it in different ways. Pivot tables are good too but categories is more versatile, quicker to get what you want to see, Pivot tables sometimes leave you thinking thats not what I expected….sure there are occasions when Pivot tables are the better way but not yet for me, could do with an update of iWork though

  5. Salvador Duzentos says:

    I have dropped Microsoft office for mac and took on iWork. So far I think iWork is great and good enough for my requirements.

    The keynote is definitely better than Powerpoint. The other advantage is that I can exchange files with Microsoft Office users as I can save files in the format the office suite uses, number can save xls files, pages can save doc files and keynote can save ppt files.

    I have recently moved to the apple community (macbook pro late 2011) and the iCloud integration is just great. I can access my documents with any iCloud enabled device (iPhones, iPads) everywhere I go.

    What I’d like to see is an integration between messages and Skype, not sure whether there are any plans for that.

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