Apple officially released OS X (10.8) Mountain Lion, the company's biggest effort yet to bridge iOS, the operating system that powers the iPhone and iPad, with its desktop cousin. And more than ever, Apple is relying on the cloud to strengthen those cross-OS ties.
Mountain Lion, available today for $19.99 in the Mac App Store, is packed with features aimed at knocking down the barriers between the Apple's mobile, tablet and laptop and desktop experiences. Key to making those features work is iCloud.
The new (to Mac) iMessage software extends the iPhone and iPad's messaging service to Mac desktops. Using iCloud to circumvent cellular carriers, iMessage allows users to text, share photos and videos or initiate FaceTime sessions with iOS users. Similarly, iCloud is used to keep email, contacts, reminders and calendars in sync between iOS devices and OS X machines.
Another iOS feature making the leap to the laptop is Notification Center. Debuting first on iOS -- and borrowing a page form Android's notification system handbook -- it displays a breakdown of scheduled calendar events, recent emails and other alerts from supported apps that persist across compatible iOS and OS X devices.
And with Mountain Lion, OS X becomes a more social animal. Tighter Twitter and Facebook integration makes it possible to send tweets or Facebook updates from within supported apps without switching to a browser or dedicated app.
But will these changes be enough to erase the cracks that are beginning to show in Apple's wildly successful iOS ecosystem?
Last quarter (Q3 2012) Apple sold 26 million iPhones, a 28 percent increase over the same period last year. By any measure, that's a huge feat and one that helped the company post $35 billion in revenue and bank $8.8 billion, or $9.32 per share, in profit.
Unfortunately for Apple, the company missed Wall Street analysts' expectations of 28 million iPhones sold and a dollar more per share. iPhone sales dropped 26 percent from the previous quarter and generated 28 percent fewer revenues. During yesterday's earnings call, both Apple CEO Tim Cook and CFO Peter Oppenheimer hinted that anticipation of iPhone 5 is crimping sales of current handsets.
It's not all bad news on the mobile front. One bright spot is the market leading iPad.
The company sold 17 million iPads in Q3 2012, an 84 percent year-on-year increase and a 44 percent boost over the previous quarter. Rumors continue to swirl that Apple is preparing an "iPad Mini" to continue the iPad's meteoric sales momentum in the face of small tablets like Google's sold-out Nexus 7 and to grow market share in the face of new challengers like Microsoft's upcoming Surface slate.