Apple releases OS X Mountain Lion

I flew to New York last week to meet with Apple executives and talk about Mountain Lion, the company’s next major version of OS X. I also picked up the final version of the operating system before it was released to the public and have been using it on a Retina MacBook Pro, doing my final evaluations.

There will be tens of thousands of words published on Wednesday when Mountain Lion hits the Mac App Store [Editor’s Note: It’s now available], but let’s face it, what you really want to know is whether Mountain Lion is worth the upgrade. Let’s get that out of the way now — yes, it is definitely worth it.

Mountain Lion costs $19.99 and comes with more than 200 new features — that’s a bargain at twice the price.

The new features aren’t just eye candy that you’ll use once or twice and then forget, either. Gatekeeper, AirPlay Mirroring, Facebook and Twitter integration, Power Nap and Notification Center all make Mountain Lion the easiest, most secure and most efficient operating system that Apple has ever released.

One thing that many people have been confused about since Mountain Lion was first introduced is its association with iOS. Is Mountain Lion becoming more like iOS? I asked Apple that question and the answer was “no.”

Apple said that it is optimizing each of its operating systems for the device it’s intended to be used on. iOS for the mobile devices and OS X for the desktop and notebook computers.

This does, however, allow the company to utilize one of its most powerful tools — iCloud. The integration with iCloud is my favorite feature of all. In fact, I would say it is the single most important reason I like Mountain Lion so much.

With iCloud on Mountain Lion and iOS, you can share all of your most important information, including calendars, contacts, bookmarks and email, but you can do so much more.

Documents in the Cloud allows you to share, edit and save Pages, Numbers and Keynote documents from any Apple device. In fact, when you go to open a document with the new version of iWork, it will default to iCloud and not to your Mac’s local directory. By using iCloud in this way, you can also access your documents from your iPad and iPhone as well.

Changes made to those documents are automatically synced to the cloud, even if you don’t save them manually. It’s interesting to watch a document open on your iPad while being edited from your Mac — within seconds, of changes being made on the Mac, the iPad document updates live.

Even simple things are better with iCloud integration. I don’t think I’ve ever used Notes on my Mac, but with Notes being shared from iOS to my Mac, I’m using it all the time now. I used to email myself song ideas when I would think of them, but they get lost quickly in mounds of email I get. With Notes, I just jot down the idea on my iPhone and it immediately syncs with my Mac and iPad.

Things like that just make everything easier.

Mountain Lion is also very clear on what it is sharing and notifying the user of changes. Take the Facebook integration, which will be available in Mountain Lion later this year, as an example.

After you sign-in to Facebook, you will notice that your contacts will be integrated with their Facebook information. The Facebook integration doesn’t mean you are automatically singed in to Facebook on the Web — that is completely different than the system level integration that Mountain Lion is using.

I’ve been using Mountain Lion since February when I first met with Apple to get a look at the new operating system. The operating system is stable, secure and it has made my working and personal computing life much better.

You can’t ask for much more from your next operating system. At $19.99 it’s a steal.