Mac News Review

Mountain Lion a Roaring Success, Mac's Golden Age Ending?, Windows 8 a Catastrophe, and More

This Week's Apple and Desktop Mac News

Compiled by Charles Moore and edited by Dan Knight - 2012.08.03

Mac notebook and other portable computing is covered in The 'Book Review. iPad, iPod, iPhone, and Apple TV news is covered in iOS News Review. All prices are in US dollars unless otherwise noted.

News & Opinion

Tech Trends

Products & Services

Software

Desktop Mac Deals

News & Opinion

Mountain Lion Captures 3.2% Share of Mac Users in 2 Days

PR: A Chitika Insights research report notes that Apple's newest desktop operating system, OS X 10.8 Mountain Lion, has received largely positive reviews thus far, and recent statistics are showing high adoption rates for updates to iOS.

Chitika Insights conducted a study into Mac OS X usage statistics following the release of OS X 10.8 Mountain Lion and found that within the first 48 hours, usage rates for OS X 10.8 were already rivaling those of OS X 10.4 Tiger. While over 45% of users still operate on OS X 10.6 Snow Leopard, anybody using 10.6.6 or higher can upgrade to 10.8, and suggests that those who skipped the upgrade to OS X 10.7 Lion, which had mixed reviews, may be more inclined to make the jump to Mountain Lion.


Chitika Insights reports Mountain Lion had 3.2% of OS X market 2 days after launch.

The report suggests that with 3.2% of all Mac users upgrading to OS X Mountain Lion in the first 48 hours, Apple's latest operating system stands to do much better than its predecessor OS X Lion, which experienced only a 14% market share after 3 months on the market, with Mountain Lion's rapid adoption rate supported by a relatively low price point for the operating system as well as an expansive list of desired feature improvements.

Publisher's note: Everyone's data set is a bit different. Based on Google Analytics statistics for visitors to Low End Mac (see The Rapid Rise of OS X Mountain Lion), the Developer Preview of OS X 10.8 has been ahead of OS X 10.4 Tiger for a while now, and the day Mountain Lion went on sale, it immediately surged past OS X 10.5 Leopard. On July 28, it passed OS X 10.6 Snow Leopard, and it's steadily closing on OS X 10.7 Lion. On Thursday, August 2, it was at 26.05% with Lion down to 29.46%.

The Rise of Mountain Lion
Launched on July 25, Mountain Lion has already passed Snow Leopard among Low End Mac readers.

Mac users are adopting Mountain Lion at an faster rate than they migrated to Lion a year ago, when it took Snow Leopard down from 83% of the installed base to 50% in two months, but it still took 4-5 months before Lion took over the top spot. At current rates, Mountain Lion could take the top spot from Lion this month. dk

Apple Sort of Returns Save As to Mountain Lion

MacFixIt's Topher Kessler reports that while Apple previously removed central support for the familiar Save As file-handling routine in OS X, that option is back in Mountain Lion, noting that Apple's introduction of Auto Save and Versions in OS X Lion was one of the more controversial modifications made to the operating system, partially because as part of the changes Apple removed the age-old Save As command and replaced it with an unfamiliar Duplicate option.

However, he says that Apple evidently paid heed to the user protests and returned the Save As function to OS X in Mountain Lion, albeit still keeping it as an alternative option to the Duplicate feature, and that while this compromise may be acceptable to some, it still might be confusing to others who would prefer that Apple fully restore the Save As feature.

Is OS X Snow Leopard Retired?

Computerworld's Gregg Keizer notes that Apple's refusal to put into writing its operating system support policy leaves Snow Leopard users wondering whether their copy of OS X has been retired, according to top security experts, with the question "Is Snow Leopard retired?" going legitimate as soon as Apple launched OS X Mountain Lion last week due to the historical precedent of Apple having always dropped security updates for OS X versions around the time it has two newer versions in play - in other words, security update patches are provided only to the newest OS X version and the one immediately preceding it. Keizer observes that Apple last shipped a Snow Leopard security update in May.

Publisher's note: Keizer raises a good question, because from the look of things, OS X 10.6 Snow Leopard may have a larger user base than OS X 10.7 Lion as most Lion users migrate to OS X 10.8 Mountain Lion. dk

Jonathan Ive: Apple's Goal Isn't to Make Money

Wired UK's Olivia Solon reports that Apple's senior vice president of industrial design, recently knighted Briton Sir Jonathan Ive, remarked at the British Embassy's Creative Summit regarding Apple, "We are really pleased with our revenues, but our goal isn't to make money. It sounds a little flippant, but it's the truth. Our goal and what makes us excited is to make great products. If we are successful, people will like them, and if we are operationally competent, we will make money."

Recalling how, in the mid-'90s, Apple was close to bankruptcy, Ive noted that when Steve Jobs returned to the company in 1997, his focus was not on making money, but rather: "His observation was that the products weren't good enough. His resolve was to make better products."

Solon quotes Sir Jonathan adding that good design is not only important, but a prerequisite - and that it is "really hard" - and that to be both a craftsperson and a mass manufacturer demands discipline and focus, saying "no to a lot of things that we want to do and are intrigued by so that we only work on a manageable amount of products and can invest an incredible amount of care on each of them," also reiterating the Apple philosophy that doing market research simply guarantees mediocrity and only determines whether you are going to offend anyone.

The Mac's Golden Age Is Coming to an End

Mac 360's Kate MacKenzie observes that by conventional measure, we're living in the Golden Age of the Mac, which for many years has outpaced the growth rate of Windows PCs quarter after quarter, the latest version of OS X widely trumpeted as one of the best ever, and it's all about to end.

How so?

MacKenzie notes that during Apple's last fiscal quarter, the company shipped 4 million Macs, respectable but picayune in comparison with 17 million iPads and 26 million iPhones that were shipped, for a cumulative total of 43 million iOS units vs. 4 million Macs. Ergo: Despite record Mac sales, the iPhone and iPad are outselling the it by more than a 10 to 1 margin.

The reign of desktops and laptops as the computer of choice for the great masses of computer users has arguably already ended, says MacKenzie, with the PC and the Mac having been relegated to the dump heap of specialized apps that require CPU horsepower and screen size beyond that of today's handheld devices, but fewer of us will need to do that kind of work going forward as more functionality and convenience is added to iPhones and iPads.

The PC Is Not Dead

Tech.pinions' Ben Bajarin, a noted tablet and smartphone fan and advocate, qualifies his title by reaffirming his conviction [shared by your editor] that tablets and smartphones are in fact personal computers, the reality being that consumers are using a multitude of devices to accomplish what we have always considered personal computing. He acknowledges that neither the tablet form factor nor the smartphone amounts to a complete substitute for a computer with a larger screen like a desktop or notebook, but he contends that the big struggle many in the industry are facing is the reality that the traditional PC is no longer the only device in consumers' lives, as it frequently was in the days when notebooks were a huge growth segment.

Steve Jobs unveils the Digital Hub in 2001
Steve Jobs unveils the Digital Hub in 2001.

"There is no longer a dominant screen," says Bajarin, declaring that the concept of the PC as "digital hub" - the primary screen used for computing tasks in consumers lives - is dead, with the Cloud ascendant as the new center of personal computing ecosystems, arguing that "the beautiful thing about OS X Mountain Lion is that it enables and even encourages this computing philosophy."

App Store's Future of Irrelevance

Blogger Marco Arment says that Postbox's exit from the Mac App Store should sound familiar to anyone who buys Mac software - the real story being one we've heard a lot since June 1: They tolerated the App Store's lack of paid upgrade mechanics before, but sandboxing and, more accurately, needing to remove important features because of their incompatibility with the current set of sandboxing entitlements was the last straw.

Arment observes that Apple's stance seems to be pretty typical of them: Comply with the new rules or leave, which usually works for Apple. But this time they've made a critical strategic error: Leaving is often a better option - or the only option - for the affected developers. Many of them have already left, and many more will.

Arment notes that he's lost all confidence that apps he buys in the App Store today will still be there next month or next year, which negates most of the advantages of buying from the App Store, and his confidence has evaporated, deeming the App Store no longer a reliable place to buy software and in significant danger of becoming an irrelevant, low-traffic flea market where buyers rarely venture for serious purchases.

How to Make a Mountain Lion Install Disk

Fairer Platform writes:

"If OS X Mountain Lion experiences major difficulties, Apple probably has your back. Nevertheless, like backing up data, protecting your Mac from a catastrophic failure requires a 1-2-3 approach to be secure:

  1. A well maintained local copy (i.e. what's running on your Mac right now).
  2. Local back up copy (what were going to make).
  3. Remotely sited OS X restore tools (Apple's integrated recovery tools).

InstallESD.dmg

"And, when it comes to local backup copies, you have two choices: DVD and USB memory stick.

"But, first things first - to burn a Mountain Lion install disk, you must first have a local copy."

Tech Trends

Ex-Microsoft Exec Windows 8 a 'Catastrophe' for PC Makers

The Register's Gavin Clarke reports that Gabe Newell, the former Microsoft executive who oversaw the first three versions of Windows under Bill Gates during his 13 years at Redmond and the billionaire computer games baron behind Half-Life, has reportedly called touchscreen-friendly Windows 8 a catastrophe for everyone in the PC space.

Quoted by All Things D speaking at Casual Connect in Seattle, WA, Newell predicted: "I think Windows 8 is a catastrophe for everyone in the PC space. I think we'll lose some of the top-tier PC/OEMs, who will exit the market. I think margins will be destroyed for a bunch of people"

The article says Newell's company is busily porting its games software to Linux and says he wants to make it as easy as possible for the 2,500 games on Steam to run on Linux as well. Newell is also not a fan of touchscreen input, calling it a short-term idea compared to the mouse and keyboard that have dominated computer input for 25 years, and Clarke speculates that Newell's embrace could be the key that finally helps establish Linux as an alternative to Windows on laptops and PCs.

Products & Services

OWC Mercury Helios PCIe Expansion Chassis Connects with Thunderbolt

Mercury Helios PCIe Expansion ChassisPR: OWC's new Mercury Helios PCIe Expansion Chassis gives users of Thunderbolt port equipped computers like the Mac mini, iMac, and MacBook the ability to tap into a wide variety of professional-level performance PCIe adapters that were once the sole domain of desktop workstations. Helios utilizes any half-length PCIe 2.0 card (up to 6.5") to provide a massive boost to your workflow.

Helios boasts throughput up to 10 Gb/s, and is an ideal solution for high-performance PCIe cards made for video capture/editing, media transcoding, audio processing, and data storage. Users of portable and all-in-one computers can now enjoy the functionality and productivity gains of these PCIe cards wherever their work takes them.

Mercury Helios PCIe Expansion Chassis

Feature Set

  • Daisy-chain up to six devices.
  • Rugged yet lightweight aluminum housing can go anywhere your work takes you.
  • PCIe card expansion offers: up to 10 Gb/s SSD data transfer, uncompressed HD video capture, 10 Gigabit Ethernet connectivity, and more.
  • Automatically powers on/off with your computer.
  • Use any half-length x1, x4 or x8 PCIe card via Thunderbolt technology.
  • Ventilated quiet cooling with a variable speed fan.
  • Works perfectly with OWC Mercury Accelsior PCIe SSDs
  • One of the fastest upgrades for Mac Pro and PCs - Up to 820 MB/s speeds.
  • Mac & PC Bootable with No Driver Setup
  • No drivers make Accelsior a simple Plug and Play bootable solution.

The Mercury Helios will sell for $399.95

Bundled with a Mercury Accelsior PCIe SSD, prices range from $679.99 for a 120 GB capacity to $1,819.99 for 960 GB.

Software

Maxthon Web Browser Now Available for Macs

PR: Maxthon, a software developer that specializes in state-of-the-art web browsers, has announced the launch of its new Maxthon for Mac browser (Beta). The company says this new version of its web browser marks an important step in Maxthon's plan to provide users with a seamless browsing experience across multiple platforms and devices.

Maxthon web browserThe launch of Maxthon for Mac offers Mac users the same high-performance experience currently enjoyed by more than 100 million Maxthon users around the world - speed, built-in features and HTML5 friendliness that distinguish the Maxthon browser for Windows, Android, Kindle Fire, Nook iPad, and BlackBerry - and now for Mac.

"Maxthon for Mac is the first iteration of several offerings for Apple, to be followed by Maxthon for iPhone, which will lead to cross-platform syncing for PC, Android and Apple," says Jeff Chen, CEO of Maxthon. "With Maxthon for Mac, our users around the globe will no longer have to choose one competing brand of hardware or operating system over another."

Maxthon for Mac (Beta) includes the following features:

  • Out-of-the-box Video Viewing for Macs Flash and other standards are preloaded
  • Cloud-based, Cross-platform Syncing Syncs bookmarks between your Windows PC, Mac and iPad instantly
  • Reader Mode Removes ads and presents multipage articles in one window
  • Private Browsing Mode Provides the ability at the tab level to browse the web without saving any browser history
  • Smart Address Bar Combines the URL bar and search bar into one; presents search suggestions and safe sites
  • Global Languages More than 40 languages
  • Magic Fill Pre-fills usernames and passwords for favorite websites
  • Privacy and Security Settings
  • Automatic Updates

Maxthon 3 comes with a browser engine that the developers claim draws web pages 200% faster than Google Chrome, plus free cloud services that store your bookmarks and notes securely on the web for anytime, anywhere access. and lets you share screen grabs with the built-in Snap feature

System requirements: Version 1.0.2.0 Beta [2012-07-30] supports Mac OS X 10.6 or later.

Freeware

Free Screenshot Helper for More Professional Looking Screen Captures

PR: Screenshot Helper shows a full screen window with a solid color or a desktop picture so that you can take clean screenshots without having irrelevant windows and desktop icons in the background.

The easiest way to get a clean Desktop for screenshots on Mac OS X is to create a brand-new user account and log in as a brand-new user. But if you need to use your own user account for whatever reason and you have a messy Desktop many of us do, you can use Screenshot Helper to hide the actual desktop in order to take clean screenshots.

Screenshot Helper
Screenshot Helper hides your busy desktop for cleaner screenshots.
Screenshot Helper

Feature Set

  • Support multiple screens.
  • Use the Preferences panel to change the color or the desktop picture.
  • Shift - drag the window to snap to the edge of screen.
  • Press Cmd-B to show/hide the menu bar and the dock.
  • Press Cmd-U to show/hide the mouse cursor.
  • Press Cmd-E to cover the entire screen.
  • Press Cmd-D to cover the desktop icons only.

You can also make the entire screen solid black, white, red, green, or blue to check dead or stuck pixels on your LCD screen, or for a blue or green screen chromakey.

System requirements: OS X 10.6 or later

Free

Publisher's note: We've been using this wonderful little app at least since since version 1.2 (2007). It's a great way to do screen captures without all the desktop busyness getting in the way - and it helps you create smaller, faster loading image files, which makes for faster-loading images on the Internet. The busy screenshot above is 4x as large as the clean one! Version 2.0 supports OS X 10.4-10.6.5. dk

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