Mountain Lion: A Leap Ahead For Post-PC Productivity

There are more than 100 new features in Apple’s next version of its Mac operating system, dubbed “Mountain Lion” or Mac OSX. The ones that interest me most are those that advance the notion of post-PC productivity: experiences that help people be productive using multiple modes and devices. In particular, product strategists should pay attention to Apple’s:

  • iCloud integration of Docs and Notes. Mountain Lion users will be able to sync notes created in Apple’s Notes app, and documents created in its iWork apps, across Mac, iPad, and iPhone. Think of it as Amazon’s Whispersync for productivity. The catch is, though, that the synching is only within the same “app”—so if you create a document in Pages on your Mac, for example, you can sync it through iCloud to a Pages app on your iPad, but iCloud synching wouldn’t be compatible from Pages to another document editing app like Quickoffice. Third-party developers could use the Documents in the Cloud feature, but it would be sandboxed only within their app. This is an interesting twist for the many product strategists developing cloud-synched productivity apps. Evernote, for example, would have less value to users of ONLY Apple devices, since iCloud Notes synching is built into the OS. Evernote’s value proposition, and Quickoffice’s, will now revolve more around the multi-platform use case — users that need access to their stuff across iOS/Mac, Windows, and/or Android. Luckily, this is still a big market: Forrester’s data as of Q4 2011 show that 58% of Mac owners also own at least one PC, and 60% of iPad owners own another type of phone besides iPhone.
  • Seamless blending of Messages with iChat. My colleague Ted Schadler estimates that iOS Messages displaces $6 billion every year from the SMS value chain. Apple shared with us that iOS users have sent 26 billion Messages just since October. The new features of Messages — which now incorporates iChat — across Mac and iOS devices will no doubt increase that disruption. Users can now send messages between Macs, iPads, and iPhones, and conversations are immediately synched across all of a user’s (Apple) devices. The new Messages app is a brilliant, elegant product driven by a consumer need, not a technology. Apple product managers looked at SMS and IM and thought, this is about people having a conversation. The new Messages app improves conversation across devices, disregarding previous boundaries between products and platforms.

What I didn’t see in the Mountain Lion briefing — which doesn’t mean it’s not coming, but it hasn’t been disclosed at this point — is any emphasis on voice-controlled apps for the Mac, productivity or otherwise. Post-PC productivity will encompass many modalities, including touch, voice, gestures, cameras, and passive sensors, as well as keyboards and mice. Mountain Lion takes a leap forward in post-PC productivity, but the finish line is not even in sight yet.