Apple has released a preview of some of the new features in it’s latest Mac operating system upgrade, OS X Mountain Lion.
Of the more than 100 new features it includes, two really stand out for me. One could make it easier to tame some information overload, while the other will contribute to it.
AirPlay Mirroring is coming to the Mac. This will make it easier to share presentations on a big screen, or show off your collection of photos on any television set that has an Apple TV 2 attached. It is a feature that iOS devices already have, but bringing it to Mac desktops and laptops adds some great new potential.
On the downside, you could find yourself using it to broadcast your Mac video games to your large screen TV (and losing hours of your time to that pursuit).
On the plus side, you’ll gain the ability to mirror TV network websites on your TV screen. This will provide one more option for TV viewers who have cut cable, but still want to watch programs on a bigger screen. You’ll be able to stream a show on a network website (even if those site are still using Flash) and beam it to your TV. If you have access to website’s like Hulu, you’ll be able to watch all that on-demand content on the big screen in your living room, instead of huddling around a laptop or iPad.
I’m a big believer in watching TV à la carte, and selecting the specific programs you want to watch, instead of mindlessly grazing the offerings on cable TV. Airplay Mirroring is one more tool you can potentially use to cut down on the numerous distractions on your TV dial.
Unfortunately, Notification Centre will subject you to many more distractions. Apple is taking an idea it introduce in iOS and adding it to the Mac. It is a one-stop location for the pop-ups you get letting you know you have a new email, friend request, appointment, or any other action item generated by a service you use. While it can be handy on a phone to catch up on what you may have missed while not using your device, I do not look forward to seeing it on my desktop.
I’m worried that Notification Centre will just provide an unending string of distractions while I am trying to do my work. I have disabled most of the notification “features” on my computer and cellphone. It is hard to stay concentrated on a task at hand when a sudden “ping” from your email program can derail your focus. Apple promises the notifications will “disappear quickly so they don’t interrupt what you’re doing” but I don’t think that’s realistic. If you have a bouncing icon or pop-up in the corner of your screen, it will distract you.
iOS has good system preferences for letting you choose which programs use Notification Centre. Let’s hope Mountain Lion offers the same kinds of precise controls.