Apple significantly accelerated the upgrade cycle for Mac OS X on Thursday, announcing just seven months after the release of Lion that the next major version of OS X will be available in summer 2012. DubbedMountain Lion (we note no mention of a version number, like 10.8), the new OS will bring even more iOS-like features to the Mac, including Messages, Notes, and Reminders. Registered Mac developers have access to the first developer preview starting today.
Mountain Lion will offer increased integration between iOS and OS X. A new Messages app replaces iChat, which can send messages, video, and images between Macs and iOS devices (yes, iMessage has come to the desktop). According to Apple, Messages will continue to support AIM, Jabber, Yahoo Messenger, and Google Talk. A beta version of Messages is available to all Lion users starting today.
Mountain Lion will also include Mac versions of Notes, Reminders, Game Center, Notification Center, Share Sheets, OS-wide Twitter integration, and AirPlay Mirroring. Many of the new apps, such as Notes, Reminders, and Messages, will sync seamlessly with iOS devices and other Macs connected to your iCloud account. Game Center will enable live multiplayer gameplay between Macs, iPhones, iPads, and iPod touches.
Mac OS X Mountain Lion is expected to be released this summer, and will likely be a $29.99 purchase via the Mac App Store.