One of the great things about Apple - and like many other great things about Apple, it's a simple thing - is names.

I mean, you might be happy shopping for a Dell Inspiron 15R, XPS 14z, Vostro 3550 or 620 Mini Tower, or for an HP Explore Pavilion or Pavilion Slimline s5 Series, or even for the Foxconn THX 1138 and indeed, perhaps you are one of those strange people able to remember names like these. I'm not.

But meanwhile, Apple has stuck with an easy naming system ever since Jobs came back to save the company in the 1990s. Thankfully, one of the first things Jobs did was rationalise the naming system, along with the models.

So Apple only has the Mac mini, MacBook Pro, iMac, MacBook Air and Mac Pro, with various models in each category easily defined by an addition.


You see, the MacBook Pro 15-inch has a 15-inch screen, whereas the MacBook Pro 17-inch has ... you can probably work it out.

You can spec these models up differently, but Apple (thank the lord!) doesn't bother with nomenclature like 'MacBook Pro 15-inch SSD 7200rpm Pagoda Clincher Road Warrior Ultra SX Appeal' or whatever.

For when you have a Mac, you know what you've got.

Right back in 1984, when Apple introduced the Macintosh, the Scottish-ish name somehow caught and stuck, allowing Apple to play around with 'Mac-This' or Mac-That ever since, including the name of the operating system, Mac OS.

But with the launch of Mac OS X 10.7 Lion in the middle of last year, Apple started trending towards dropping the 'Mac' part of 'Mac OS X', the name of the operating system that has been running Macintosh computers for over ten years, while keeping it for Apple's non-iDevice computing hardware.

With Lion, Apple still used 'Mac OS X' in press releases. But Apple called the new system 'OS X Lion' on both the main product webpage and the Mac App Store product page.

This trend has continued with last week's announcement of the system to follow Lion: OS X Mountain Lion. Not Mac OS X Mountain Lion.

On Apple's OS X Mountain Lion product pages, and the press release announcing the developer preview, there is no 'Mac' at all, except in the url.

Mountain Lion is quite a long cat name, isn't it? It doesn't exactly trip off the tongue. Dare I say, it's a bit like 'Explore Pavilion'.

But Apple's alternative, 'Puma', doesn't quite have the grace and power of most cat names, somehow. Whereas 'Cougar' ... nah. Although it does kinda go with Apple's rather straight-laced disdain for the pronunciation of 'OS X' as 'Oh-Ess-Ex', which we have been informed is not to be encouraged because it sounds like 'Oh-Eh-Sex'. That's why Apple prefers we say 'Oh-Ex-Ten'.

Cult of Mac, for a laugh, has compared the features promised by the forthcoming OS for Mac compared to the real thing, the solitary and dangerous American Big Cat.
But Apple is running out of Big Cats to purloin. Much like The Earth. Cheetah is asking for trouble and 'OS X Ocelot' doesn't quite provide an audio glissando, does it? And besides, an ocelot is not very big or imposing, although I'm sure it's good at catching rats, or their local equivalents. Actually, who's even heard of ocelots?

If there's another line of animals Apple would get any traction out of whatsoever for a Mac OS, it might be sharks, methinks. They would probably fit the bill, these days. OS X Hammerhead ...

But I reckon Apple is aiming to drop animals altogether. They started out as semi-official internal code names anyway, but became popular. It springs to mind that once OS X has converged even more so with iOS, Apple can just give them iterations OS(number) and iOS(number), as it already does with iOS.

Which would be really efficient. And really boring.

Meanwhile, Apple will hopefully keep 'Mac' on the hardware - otherwise, what's next? Book Pro? Book Air? mini? I really don't think so.

As for Mountain Lion, official developers already their mitts on previews of it. What about us? Apple has said "Late summer 2012". That's now for us, but probably six months away in the north, which is what they mean, unfortunately.

Macworld has posted a 'what you need to know about the new system.

It promises some handy new things, but also the digital delivery system will be further refined. In Mountain Lion, Software Update is shifted from its own app (hidden way in Core Services in the Library) to the Mac App Store.

The Mountain Lion App Store will automatically detect any app that has historically been updated through Software Update and ask to register it to your Apple ID, along with a unique hardware identifier, and from then on you will be covered.

So the App Store will soon be able to update select Apple apps purchased outside of the App Store. Theoretically, this should also mean these apps will then be available for download on any machine tied to that Mac App Store account.


And by the way, with Lion I had a good old moan to Apple (on a feedback page) about the damned Address Book no longer allowing three-column view. I can't have been alone, as it comes back with Mountain Lion, thank goodness. It added a bit of stress to my day as it is currently so clunky to add new subscribers to my MagBytes monthly Mac tips and news PDF magazine. (It's free to subscribe to, by the way.)

Five other things that might mean more to many people are souped-up Safari searches, iOS-like notifications (goodbye Growl), selective Mail alerts so you can instantly tell when someone you've been waiting for gets in touch (you can do this now with Rules, but it's a bit of work), the jack-of-all-trades Preview app getting a simplified toolbar and search tokens in iCal - Macworld has more info about all these things.

There are lots of other changes too, of course, like iMessage supplanting Apple's venerable, but little-used iChat. iMessage on Mac will let you start a conversation on a Mac and continue it on a different device, like your iPhone or iPad. You can try the Beta already.

Mac developers, you have a little more work to do - the main changes have been covered by GigaOM.

All in all, I'm looking forward to Mountain Lion.

- Mark Webster