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Mountain Lion Sells Like Hotcats

By Rachelle Dragani MacNewsWorld ECT News Network
Aug 1, 2012 5:00 AM PT

Apple's new version of its operating system, OS X Mountain Lion, launched last week in what the company said was the biggest debut for any OS X edition ever, exceeding 3 million downloads in four days.

Mountain Lion Sells Like Hotcats

The new OS has more than 200 new features, including enhanced iCloud integration, improved Safari browsing, advances to its notification system, and a greater emphasis on sharing and storing data across multiple Apple devices. At US$19.99, it is also more affordable than previous OS upgrades. Its predecessor, Lion, sold for $29.99.

A combination of that lowered price, multiple new features and an aggressive marketing campaign that included ads during the Olympics made for a somewhat surprisingly rapid early uptake by consumers, said Ezra Gottheil, senior analyst for computing practice at Technology Business Research.

"I'm a little surprised at the pace," he told MacNewsWorld. "But evidently some strong marketing and a very compelling pricing drove a very rapid adoption."

In the past, Apple has dealt with some customer blowback from early adopters after they discover kinks in their upgrades. This time around, though, the system is more about small improvements than dramatic overhauls, making large-scale problems less likely at the launch, said Gottheil. Bugs including faster battery drain and questions about speed have been reported, but Gottheil said Apple will be on top of fixes for the minor problems this time around.

"People are clearly reporting problems, but it looks like there are already some easy fixes available," he said. "This launch was more of a refinement and adding of features than it was a radical user interface change, so any issues shouldn't be that disruptive."

That will bode well for Apple, said Gottheil, since Apple faces what could prove to be stiff competition when Microsoft launches its upcoming operating system, Windows 8, later this year. Windows 8 will feature the most dramatic redesign and updated features to the system in years. But with Apple's emphasis on device integration with the system, competitors like Microsoft will have a lot more iPad, iPhone and Mac users to win over with its new system, said Gottheil.

"Everybody, like Microsoft and Google, are really getting into the cloud," he said. "But in this case, iCloud is just Apple's medium, and the real advantage is having everything on all your devices. All the sharing and synchronization removes barriers to getting on the cloud, which really helps drive some of those mainstream users in adopting the new Mountain Lion."

AuthenTec Acquisition

Apple has announced plans to acquire AuthenTec, a mobile security company, for $356 million. The security company specializes in fingerprint technology, using embedded sensors to add extra measures of security to smartphones and other touchscreen devices. It has licensing deals with other smartphone and consumer device manufacturers, including Lenovo, Fujitsu, Dell and Samsung.

Apple did not specify how it plans to integrate AuthenTec into its services, but the company could use its fingerprinting technology for purposes other than security, said Kurt Baumgartner, senior security researcher at Kaspersky Lab, told MacNewsWorld. Because of AuthenTec's background with the touch sensors, Apple could explore new ways to drive mobile commerce outside of near field communication (NFC) technology.

Apple competitors such as Google have tried to push NFC adoption for convenient touch payments using smartphones and tablets, but the technology has yet to significantly catch on in the U.S. market.

"From a technical perspective, we do not see AuthenTec's technologies addressing the security of the Mac OS X platform, which is where its users are being attacked," he said. "However, Apple is addressing authentication and fraud protection for their services in addition to exploring a potential alternative to NFC for mobile commerce."

Buffering Security Nonetheless

No matter what purpose AuthenTec plays for Apple, the acquisition is a sign Apple has renewed focus on security. The company has long promoted an image of being safer from malware than its PC peers, but as the brand has grown, so have the cyberattacks.

"As shown in the news, Apple has moved away from its claims on its website about Mac OS X computers being more secure than Windows PCs," Baumgartner told MacNews World. "However, main drivers for consumers isn't security -- it's the hardware, usability and sexiness that Apple's product lines provide."

But as more consumers turn to Apple products for use in the workplace, where sensitive data needs to be more heavily protected, and more malicious attacks are planned on the popular iOS, the company will have to make sure its devices are secure, Subbu Iyer, director of product management for Zscaler, told MacNews World.

"Enterprise mobility is going through several transitions, such as moving from corporate-owned to employee-owned mobile devices, and adopting cloud-based business applications," he said. "These transitions emphasize the need for strong security and protection of users and corporate data at all times. While the AuthenTec acquisition is definitely a move in the right direction, I would welcome further improvements in Apple products to help enterprises enforce data and application security in all scenarios, including BYOD [bring your own device]."

Rachelle Dragani is a freelance reporter based in Brooklyn, NY. She enjoys staying on top of e-commerce deals, reporting on what new gadget is coming your way, and keeping tabs on anyone trying to hack into your info. Feel free to e-mail her at rachelle.dragani@newsroom.ectnews.com.

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