Hardware updates, OS previews highlight WWDC 2012

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Mountain Lion to ship in July for $20

In Monday’s keynote address at its Worldwide Developers Conference, Apple revealed several new tidbits about Mountain Lion—including its ship-date.

Apple’s vice president of software engineering, Craig Federighi, took the stage to announce that Apple’s newest OS X release will be ready for consumers to download in July. He also chose eight new features to highlight during the keynote, including some—such as Dictation on the Mac and Power Nap—that weren't included in the Mountain Lion preview we saw in February.

iCloud

OS X Lion already integrates with Apple’s iCloud service, but Mountain Lion is taking that integration a step further with Documents in the Cloud. The February demo briefly touched on this feature, showing off integration in Preview; at the keynote, Federighi announced that the cloud data service will now be integrated with other Apple apps (including the iWork suite).

Developers will be able to enable iCloud integration in their own programs (though presumably only those that have been sandboxed) by using a software development kit. Federighi also briefly demonstrated iCloud syncing for Reminders, Notes, and Messages.

Notification Center

Borrowing a card from iOS’s deck, Mountain Lion sports its own Notification Center for apps and alerts. At the keynote, Federighi showed off a new icon for the service along with a Do Not Disturb option and auto-disabling when your Mac is connected to a projector.

Dictation comes to the Mac

No, Mountain Lion users won’t get Siri just yet, but Apple is bringing forth system-wide dictation. It reputedly works anywhere on your Mac that you can type, including third-party apps—even, as Federighi joked, in "Microsoft Word!"—and websites.

Sharing

Mountain Lion’s extended sharing features have been pretty well-documented, and Federighi gave a brief rundown of those during the keynote, mentioning built-in support for Twitter and Flickr sharing anywhere that you can Quick Look a file. Developers will also be able to add a standard Share button to their apps. It also appears that Mountain Lion will finally introduce the long-rumored integration with Facebook to OS X.

Safari

We’ve previously covered Safari’s new unified search bar and faster JavaScript rendering engine in Mountain Lion. At the keynote, however, Federighi unveiled iCloud Tabs, which uses Apple’s sync service to let you quick access any tabs open on your other iCloud-enabled devices.

Power Nap

A new Mountain Lion feature exclusive to SSD-equipped Mac laptops, Power Nap works behind the scenes to keep your Mac up to date while it’s sleeping or you aren’t using it. With Power Nap enabled, your Mac can automatically sync email, calendar appointments, notes, and reminders; update Photo Stream; download app and OS updates; and back up to a Time Machine drive.

AirPlay Mirroring

Good news, streamers: You’ll be able to mirror your Mac's screen to your Apple TV (at resolutions up to pixel-for-pixel 1080p) using the Mac’s new AirPlay menu-bar control. You'll also be able to use AirPlay to stream any audio from your Mac to AirPlay-enabled audio systems.

Game Center

In another move to unify accounts across iOS and OS X, you’ll be able to use your iOS Game Center login to keep track of your Mac games and achievements in Game Center. You can also challenge your friends to turn-based or head-to-head games, either Mac-to-Mac or iOS-to-Mac (assuming the game has App Store options for both iOS and Mac users).

Aside from those major features, Federighi also mentioned VIPs in Mail, Launchpad search, Gatekeeper, offline reading for your Safari Reader list, and new features for Chinese users.

Developers also have a lot to look forward to with SDKs for iCloud and Game Center along with more than 1700 new APIs for sharing, Notification Center, high-resolution graphics, gestures, and more.

Mountain Lion is set to ship sometime in July via the Mac App Store. Anyone who purchases one of Apple’s new laptops is eligible for a free upgrade; otherwise, you can upgrade for just $20 if you’re running OS X 10.6 Snow Leopard or later.

Updated at 3:15pm with additional information about Power Nap and AirPlay.

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