Last week, Apple took most Mac users by surprise when it released a developers preview of Mountain Lion, the company's newest desktop operating system, and announced it would ship the upgrade this summer.
OS X Mountain Lion, the first in a yearly upgrade schedule, sports new features, many of them borrowed from the iPhone and iPad; a new security framework that should stymie the most common kinds of Mac malware; and tighter ties to the company's iCloud sync and storage service.
But because Apple's not yet disclosed all the facts about Mountain Lion, you probably have questions.
We've tried to fill in the blanks.
When can I get Mountain Lion? Apple's only given the vague "late summer" due date, summer being relative, since in four months the southern hemisphere will enter winter. August 2012 is our bet: That syncs with Snow Leopard's Aug. 28, 2009, release.
Even that, though, is a guess, since Apple's on new ground here. It usually unveils an OS a year or more before it ships, then pins a release month at its June developer conference. In 2009, for instance, it told users to expect Snow Leopard in September, but beat that by a few days. Last year, it pegged Lion's release to July, which it met with 11 days to spare.
What about the preview? Can I get that now? Only if you're a registered Apple Mac developer . Membership in the program costs $99 per year.
How much will Mountain Lion cost? Apple hasn't said, but if it's not $29.99 or less we'll eat our hats. That was the price of Lion last year -- and 2009's Snow Leopard was $29 . And while Apple hasn't officially committed to under-$30 for all upgrades, Mountain Lion is, like Snow Leopard, an incremental update, rather than the more ambitious Lion.
That's why we would be surprised if Apple charged more for Mountain Lion than it did for Lion.
How is Apple distributing Mountain Lion? Like Lion, through the Mac App Store.
Although Apple offered Lion on a flash drive last year to quell concerns from some that they didn't have the bandwidth to download the multi-gigabyte upgrade, according to Pocketlint , the company won't repeat the USB offer with Mountain Lion.
Can I upgrade to Mountain Lion? We don't know. The developer preview requires Lion or Snow Leopard, and although it makes sense -- together those two editions powered 80% of all Macs that went online in January -- that could change by the time the final code is ready.
Apple has also told developers which Macs will run Mountain Lion's preview . The list excludes such notable systems as the now-discontinued white MacBook, the first-generation MacBook Air and all iMacs prior to the August 2007 20- and 24-in. models.
With some exceptions, Macs sold from 2008 forward will run Mountain Lion, while 2009 and later models are guaranteed to run the new OS.
As with other system requirements, the out-in-the-cold list could change by the time Apple ships OS X Mountain Lion.