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What are the "pros and cons" of upgrading to OS X 10.8 "Mountain Lion"? Is it worth it? What are the best reasons to upgrade? Are there reasons not to upgrade?
Much like OS X Lion before it, OS X Mountain Lion is a minor upgrade. It also is only US$19.99, which is the cheapest operating system upgrade Apple ever has released and yet it introduces "over 200 new features."
However, whether or not upgrading is "worth it" has little to do with its low cost. Instead, you will have to decide whether or not a feature or features are compelling to you; and if so, if the operating system itself and desired features actually are supported by your Mac.
200+ New Features
Apple's official promo copy for OS X Mountain Lion lists the 200+ new features, many of which are directly inspired by the iOS.
Different people may have different opinions about which features are important, and given the cost of the operating system upgrade -- provided that one's computer is compatible -- a single feature might be worth the upgrade price to a particular individual.
For example, Mountain Lion supports "14 new braille displays" which could be quite valuable to the blind and "better handwriting recognition" in Chinese, which could be greatly appreciated by Chinese speakers who prefer "old school" handwriting input over pinyin.
For the majority of users, the most valuable additions are likely to be an improved version of Time Machine that supports multiple backup locations as well as the AirPlay Mirroring, iCloud, Dictation, Messages, Notes, Reminders, and Notification Center all borrowed from the iOS.
Users who always have wished that the Mac was more like the iPad or iPhone should be thrilled by these additions. Although they should carefully note that AirPlay Mirroring (as well as Power Nap) only are supported by a small subset of systems capable of running Mountain Lion. Many have failed to heed the fine print regarding compatibility and have been upset to find that a feature they really wanted wasn't supported by their Mac.
Long-term Mac users who are less interested in the iOS, those who aren't comfortable storing their personal information in "the cloud," and those who aren't avid users of social media are far less likely to find much compelling about the upgrade, even if it was free. Likewise, for those with unsupported systems, peripherals, or software, there is unlikely to be a reason to immediately upgrade, if at all.
Any individual may have different pros and cons, but the most common likely are:
Upgrade Value Summary
Just like those deciding whether or not to upgrade to Lion, Intel-based Mac users likely will fall into one of three categories.
For those with compatible Macs and compatible software -- and particularly those who have a fully compatible Mac as well as an Apple TV and/or an iPod touch, iPhone, or iPad -- it is highly likely that a feature or features provided by OS X Mountain Lion will be well worth the cost. Nevertheless, those with "mission critical" Macs still would be wise to wait for a couple of additional revisions to sort out remaining bugs.
For those with completely incompatible Macs, or even those with compatible Macs that don't support all of the features and/or who don't have an Apple TV and/or an iPod touch, iPhone, or iPad, OS X Mountain Lion probably isn't a reason to immediately buy a new or newer Mac, even if their software library is largely compatible. However, OS X Mountain Lion is likely to be appreciated in the future.
For those with incompatible Macs and incompatible software -- who likely stuck with Mac OS X 10.6 Snow Leopard -- and did not upgrade to OS X Lion, there is unlikely to be a reason to upgrade to OS X Mountain Lion, either. Based on e-mail received, these users are likely to stay with Snow Leopard for as long as possible.
Ultimately, only you can determine if you are a member of the upgrade now, upgrade later, or upgrade never groups, but evaluating objective pros and cons can help.
Site sponsor Operator Headgap Systems specializes in heavily upgraded Macs capable of running older versions of Mac OS X (and even Mac OS 9). PowerMax sells brand new Macs with the latest and greatest OS X Mountain Lion pre-installed and also sells a variety of used systems capable of running older versions of the operating system.