In this series, Erica Sadun and I have talked about many of the ways that you can prepare for the upcoming release of OS X Mountain Lion and about some of the new features that are to debut with the new OS. One of those features, Messages, has been available in beta form in Lion since February. Unfortunately, mention of the beta was quietly pulled from the Apple website in the last few weeks -- but you can still try to download and install it via direct download.
Messages is designed to let you send and receive instant messages without the need for a text message account from your cellular carrier. The idea is that you should be able to send and receive texts on any device, whether it's an iPhone, iPad or Mac. While Messages is available on iOS as iMessages, the feature won't be built into OS X until next month.
Messages replaces iChat on your Mac, adding the iMessage capability but keeping other IM accounts like AIM. During the beta, I've been quite happy with the app and use it daily to chat with my wife on her iPhone while she's at work. If I leave the house with my iPhone, I can continue the chat on that device.
Erica and I did some tests using Messages to send photos, videos, contact info and attachments between different devices, and it's very handy for exactly that type of cross-device transfer. I love how you can see when a message has been delivered, and three dots tell you when someone's in the process of replying.
The Messages beta will probably cease to operate as soon as Mountain Lion ships in a few weeks, so be sure to upgrade to Mountain Lion as soon as you can if you're hooked on Messages.
For many new Mac owners, your move to Mountain Lion represents your first major upgrade. To help users prepare to make the jump, Steve Sande and Erica Sadun wrote Getting Ready for Mountain Lion, an Amazon/iBooks eBook. It's aimed at first-time upgraders and people looking for hints and tips about smoothing the transition. We're sharing some of our tips on TUAW in a series of posts about the 10.8 upgrade. OS X Mountain Lion will be offered for sale in July 2012 for $19.99.