Apple has announced its next version of Mac OS X, 10.8 Mountain Lion. The announcement comes as a surprise given that Mac OS X 10.7 Lion was just released in July 2011. One of the biggest features is that it’s not called Mac OS X anymore, just OS X. Mountain Lion is a progression from Lion, much like Snow Leopard was an evolution of Leopard, just on a much grander scale. This time instead of bringing more features to the desktop version, Apple is putting more iOS features into Mountain Lion.

There are a few features that Apple has opted to focus on. The list is: iCloud, Game Center, Notification Center, Twitter, Share Sheets, and Gatekeeper. Some of these seem familiar, if you are used to iOS. It’s not the only change that Apple has made. They are also renaming applications so they are consistent across both iOS and OS X.

For instance, iCal is now called Calendar; iChat is now called Messages. There are three new applications as well, Notifications, Notes and Reminders. All of these applications sync with your iOS devices using Apple’s iCloud. Mountain Lion wants you to have an iCloud account and to use it. Just like with Lion Apple has not left out current users. You can download a beta copy of Messages for your OS X 10.7 Lion Machine today.

Let us delve into each of these new features. iCloud is now a basic requirement for Mountain Lion. iCloud, allows for storage of Documents in the cloud. It is also used for syncing information over Notes, Calendar as well as notifications while using OS X Mountain Lion.

Game Center is, as one would guess, to be used for Games. This could be anything from matching opponents within a game, to submitting high scores, and even unlocking achievements within games. If things work, as I would expect, they should be able to synchronize and even allow you to continue playing a game between your iOS and OS X device.

Notification center is a port from iOS. Notification center will allow you to have a unified system notification anywhere in the OS. This could be anything from new mail, IMs, Messages, or even reminders and appointments. I could definitely see developers adding significant notifications within their applications, like when an Encode job is done for instance.

Twitter integration is just like iOS 5’s Twitter integration. Apple has integrated Twitter into the core of Mountain Lion. You can create, view, and manage all aspects of twitter from just about anywhere in Mountain Lion. I’m surprised that Apple hasn’t purchased Twitter yet.

Share Sheets is a new feature within OS X Mountain Lion. It is a global sharing mechanism that allows you to easily post a picture to Twitter, send an email or even send a video to someone or to your own social network. This will make sharing so much easier. Third parties can also create their own Share Sheets to allow users to send items to their applications.

Much like Share Sheets, Gatekeeper is a new feature. This feature however is entirely for security. Gatekeeper now allows a user to decide how granular they wish to get with application installation. A user can decide to only allow Apple App Store applications to be installed. If they do not like this approach, they may also allow any Apple developer signed applications to be installed, along with App Store applications. This means that they may get an application from a third party, like their workplace, that is not distributed by the App Store, but is still signed. Lastly, they can allow any application to be installed. This will be good for corporations that will only allow certain applications to be installed. Regardless of which security level is chosen a user can force an installation of an application, provided they supply a password.

I purposely left out one last feature from the list above, Airplay mirroring. Much like iOS Applications, Mountain Lion will allow a user to mirror their desktop onto a Television by using an Apple TV. You can share your desktop, Keynote or even iMovie and show exactly what is on your desktop.

OS X Mountain Lion is slated for a release in Summer 2012. This is a major shift from a two-year, or longer, development cycle down to a yearly release. This is the last major feature of iOS to be integrated into OS X Mountain Lion. It will allow users to keep up to date not just on their iOS device, but also their OS X device.

To get all of the information regarding OS X Mountain Lion, head over to Apple’s Mountain Lion Sneak Peek page and check out all of the new features. If you are a developer you can download the Developer Preview now.