If you like your iPhone, iPad, or iPod touch, you're going to love Mac OS X Mountain Lion ($TBA). This sequel to last year's Lion ups the iOS-like ante with deep iCloud integration, new — yet totally familiar — additions like Reminders, Notes, and Game Center, as well as a revamped, iMessages-handling iChat — now known as simply Messages — a new Notification Center, Share Sheets, Twitter integration, and AirPlay Mirroring. And knowing Apple, there's probably at least a few new features we haven't heard about yet. Roaring onto a Mac near you this Summer.
Syncing all your stuff between all your digital devices is going to eventually drive you insane. Apple is here, once again, to help. iCloud (Free/$25 a year) seamlessly stores your music, photos, apps, email, calendars, and documents, and wirelessly pushes them to all your devices automatically so everything stays up to date and in sync. When something changes on one of your devices, all of your others are wirelessly updated almost instantly. You can also use iTunes Match to have all of your ripped music available to you on any device for a yearly fee. You've been hearing about this "cloud" stuff on crappy IBM commercials for a year, but now (well, this fall when iOS 5 is released) you'll actually benefit from it.
Until now, touchscreen PCs were little more than gimmicks - finger-friendly add-ons to a very mouse-oriented OS. Microsoft Windows 8 ($TBA) looks to change all of that. By borrowing heavily from Windows Phone 7, Redmond has built a touch-optimized, tile-based main interface for Windows 8, melding the user friendliness of modern smartphones with powerful PC features like complete access to the file system, the ability to see more than one app at a time on screen, and desktop caliber apps — although we're still trying to figure out how you're supposed to use the Office toolbar without a mouse.
The only web/design/development software collection that matters gets another upgrade with Adobe Creative Suite 5 ($1700-$2600). Available in five different sets, the new software includes the likes of Photoshop CS5, Illustrator CS5, InDesign CS5, Acrobat 9 Pro, Flash Catalyst CS5, Flash Professional CS5, Flash Builder 4, Dreamweaver CS5, Fireworks CS5, Contribute CS5, Adobe Premiere Pro CS5, After Effects CS5, Encore CS5, Soundbooth CS5, and a few others. Standout new features include Truer Edge technology for better masking, native 64-bit support (Photoshop, Premiere Pro and After Effects only), and the crazy-insane Content-Aware Fill feature.
You can now instantly watch unlimited TV shows and movies from Netflix on your iPad. Featuring all the Multi-Touchiness you can handle, the Netflix iPad App (Free; Netflix account required) could be just the thing for when you're jonesing for some Lebowski, but don't want to get off the couch or risk spilling your caucasian to find the DVD. Also for your streaming video pleasure is the ABC Player for iPad (Free), where handheld versions of LOST and Modern Family have never looked so good.
Ah, the iPad. We're expecting it to replace magazines, books, our laptops — at least some of the time — and... board games? Yup, Game Table ($1) aims to do exactly that, offering realistic checkers, chess, and card games. All the action is controlled by you and a friend with intuitive touch controls, while the physics engine sucks you in like a Michael Bay explosion. If six games simply isn't enough for you, check out BoardBox ($4), which packs 15 games into its virtual package.
As if you really needed yet another reason to pick up an iPad this weekend, along comes Mixr ($TBA). This multi-touch DJ mixing app for the upcoming Jesus tablet offers a virtual dual turntable main interface, allowing for scratching, reverse play, tempo and pitch adjustment, live EQ and effects, the ability to record your mixes, and the ability to cue tracks. Paired with a drool-worthy library and search interface, it's bound to become the new go-to mobile app for amateur and professional DJs alike.
Just when you thought Apple's iron-gated app garden was sure to keep any challenger to iBooks out, along comes Amazon Kindle for iPad. Sporting a nifty book cover browsing interface, this upcoming app — assuming it makes it past Apple's stinky, troll-like gatekeepers — will let users read Kindle-formatted books on their iPads, offering customizable background colors and font sizes to ease eye strain, in-app screen brightness adjustment, the ability to sync bookmarks and reading place with Kindles and other Kindle apps, and the requisite "page turn animation" that replicates the look of actually turning a page in a book. You know, a real one — made out of paper? Never mind.
Not content to let traditional books have all the digital distribution fun, Panelfly (Free; App Store Link) lets you purchase, download, and read digital comics right from your iPhone or iPod touch. With hundreds of titles available from some of the biggest names in comics — including Marvel — Panelfly's slick, well-designed interface makes reading each issue as easy as possible, and in case you're thinking the iPhone/iPod touch screen is too small, have patience — Panelfly for the iPad will launch alongside the device in March.
If Leopard was all about new features, Mac OS X Snow Leopard ($29; August 28) is all about speed. Leaving most of Leopard's UI features in place, Snow Leopard boasts tons of under-the-hood improvements, including faster, more stable, 64-bit versions of Finder, Mail, iCal, iChat, and Safari, the all new QuickTime X, a footprint that takes up 7GB (!) less hard drive space than Leopard, faster Time Machine backups, Open CL technology to take advantage of most Macs' powerful GPUs, and a price that simply can't be beat.
Turn your high-tech iPhone into a decades old single-purpose device with HP iPhone Calculators. The range includes the legendary HP-12C Financial Calculator ($15) — the company's longest and best-selling model — and the HP-15C ($30), a high-end programmable scientific calculator capable of handling complex numbers and matrix calculations. Both apps replicate the classic looks and button layouts of these venerable old gadgets, adding plenty of old-school charm to your decidedly new-school device.
Whether you're a lightweight or a full-time drinker, you can keep track of your boozing using your iPhone with DrinkTracker ($2). This handy little app lets you set a "target" BAC and then tell it when you're having a drink to keep track of your level over time. We used it to keep ourselves in the clear with John Q. Law over the weekend, but we're sure it's just as useful for insane drinking games, or for making sure little Billy doesn't send himself to the hospital with that last keg stand.