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Apple showed off a handful of new features in its forthcoming desktop operating system, OS X Mountain Lion 10.8, at its annual developers conference (WWDC) today.

The latest operating system takes great care to integrate communication into the daily workflow of activities people experience while on a Mac. Basically, these tasks are handled by third-party applications, which can either seem overwhelming or inadequate when you get entrenched with work. iMessages has been integrated, allowing you to directly respond to people using what looks like a panel from the right side of the screen (see photo below). You can even respond to text messages using this new functionality.

The other big thing Apple did in this OS is add a Notification center. Apple said in the past, each application had its own way of doing notifications. It would either bake in its own method or use a service like Growl — something the company calls disruptive. The new notification center, by contrast, is consistent and elegant. Banners slide down from the top of the screen. If you ignore them, they’re easily hidden. You can recall them with a two-finger swipe on a touch pad. As for alerts, they stay around until you dismiss them explicitly, but this is something you can switch off if you’re getting overwhelmed. Switching to a projector or display mode will turn the notifications off automatically.

The company touted new integration with iCloud, which is also getting a pleasant update that includes the ability to let your applications update while you sleep, Mac to Apple TV seamless Airplay screen sharing, and way more.

Apple is offering current users with OS X Lion installed a super low price of $20 to upgrade to Mountain Lion. The new OS will “ship” in July.

We’ve outlined some of the other features mentioned during the event below:

  • 6 million Mac users now.
  • 40% are using OS X Lion, the last OS update.
  • Interface is optimized for multi-touch track pads and mice.
  • 200 new features, total.
  • New notes app in Mountain lion as well.
  • “The really huge update on here is messages… We brought iMessage to the mac.
  • You can respond to a phone message from the Mac.
  • Brand new notification center is coming in OS X Mountain Lion.
  • Voice Dictation is also coming to the Mac.
  • Support for Twitter is built right into the OS.
  • New version of Safari featuring enhanced sharing.
  • Power Nap, app updating feature.
  • Desktop to Apple TV airplay screen sharing.
  • Mountain Lion is $19.99 to upgrade from OS X Lion
  • Available in July 2012

This post is developing. Please refresh the page for the latest updates.

Photo by Heather Kelly. Additional reporting by Dean Takahashi.

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