As part of yesterday’s earnings report for fiscal 2012 third quarter, Apple’s CEO Tim Cook was quoted in a media release as saying the company would launch the next major revision to its desktop operating system on Wednesday. The company just made good in its promise by letting OS X 10.8 Mountain Lion out of the cage. It’s available now as an exclusive Mac App Store digital download costing just $19.99 a pop…

Apple accompanied the launch with a press release, quoting its marketing honcho Phil Schiller:

People are going to love the new features in Mountain Lion and how easy it is to download and install from the Mac App Store. With iCloud integration, Mountain Lion is even easier to set up, and your important information stays up to date across all your devices so you can keep editing documents, taking notes, creating reminders, and continue conversations whether you started on a Mac, iPhone or iPad.

The operating system marks another step in bringing over popular iOS features to the Mac platform to both unify core feature set of OS X and iOS and help people upgrading to the Mac from iOS devices familiarize themselves better, the process started with the Lion release last summer.

The software comes with 200 new features. The biggies include AirPlay Mirroring of your Mac’s display to your television through the Apple TV set-top box, Notification Center, iMessage, Game Center, all-new Notes and Reminders apps and of course Facebook and Twitter integration via the standard sharing button known from iOS.

It also includes Siri voice dictation, enhanced Safari with shared tabs via iCloud, better Mail with VIP recipients, tighter iCloud integration system-wide featuring support for Documents in the Cloud, iCloud documents storage access in standard Open/Save dialog boxes, Gatekeeper which only allows for downloads and installs of signed and sandboxed applications from the Mac App Store and much more.

My personal favorite has to be the new PowerNap feature (quite a name, heh?) that keeps your Mac up to date while it sleeps by downloading important system updates, email messages, updating your personal data via iCloud and more.

Apple highlighted the following features in the press release.

• iCloud integration, for easy set up of your Mail, Contacts, Calendar, Messages, Reminders and Notes, and keeping everything, including iWork® documents, up to date across all your devices;
• the all new Messages app, which replaces iChat® and brings iMessage™ to the Mac, so you can send messages to anyone with an iPhone®, iPad®, iPod touch® or another Mac;
• Notification Center, which streamlines the presentation of notifications and provides easy access to alerts from Mail, Calendar, Messages, Reminders, system updates and third party apps;
• system-wide Sharing, to make it easy to share links, photos, videos and other files quickly without having to switch to another app, and you just need to sign in once to use third-party services like Facebook, Twitter, Flickr and Vimeo;
• Facebook integration, so you can post photos, links and comments with locations right from your apps, automatically add your Facebook friends to your Contacts, and even update your Facebook status from within Notification Center;
• Dictation, which allows you to dictate text anywhere you can type, whether you’re using an app from Apple or a third party developer;
• AirPlay Mirroring, an easy way to wirelessly send an up-to-1080p secure stream of what’s on your Mac to an HDTV using Apple TV®, or send audio to a receiver or speakers that use AirPlay; and
• Game Center, which brings the popular social gaming network from iOS to the Mac so you can enjoy live, multiplayer games with friends whether they’re on a Mac, iPhone, iPad or iPod touch.

Mountain Lion requires OS X Snow Leopard 10.6.8 or later. As with iOS, some features are hardware-dependent. Per iTunes terms, you can install your copy of Mountain Lion on up to five computers authorized with the same Apple ID.

AirPlay Mirroring works with Apple TV (2nd generation or newer), iMac (mid 2011 or newer), Mac mini (mid 2011 or newer), MacBook Air (mid 2011 or newer), and MacBook Pro (early 2011 or newer). Likewise, Power Nap works with MacBook Air (mid 2011 or newer) and MacBook Pro with Retina display.

By the way, notice that OS X Lion is no longer available on the Mac App Store. Apple clearly wants to upgrade its mac user base to Mountain Lion as quickly as possible. You’re advised to check out if your favorite apps have been updated with support for Mountain Lion prior to upgrading.

Luckily, there’s a website for that.

Apple also released OS X Server Mountain Lion, a $19.99 upgrade. At this price, it’s a no-brainer considering OS X Server Lion used to run you $49.99. And before the Mac App Store came along, Mac OS X Server was priced at $500.

From iTunes’ release notes:

OS X Server is the next generation of Apple’s award winning server software. Designed for OS X and iOS devices, OS X Server makes it easy to share files, schedule meetings, synchronize contacts, host your own website, publish wikis, configure Macs, iPhones and iPads, remotely access your network, and more.

Server is now an application you can add to Mountain Lion right from the Mac App Store. Anyone can quickly and easily turn a Mac running Mountain Lion into a server that’s perfect for home offices, businesses, schools, and hobbyists alike.

OS X Server is a 134MB download for $19.99, also via the Mac App Store.

Apple also released Safari 6 for Lionwith Offline Reading List, Smart Search Field and an all-new Password manager. The company also updated the iWork office suite (Pages, Numbers, Keynote) that now support documents syncing via iCloud, Siri voice dictation and crisp interface on the Retina MacBook Pro .

If you’re eager to learn more about Mountain Lion, I highly recommend Federico Viticci’s excellent and usually exhaustive review over at MacStories.

Speaking of which, the publication also released its first eBook containing their best features stories, including Mountain Lion review. It’s a $6.99 download, “custom-designed and optimized for Retina displays, presenting its content in a beautiful, easy-to-read format”.

I just purchased my copy and am loving every of its 120 pages. Also important, 30 percent of its proceeds going to the American Cancer Society.

Some other reviews you may want to check out:

• Nilay Patel of The Verge
• John Siracusa of Ars Technica
• Brian Heater of Engadget
• Jason Snell of Macworld
• MG Siegler, TechCrunch
 • Jesus Diaz, Gizmodo
• Jim Dalrymple, The Loop

Are you excited about iOS-ification of the Mac with Mountain Lion?