Mountain Lion's big achievement: everything to everybody
Within hours of upgrading to Mountain Lion, I was grumbling about it on Twitter.
"How do I switch this new feature off?" I complained. "How do I deactivate Notification Center? How do I get rid of these horrible animations? Ugh. Ugh. Ugh."
The grumbling didn't last long, but with a bit of hindsight, I now see that it was unnecessary, because I've realised what Mountain Lion is all about: it's about giving everyone what they want. Pleasing all of the people, all of the time. Having your cake and eating it.
In fact, I'd go as far as to call Mountain Lion a triumph: it is a simple, user-friendly system that allows two very different groups of people to use the same computer hardware, and the same OS, but in very divergent ways.
Newcomers to OS X can use a Mac just like they use an iPad. They can open Launchpad to find their apps; and within each app they can find their documents, which are stored inside iCloud and will magically appear on their other gadgets too. It's really clear, and it works as expected, especially if you're used to iOS. It's as if the essentials of iOS have been superimposed on top of OS X.
Us oldies - anyone who's been using a Mac for a while, and is used to using OS X in the traditional manner - can moan about all this new stuff as much as we like, but we are not (yet) being forced to use it. There's no obligation. You can, if you know just a little bit about using a Mac, deactivate all the stuff you don't wish to use. It might require a little proactive effort on your part, and you might even find yourself having to type stuff into Terminal to do certain tricks, but none of them are terribly difficult. They're very doable.
The fundamental difference with Mountain Lion is that the defaults have changed. This incarnation of OS X defaults to something that behaves in a very iOS-like manner, but isn't limited to behaving that way.
So if, like me, you have no use for iCloud and no interest in Notification Center, you can switch them off, or ignore them. Drag "All my files" out of the Finder sidebar, and you need never be bothered by it again. The same applies to Launchpad - just drag it out of the Dock and forget about it.
It doesn't take much effort or time to make any new Mac you buy look and behave very much like all your old Macs did before it.
This is why Mountain Lion is a triumph. It can adapt itself for these two divergent groups of users, the newcomers and the oldies. It's either very iOS-like, or very OS X-like. You decide.