updated 12:05 am EDT, Thu April 18, 2013
Added support for emerging 802.11ac Wi-Fi in previous release
As it has done almost every week for the last few months, Apple on Wednesday seeded a new build of the next update to 10.8 Mountain Lion on Wednesday. The latest version of the 10.8.4 beta comes with the curious numbering of 12E33a, the first beta in recent memory to have a letter designation at the end. The significance of the letter is unknown, but could be indicative of a last-minute revision. As has become usual, the release notes only ask developers to focus on graphics drivers, Safari and general Wi-Fi testing.
In the previous build, 12E30, it was discovered that Apple had included code to support the emerging 802.11ac Wi-Fi standard inside a reference that appeared to indicate new Mac models that would include the protocol -- presumably to be released before the next major version of OS X, 10.9, is completed. Previous builds of 10.8.4 had shown improvements to Wi-Fi stability, battery life and waking from sleep. No known issues were reported with the release.
The 802.11ac protocol is a successor to the existing 802.11n standard, though the former had not yet been ratified even though the standard is now complete (a similar situation occurred with 802.11n, with products available years before the standard was finally ratified). Once widespread, 802.11ac should result in faster network speeds and greater range using the 5GHz band currently employed by 802.11n. No timeframe for a final release of 10.8.4 has been given.