Mac OS X 10.8 restricted to App Store, signed apps by default

February 16th, 2012

Mac OS X 10.8 Mountain Lion:

“At this point in time, you can still easily install applications outside of the Mac App Store, but the fear (and, let’s face it, the expectation) is that Apple will one day make this harder – only to make it impossible a little later,” I wrote, “I’m pretty sure Mac OS X will get a switch first – off by default – to only allow App Store applications. In the release after that, the switch will be on by default. One release later still, and the switch is relegated to some obscure command line command.”

When Microsoft announced plans to move in the same direction, the picture was complete. We’re at step two now: Mac OS X 10.8 Mountain Lion can only run Mac App Store or Apple-signed applications by default. There is a master switch to switch between App Store-only, App Store+signed, and unrestricted (the current behaviour). In addition, you can force-install an application even if it violates the master switch.

However, this is all temporary, something to smooth us over. In Mac OS X 10.9, the master switch and force-install will be ever harder to find or relegated to CLI commands – after which it is removed completely. Both Windows and Mac OS X will move towards a fully curated environment, in a nice, step-by-step manner to ease us into the idea of no longer having ownership of our machines.

via Mac OS X 10.8 restricted to App Store, signed apps by default.

Apple calls this new feature “Gatekeeper” and for now, it can be configured by the end user to allow applications to be installed.

If I understand this, by the time OS X 10.9 comes out, and perhaps too with a later version of Windows, you may no longer be able to write and install software on your own computer unless, like with smart phones and tablets, you pay a $99/year annual fee to join the Apple – or Windows – developer programs (I belong to both).  In fact, you may only be able to distribute – or purchase – new applications through the App stores, for which Apple gets a 30% commission. Only Apple approved applications can then be distributed

Since a huge amount of software has been written by individuals for personal, hobby and especially for professional use on the job, as well as students in schools (who will be granted an education development license and students will be hit with an additional “lab fee”) this would seem to make the creation and distribution of software – such as freeware – more difficult.  The developer licensing requirement does not prohibit freeware but it adds a hurdle for the development and distribution of applications.

Linux and Android are still comparatively open systems.

This seems a troubling development – are we comfortable with this closure of long open systems?

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