Apple’s Gatekeeper pushes developers toward a Mac App Store future

Apple’s Gatekeeper pushes developers toward a Mac App Store future

Today, Apple announced Mac OS X Mountain Lion and a host of new features coming summer 2012. Even a quick look at the announcement reveals just how much the Mac is moving towards iOS — in more ways than one.

Beyond the sheen of new iOS-like features, Apple announced an important “Security” feature: Gatekeeper. In Apple’s on words (bolded by TNW):

Now you can choose from three security options. You can download and run applications from anywhere, just as in OS X Lion. To be even safer, download and run apps from the Mac App Store and apps with a Developer ID. Or download and run only apps from the Mac App Store — the safest setting of all. Gatekeeper lets you decide which setting is best for you.

I’m all for security, but this feature is about to cause major consequences for developers, just like the App Store announcement did over a year ago.

Nothing But App Store?

As you’ll see in Apple’s carefully worded explanation of Gatekeeper, each user is given the choice of deciding if they wish to allow non-App Store apps or not. But what’s the default setting going to be? In the screenshot provided by Apple, it looks like “Mac App Store and identified developers” is the default, and will likely go unchanged by the average, non-tinkering user.

Apple’s Developer ID program, as part of the Mac Developer Program, will solve the problem of only allowing identified developers, but Apple still has more power than ever. They’ll be able to revoke certification, and developers will still have to pay a yearly fee ($99/year) to join, creating barriers for experimental projects and open source projects.


Apple is incrementally replacing the traditional app distribution model (the Internet) with its own App Store. But since this method has worked astoundingly well for iOS, can you blame them for bringing it to the Mac?

Hopefully Apple’s independent developer community won’t find itself too alienated as time goes on, but at this rate, the App Store is certainly taking over for good. What’s next, Jailbreaking your Mac? Just like in iOS the only truly open and free developer platform will be the Web. Apple’s Gatekeeper leaves a gaping whole for the world of Web apps, and may end up inspiring more developers to embrace HTML5 as a cross-platform solution.

Apple is primed to take an even larger cut from developer sales as it rewires the distribution model of the Mac. The Gatekeeper feature is obviously a huge push for the Mac App Store, and is a fitting name for something that’s building up Apple’s walled garden around OS X. It’s only a matter of time before we see the results.

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