Gatekeeper: First Step Towards App Store-Only Software On The Mac? [OS X Mountain Lion]

Gatekeeper in Mountain Lion

One of the big headline features in Apple’s new Mountain Lion OS is Gatekeeper, designed to keep malware and other nasties away from your computer. So is this another step towards App Store-only software on Macs?

The short answer is yes, it is. But it doesn’t have to be. Gatekeeper gives you the choice: do you want to stick to App Store-only apps, or be able to install anything from anywhere?

In Mountain Lion, it’s up to you.

You’ll find Gatekeeper inside the Security and Privacy pane in System Preferences.

It will offer three choices for installing software:

  • Allow apps from the Mac App Store only
  • Allow apps from the Store and from “identified developers”
  • Allow apps from anywhere

Software developers will be able to sign up with Apple for a “Developer ID”, which they can use to digitally sign the apps they’re making available for download outside the Store. When you install one of these apps, Apple will be able to check its database to ensure that the code is genuine.

It’s pretty clear that Apple’s doing it this way to appeal to two different kinds of computer user. There’s the everyday home user, your mom or dad who just want to do the usual web, email, and photo stuff. They have no need for any unusual software, so they’ll be better off with the App Store-only setting.

Then there are professionals: people who want to be able to tinker with everything, who use obscure software from little-known indie developers. They can still do that, but they’ll have to click that little radio button in Gatekeeper first.

It’s Apple’s way of saying: “Sure, install whatever you like. We trust you. You know what you’re doing. You do know what you’re doing, right? Good.”

What do you think of Gatekeeper? What setting will you put it on? And will Apple stop here, or will the next version of OS X finally take the plunge and make the Mac App Store the only app delivery system for the Mac? Let us know in the comments.

  • ddevito

    Although I would agree that this approach truly bolsters security for the end user, the power users will get sandwiched into this and would completely handcuff us.

  • TheMacAdvocate

    Maybe you missed the last of the 3 options, which I think should read “If you want it to be just like the Android Market, knock yourself out”. 

  • tiagobrandes

    This is absurd!! Apple doesn’t have the right to block every software development company from distributing software on their websites! They are trying to get their cut on all software that is sold for the Mac, this is bullshit!

    “End user security” my ass! Mac OS is already the most secure desktop platform, the development community should be outraged by this, completely absurd!

    I love Apple but this is crossing the line.

  • b l

    I know we have the ability to allow software to be installed from anywhere, for now, but I fear this being another step to not only a full merge between iOS and Mac OS but also an OS that you can only get software from one source, Apple, where they will approve everything and take their cut. Personally I like Mac OS X but I couldn’t favor it if they lock it down to only one software source. We should have freedom of where we get our software, at least on our computers, it keeps prices down and allow more variety of apps including ones that Apple would deny if they had the chance to.

  • ken147

    Hell will freeze over when Apple only lets mac app store apps be installed. I’m pretty sure they will never do this though (I hope), they will loose to may customers.

  • joewaylo

    Something tells me this is for another reason. Another step against jailbreakers and online piracy.

  • Darren Swanson

    You think the average Apple fanboi would give up their Macs just over the inability to install their own applications from their own sources? Oh no. Oh no no no. They’ll just see it as a security advantage like they do in iOS. Apple does have an excellent PR team. They would be able to turn a huge negative like this in to what seems like a positive. Just look at Android and iOS. Everybody knows that iOS is so much more robust and Android is chalk full of malware, right? Wrong. The facts show that iOS crashes almost twice as often as Android (
    http://www.forbes.com/sites/to… ) and I have been downloading applications to my Android devices from a whole bunch of sources and have never received any malware. Nor have I met anyone who has downloaded malware. Apple’s slow process of approving apps for their App Store makes it harder for developers to weed out bugs in a timely fashion. But Apple is only concerned with getting their exorbitant 30% cut.

  • Sean Carter

    I wish we had these three options on iOS.

  • vanmouniren

    “I’m sorry, but we only provide support for systems with apps from the Mac App store.”
    Soon, at a call center near you.

  • pratish sarvehi

    Thank you
    Your blog is very nice and informative.
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About the author

Giles TurnbullGiles Turnbull is a freelance writer in England. He also writes for the Press Association and The Morning News. You can find out more at his website, and follow him on Twitter @gilest.

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