Former MacUser Editor Switches To Ubuntu, Predicts Mac App Store

Ian Betteridge is a brave man. Not only is he a Mac user who has switched to Ubuntu running on Dell hardware, he’s also decided to say so in public.

Some of you may recognize his name: for some years, he was a writer for, and then editor of, the UK version of MacUser magazine.

Why did he do it? Partly because of price, partly because he cares about open software running on open platforms. Apple, he says, is a long way from open and seems to be closing things ever tighter as time goes on. (See also his follow-up post detailing the apps he’s chosen to use on Linux.)

What really caught my eye, though, was one of Ian’s asides. Half way through his post, he predicts that “sooner or later”, the “development ecosystem will increasingly come to resemble that of the iPhone, and for much the same reasons”.

In other words, there will be an App Store for OS X software. An App Store that Apple will keep just as tight control over. Only apps that met with Apple’s approval would be cleared for distribution, and only apps distributed in that manner would actually run.

A bold prediction indeed. A fair one, though? And does the Better World of free software tempt you to switch to Ubuntu (or any other *nix variant)? What do you think?

(Disclaimers: I sometimes contribute articles to MacUser UK; and I know Ian Betteridge personally, have enjoyed a chat and a pint with him, and consider him a lovely chap.)

  • Simmerl

    I wouldn’t mind an Mac App Store in the least.

  • J

    Good prediction, wrong choice.

  • Terry

    I could easily live with ubuntu even though I have been a Mac user for a long time. since the 128k Mac in fact. But his Mac App store idea is a lot of foolishness and will never happen. Good luck with that Dell lowest common denominator hardware btw.

  • Nick

    I’ve tried Ubuntu and it’s bloated. One thing that really annoyed me when I was trying Ubuntu, was about the drivers. All the warnings like: “Hey, you’re installing a closed source driver, blah blah blah”. Give me a break, if it works, it’s all good.

    I think PC-BSD is on the right way to become a real OS solution for mere mortals.

  • Ian Betteridge

    One caveat to that App Store prediction: Apple is learning a lot of lessons about software distribution from the iPhone App Store. I suspect that the version they come up with for the Mac will be significantly better for it.

  • Mark

    Apple has gotten to this stage in the game because of their insistence on quality. This is true in hardware as well as the software. Allowing a bunch of “Works in progress” onto the platform would ruin what Apple users have grown accustomed to, “It just works”. I don’t see it as a control issue but an insistence on a quality user experience.

  • khurt

    “And does the Better World of free software tempt you to switch to Ubuntu (or any other *nix variant)?”

    Hmm….NO! In fact, I am a long time Linux/UNIX user who came to the opposite conclusion. I bought my first Mac in 2005 because I discovered it had a terminal, perl, php and apache, and GNU tools. And instead of spending my time patching and praying that all my devices (printer, wifi card etc) still worked I discovered I could concentrate on being creative instead of administrative.

    I still have an install of Ubuntu but I find I use it infrequently. After all OS X is a UNIX that “just works”.

  • csbmonkney

    I was right on the precipice of not buying a Mac recently and did buy one only to be, well, a bit disappointed. The MacBook (previous generation, not the new one) either has dark edges in the lower corners or the glossy screen channels light in such a way as to create the illusion of dark areas on the screen. Either way it is annoying and at first I thought there was a hardware issues and called Apple on it. Apple’s response? “Looks like you physically damaged it to us.”

    !

    It will be a tough road over the next couple of years to plan my migration away from MacOS X to Ubuntu, but I’ve been doing a lot of Ubuntu work lately and I think it is doable. I will miss the elegance of Mac OS X, but Ian picked a company (Dell) that has consistently provided the company I work for with outstanding support for their hardware.

    I love my Macs, from the 6100/66 I still keep in storage to the MacBook I just bought, but Ian is right that Apple is closing things tighter and tighter (for example, how many choices do we have for music players for the Mac now?), and frankly one of the reasons I have loved the Macintosh over the years has been the unbridled enthusiasm from people that make software for the Mac. I in no way feel that from iPhone App developers, though. The current iPhone apps store reminds me of the app and shareware world of MS Windows: A lot of duplication and a lot of it duplication of crap.

  • Dave Clements

    One of the strengths of OSX is that it *is* *nix under the hood, so you instantly get access to a wide range of *nix software. The fact that you can run some piece of specialized *nix code right next to powerpoint is one of the reasons that Macs are beginning to dominate in the academic environment. As a research scientist we have loads of purpose-built unique software. If Apple was to suddenly ring-fence the platform all of this would stop. They don’t have the time to ‘validate’ all the special purpose *nix software out there. I could name dozens of packages in my tiny little field alone and there are many many such fields.

    I’m not saying Apple isn’t this stupid, but if it were to do this it would be shooting itself in the foot with a howitzer.

  • akastevo

    I have to agree with Nick. The Ubuntu interface is nice and all but determining which package to install and what to update is a tedious pain. I loaded it on an old PC hat was laying around the house just to avoid XP and was not impressed with how much administration I had to do just to get things the way I liked it. I eventaully reverted back to XP because it was easier to connect to my OSX shares and network. Maybe I’m spoiled by Macs point and click architecture where things just work, but Ubuntu wasn’t even as user friendly as XP so why switch from a Mac to Ubuntu? Just to say you did? Yay for Ian Betteridge

  • ToWS

    Ian Betteridge’s editorship was the reason I canceled my MacUser subscription, having collected every issue since the very first. A low point the long history of a unique title.

  • Ian Betteridge

    So akasvato, you installed a new OS on some “old PC you had lying around the house” and didn’t find it a good experience?

    Can you see what might have been the issue there? ;)

  • Mick

    “And does the Better World of free software tempt you to switch to Ubuntu?”

    No. I don’t care much about ideology.

    There are advantages to open source – as Apple itself knows (c.f. Darwin, WebKit, Calendar Server, etc, etc) – but personally I don’t require to have the source-code of every piece of software I use. Object code serves me fine in the main.

    And I’m not going to change on the basis of the quality of the desktop environment, am I?

    I’ve used Ubuntu a fair bit, and I think it’s fine. And it’s nice to see Dell’s customers have an alternative to Windows. But it doesn’t begin to approach OS X, as Shuttleworth himself knows and has more-or-less said. Anyway, it’s not all down to Canonical – look back through Ars Technica’s pieces on open source and you’ll find some interesting articles on why Gnome is not all that great: “Developers have grown increasingly frustrated with the limitations of GTK+ … “

    Maybe it’s a shame the open source people didn’t put a bit more into GNUstep (which, as you probably know shares a common heritage with OS X) and a little less into Gnome and KDE which are, truth be told, not particularly good desktop environments besides being slavishly copying of some rather bad Windows paradigms. Here’s some interesting reading on one area in which Windows and the popular FOSS desktops get it all wrong:

    http://rixstep.com/2/20050529,…

    Of course, those who live at the commandline, won’t care what the DE is like. And those who want servers are unlikely to go to Apple. For the rest, an Apple machine’s a good choice, providing you don’t mind spending slightly more.

  • Andrew DK

    I totally called a Mac App Store already, big deal. It makes perfect sense, more sense than a phone app store since you can do so much more with an actual computer. Having a central hub to get mac software where it can be reviewed by other users is something I’ve asked for Christmas for I-don’t-know-how-many years.

    But lock down your mac so you can only run apps from the mac app store? Apple would never do that and to suggest it is pretty fracking stooped.

    Seriously

  • charli

    i do think this prediction will be true, to a point. and that point is that Apple will expand upon the basic ideas behind the iphone app store and their downloads pages on apple.com and perhaps create their own version of sites like versiontracker.com and download.com. they will likely continue to push for companies to use Apple’s official installer and not just any old method they please, if only because it makes it easier for the consumers who freak out when there’s 15 possible ways to something might install.

    for the average public I think it would be awesome if they could register what computer they have and the system could warn them that they are trying to buy software that must have 10.5.x and they only have 10.4.11 so they don’t waste money. and if updates could be routed via Software Update even if 3rd party. these are the kinds of things that trip up Joe Q who are not the ‘experts’ folks around here are.

    but I don’t think that Apple will lock down software the way they have for the phone. at least not right off. little by little in regards to the installer issue perhaps. but there’s too many risks of lawsuits etc if they get to crazy with the ‘our way or the highway’.

  • Anon

    I can’t help but find it amusing when people making a big deal out of any single individual switching platforms. Ian hardly speaks for Mac users more than anybody else. Linux is a fine choice from a technology perspective, but let’s be honest, it’s not in the same league as OS X in terms of the quality of software available. Sure, you can run a few commercial programs under emulation with WINE, etc. but if that’s what you have to resort to, it’s pretty sad. Good Luck Ian… I use RedHat Linux on a regular basis at work. It makes a fine server, but it’s not even a contender for me to consider for home use (much like Ubuntu).

  • Anon

    I can’t help but find it amusing when people making a big deal out of any single individual switching platforms. Ian hardly speaks for Mac users more than anybody else. Linux is a fine choice from a technology perspective, but let’s be honest, it’s not in the same league as OS X in terms of the quality of software available. Sure, you can run a few commercial programs under emulation with WINE, etc. but if that’s what you have to resort to, it’s pretty sad. Good Luck Ian… I use RedHat Linux on a regular basis at work. It makes a fine server, but it’s not even a contender for me to consider for home use (much like Ubuntu).

  • gbt

    I wholeheartedly agree, if my 2007 Macbook Pro suffers the Nvidia GPU failure, as I expect it to, it will be sold on and replaced with an Asus 900 or Acer Aspire running Ubuntu. My biggest annoyance is that the iPod Touch I rely on isn’t usable as far as I know with Linux.

  • james

    I bet when windows 7 arrives most of you will be forced to switch to it.gone are the days apple and mac where supperior.look at new ugly macbooks..overpriced pice of craps..their design is stolen from sony vaios of 2002 and added that brick gimmick to fool people that they are innovative! look at imacs! yeah beauty..but using cheap LG screens and charging you like sony screens.and hey! they run windows now!haha.that means alot.macbooks graphic ability is cheap ass intel basic graphic chip..unable to do much graphic!and you knbow what? macs where famous by their graphical supperiority!now they are graphically inferrior,use same cpu as pcs,and oh they run windows!so whats the point?just an apple logo and am eye candy fashion design.

  • Thibauld

    I agree that a Mac App Store would be a bold move… but what about a Linux App Store ? Wouldn’t it be a great move too ? I support the idea that Linux has a future on the desktop..

    Between Mac (positioning: best software stack to handle your digital life but closed and expensive) and Windows (positionning: the Microsoft Office best work environment), I believe Linux, ubuntu in particular, has a role to play and could position itself as the best system for your Web activities.

    Being a long time Linux user, I’ve always thought that an app store would be a great addition to the eco system to make it easier for “normal” people to be able to find and install new apps easily. This is why we released last week with a friend a new website we called allmyapps ( http://www.allmyapps.com ) and which does just that! We plan to add (a lot) more features in the future but it is already a nice tool I think for newcomers… So, what about an app store for Linux ? too soon ?

  • Yacko

    –To csbmonkney

    Calibrate your screen properly using the the Display pref in System preferences. Avoid an overbright and overcontrast mentality most office drones have. You have a glossy screen that also tends to exacerbate things. Yes the screen will be a bit lighter on one side, but it shouldn’t be dramatic. If anything, my screen has become more even as time has worn on.

    You can switch to Ubunto now using the Macbook, so why are you waiting?

  • flo

    @Thibauld there are already numerous things that could be called a “linux app store” and there were even more in the past (linspire’s comes to mind) which sold commercial apps too, but they weren’t really successful.

    @ppl who say os x is *nix: That’s certainly true, but if you ever developed for os x recently, os x basically means catering to apple’s little changes and incompatibilities, some of which have been documented, some have not, just to get “a unix program” running. This affects most command line tools and X11 too, they just aren’t fully compatible with normal *nix stuff unfortunately.

    Also at someone above, its not as much sourcecode which it would be nice to have, but at least documentation about how itunes or iphoto stores its files would be nice.

    As for an Mac App Store: I can imagine apple doing that but I also think they would shoot themselves in the foot. Many ppl I know (myself included, many of them developers) who switched recently like os x for the combination of the desktop environment and its unix base. But the same ppl also advocate freedom of choice and the ability to play around with their system if they want to, so I personally see myself and other moving away from apple and going linux exclusively if apple applies tighter control by means of an mac app store or something.

  • epgomez

    linux has come a long way. it’s great. macs are overpriced and very proprietary only apple world. I don’t want to stay in one brand. It’s just another OS. Good decision.

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.

(sorry, you need Javascript to see this e-mail address)| Read more posts by .

Posted in news, Opinions, Software |