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

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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.