Concerns Over, and Details of, Mac App Store

I spotted this Download Squad story on Hacker News. It was prompted by a tweet from Mike Beltzner, the director of the Firefox project at Mozilla. There is a link in it, now being shared more widely, to a copy of the text of the developer agreement for the new app store. The problem Beltzner highlights is the set of unrealistic expectations encoded in the agreement–that betas will be disallowed along with any software that has bugs.

The Register has a longer piece, expanding on Beltzner’s criticisms of the move by Apple. I am not entirely sure I agree with his further contention that Jobs is moving to bypass the web. After all, we are only talking about “apps” (see below for how Apple is trying to make that term more than just a lazy abbreviation for application software). I will concede that it does feel like the Mac is getting a little claustrophobic between iTunes as the all encompassing media environment and now this for software. I am wary of Apple’s long term schemes but have confidence in the attractive power of the open web, especially as it much more readily invites the sort of disruptive innovation that is the bane of all attempts at walled gardens.

Sarah Perez at ReadWriteWeb has extracted some of the more interesting conditions in the agreement that legitimately bolster Beltzner’s cause for concern. Basically, just about everything we’ve come to expect of the store for Apple’s mobile platform will carry over into the one for their desktop platform. Well, everything except the fact that the Mac app store will not preclude other means of distributing software for Macs. Of course the Apple managed store will represent a distinctly non-level playing field. They are undoubtedly betting that even with the possibility of installing applications as folks do today, most will flock to the new store out of sheer convenience. All the more reason to look at Anil Dash’s ruminations on open alternatives about which I posted yesterday.

One other point to consider, if true, is that apparently the “apps” in this store will be distinct from actual applications. I didn’t bother viewing the live stream of the Apple event (because you have to use their proprietary codec to do so). What I can parse out of the various live blogs is that an “app” will work much like the programs on a smart phone: intentionally single tasking and unconditionally full screen. Even if I thought that particular interpretation of an application were a worthwhile notion, which I don’t, I am certain there are applications that will suffer considerably in terms of usability and utility if shoe horned into this model. I suspect that fact more than anything will continue to pressure Apple, preventing them from closing down software distribution on the Mac exclusively to the very thin straw that is this app store.

Updated: A reader, Alex, did watch the live stream and while the full screen mode was presented in a confusion fashion, it does seem to be separate from the app store.  Thanks for the clarification.

Director of Firefox fires opening salvo at Apple’s tyrannical Mac App Store, Download Squad

2 Replies to “Concerns Over, and Details of, Mac App Store”

  1. I watched the live feed of the event, and while the confusion may be understandable (given that live blogs may have missed this nuance), App Store apps won’t be single-tasking nor necessarily full-screen. In the demo at the event, for example, they installed Pages (from iWork) via the App Store.

    Where the full-screen bits come in is that the green “maximize” button will run apps full-screen under Lion. App might need to be updated to support this (?), but that wasn’t clear. Either way, the full-screen-ness is a feature separate from the OS X App Store.

    1. I’m guessing all the apparent gushing about adopting “innovations” from their mobile platform added to the confusion. All the same, thanks for the clarification and the example, Pages, that would seem to indicate app store installs are full blooded applications.

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