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Apple Moves Closer To Walling Off The Mac OS

In what took the world by surprise this week was the announcement of Apple’s latest Mac OS, Mountain Lion. While this update will bring a whole lot of great things to Mac users, one thing that really caught the attention of game developers was the inclusion of a feature called “Gatekeeper”.

Just as it sounds, Gatekeeper is a new security feature that will attempt to mitigate the security risks of user installed software. It has three settings:

  1. Install any software
  2. Install Only Mac App Store Software
  3. Install Mac Appstore and trusted software

Option 3 will be the default setting for new installations of the update. What has most game developers upset is that most users will not change that default setting and will end up forcing these developers to either pay $99 a year to add their apps to the App store (and sacrifice 30% of their revenue along with it) or become a trusted developer (how much that costs is up in the air at the moment, but it seems to be free). This has a lot of developers up in arms as they are used to selling their games themselves or through alternative stores such as Steam.

What is also concerning is the idea that sometime in the future Apple may completely eliminate options 1 and 3 and force all developers to sell only through the App Store. This is currently how the iPhone and iPad work, but the Mac has always been open for any software. The idea that Apple would completely wall off the Mac is frustrating for a lot of developers.

One other group of software developers that don’t like this idea is the Open Source Software community. Because this software is not often owned by a single entity it may be far more difficult for the OSS applications to get a trusted developer status and would make most Mac users completely unable to run it if they do not change their settings.

On top of this, Apple still reserves the right to revoke a developer’s trusted status for any reason. While they claim they will only do this to those developers that harm the user, they have been known to remove apps from the iPhone app store for little reason other than they didn’t like it. So it is no surprise that developers are not fond of that.

In the end, this may be a non issue if the options are kept as they are and developers can successfully educate their customers on how to change them. However, if any of these settings ever change, Mac developers could be hurt badly by being closed off from their customers. Either way, this is unsettling.

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