Apple's iPad Gateway Drug: The Mac App Store and Beyond

Apple's iPad Gateway Drug: The Mac App Store and Beyond

Summary: Due within 90 days, the Mac App Store will re-define how software is distributed on personal computers and begin the transition towards a fully managed, locked down next-generation Apple end-user experience that is more iOS than Mac.


Apple's new Mac App Store, due within 90 days, will re-define how software is distributed on personal computers and begin the transition towards a fully managed, locked down next-generation Apple end-user experience that is more iOS than Mac.

I told you about it seven months ago, but it seemed far-fetched at the time -- Apple is indeed moving towards a model for its Macintosh personal computers that is closer to the iPad than what Mac users currently experience today.

Today, at Apple's Back to the Mac event, Apple announced the availability within 90 days of a Mac App Store, which brings nearly identical software distribution technology to the Mac currently enjoyed by iOS users on the iPhone, iPod Touch and the iPad devices.

The new Mac App Store, slated for release by Q1 2011.

The Mac App Store will be a supplementary software package at first, but will ship by default with the next version of Mac OS X, 10.7 "Lion" in the summer of 2011.

This is a significant event in the evolution of the Macintosh, because it signals the paradigm shift away from ISV's and developers being able to control their own software distribution. In effect, users of the App Store will no longer need to install and download or retain media for their personal computers, just like it is handled on iOS devices today.

With the launch of the new Macbook Air, which has no slot at all for an optical drive, Apple has made it clear that they want their next generation systems to be fully dependent on managed software distribution.

Forget having archival CD or DVD copies of your software or being able to back-rev to an earlier version if you have any sort of problem -- once Apple has moved to the new model as the preferred mechanism for software distribution, end-users of Macintosh systems will have to buy all of their software from Apple, and Apple will control all of the software updates -- just as iOS users do today.

How Apple will gate-keep the Macintosh App Store in comparison to the iOS App Store that we are all familiar with today is unknown. As with the iOS App Store, it is likely that developers will need to conform to some form of terms of service and code review in order to be accepted for sale.

Whether Apple will eventually restrict the use of certain libraries and APIs on the Mac App Store such as Flash is also unknown, but it is probably inevitable that the Mac App Store will inherit at least some if not most of the developer guidelines and principles from its iOS sibling. We can at the very least expect the same restrictions on adult content and strong language that the iOS App Store has today.

[UPDATE: Apple has posted its acception/rejection criterion for developers for the Mac App Store]

So what's next after Mac App Store?

The logical conclusion is to actually marry iOS and Mac OS X, so that there is no fundamental difference from an end-user perspective between the two platforms. Steve Jobs himself pointed out today that the Mac is coming full circle, and Mac OS X is going to inherit a number of features from iOS, which includes multi-touch capability and full screen apps.

Apple could go about this in a number of ways. The first, although not the easiest way of doing this would be to create a binary execution environment within Mac OS X Lion that allowed for iPad applications to run seamlessly with Mac Apps. This would allow for a single, seamless App Store on the Mac and provide access to the 300,000 programs sold currently for the iOS environment, of which currently nearly 36,000 are optimized for the higher-resolution screen format of the iPad.

A iOS binary execution layer would not be a new approach to software compatibility for Apple. During the PowerPC to x86 transition in 2005, Apple provided the "Rosetta" binary execution layer so that PowerPC apps could run on Intel Macs.

Rosetta was written by Transitive, a company which was purchased by IBM in late 2008 and is now used in the company's PowerVM virtualization softwarefor its AIX servers to provide Sun SPARC and legacy Solaris compatibility. Transitive was also used by Hewlett-Packard to provide Intel x86 compatibility with the Itanium server CPU.

Also Read: Was Intel's x86 the Gateway Drug for Apple's ARM?

Theoretically, Apple could contract IBM or another software company familiar with the ARM instruction set used by the Apple A4 to write a "New" Rosetta binary execution layer that would do the same thing for iOS apps.

Today, when developers program iOS apps on Mac systems, they can "simulate" an iPad or an iPhone, but it doesn't actually execute ARM code natively. It actually has to be cross-compiled in the XCode environment to run on an ARM-based iOS device before it can be run natively.

Another alternative or longer term objective than using a binary execution environment like Rosetta would be to actually embed the current A4 used in the iPad as a co-processor in next-generation Mac hardware. With the use of Non-Uniform Memory Accesss and virtualization technology, the iOS environment could be "containerized" and pull memory and disk resources from Mac OS X as required, instead of having a iOS device with fixed memory.

By using the A4 as a co-processor or using a binary execution software layer in the next generation of Macs to run iOS apps, it would give Apple the time it needed to develop completely ARM-native Macs and return the Mac to its fully-proprietary, uncloneable roots.

A fully ARM-native Mac OS X/iOS hybrid system would require a much more scalable SMP, multi-core architecture than what is currently employed today. While iOS has hundreds of thousands of apps, none of them are nearly as demanding as anything currently used by the creative content professionals that depend on Macs today, such as the Adobe Creative Suite and Aperture, or even iLife, which is more of a hobbyist/home user content creation environment.

To run these types of demanding applications, the ARM-based Mac of the future will need 4, 8 or even 16 or more processor cores, the ability to access larger amounts of main memory, execute 64-bit instructions, and Mac OS X itself and the applications will need to be optimized for a massively multi-core, RISC-based architecture.

While Apple's A4 doesn't possess these capabilities today, ARM's Cortex-A15 architecture currently provides for much of what is missing to that equation.

As Apple is an ARM licensee, it is not too difficult to imagine a Mac system 2-4 years from now based on ARM's most current architecture, with even more horsepower and multimedia acceleration that we see in Intel Mac Pro systems today, but using only a fraction of the power and taking up only a fraction of the space -- such as a Mac Mini chassis with fully solid-state storage.

Is Apple's Mac App Store the indication of a paradigm shift towards a completely proprietary, closed Macintosh systems architecture? Talk Back and Let Me Know.

[poll id="23"]

Topics: Apple, Hardware, iPad, Mobility


Jason Perlow, Sr. Technology Editor at ZDNet, is a technologist with over two decades of experience integrating large heterogeneous multi-vendor computing environments in Fortune 500 companies. Jason is currently a Partner Technology Strategist with Microsoft Corp. His expressed views do not necessarily represent those of his employer.

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  • RE: Apple's iPad Gateway Drug: The Mac App Store and Beyond

    Hmm, more like an applications page than a store.<br><br>It might be better to actually have a decent development environment and some actual applications, before worrying about showcasing the few native Mac professional applications that exist.<br><br>People don't put Windows on their Mac because Big Brother forces them to, it's because at some stage, they'll need to use professional applications.<br><br>Thank God MS Office for Mac is back <img border="0" src="" alt="wink">
    • phony

      another phony apple story with unfounded alarmist predictions. why not stick to what apple officially said: the appstore will be the best way to get new software, not the only one, but the best.

      case closed.
      banned from zdnet
      • This article is LIES

        @banned from zdnet
        This guy is 100% correct, this is why people have hate for Apple and their products, because this article is filled with lies. The AppStore for Mac is just going to be like the software center for Ubuntu for example. You don't HAVE to use it... to think you would is just completely stupid.

        Honestly, I've lost respect for this website.
      • According to the article you are wrong:

        @banned from zdnet <br><br>The article states:<br><br>"once Apple has moved to the new model as the preferred mechanism for software distribution, end-users of Macintosh systems will have to buy all of their software from Apple, and Apple will control all of the software updates "<br><br>I am not trying to slam Apple, so please don't accuse me of that. I just think your attack on tonymcs is unwarranted. I came to the same conclusion after reading it. <br><br>If you know for fact that the article is inaccurate, please let us know.
        Flying Pig
      • RE: Apple's iPad Gateway Drug: The Mac App Store and Beyond

        @banned from zdnet And because apple said it, that makes it true right? I see your RDF receptor is working properly.
    • Nonsense

      @tonymcs@... MS Office for Mac has never been away, where have you been to not know that? Lots of us have transparently moved files between Mac and PC versions of Office every year for years, almost as far back as 1990 when Office for the PC was released--one year AFTER it was released for the Mac. Mac had both MS Word and Excel by 1985, before the PC versions were released, and both companies have made money together all these years. MS formed the Mac Business Unit in 1997 to work exclusively on software for the Mac, the Mactopia section of the MS website is pure Mac, and on and on.
    • OMG iHitler is at it again... Locking up another platform for iFanatics!

      @tonymcs@... Praise the iLord iJesus Hitler Jobs the false prophet. Hallowed be thy name and the closed source Kingdom of Jobe (I mean Jobs). Locked behind the pearly gates of his iKingdom come we'll all be so safe from all the big bullies trying to kick sand in our face for being iCrAppleholics! (pun intended :P)
    • RE: Apple's iPad Gateway Drug: The Mac App Store and Beyond

      @tonymcs@... I assume that you do know that Word and Excel (MulitPlan) were written for MacOS and later were available for Windows.
  • Your forgetting one tiny thing!

    Jason .. your whole premise rests on one great assumption. That is, future Apple computer hardware will not have a physical port that software developers or vendors can utilize for software distribution. Hence, they would have to submit their software to Apple for App store approval.

    Hmm. Didn't I just see a new MBA announced today by Apple that contains a modified USB stick for initial software reinstallation?

    What's to prevent a developer from marketing his software on USB modified sticks as well? (For precedent, I point to software from aTV Flash that is used to enhance the first gen Apple TV thru its USB port. BTW, their software did enhance my first gen Apple TV as advertised.) Their software needed to be loaded on a USB Flash drive first in order to modify the Apple TV.

    So all I'm seeing today is that Apple has evolved the method of app distribution from Floppy disks, CD disk, DVD disks to wireless App store downloads and has left the door open to USB based media.

    Or .. am I missing something?
    • RE: Apple's iPad Gateway Drug: The Mac App Store and Beyond

      @kenosha7777 I suspect some sort of DRM or anti-malware requirement may eventually prevent software from being distributed on USB on a Mac.
      • RE: Apple's iPad Gateway Drug: The Mac App Store and Beyond


        Fair enough .. but only a possibility.

        Interesting, though, but it would be one other way of controlling the spread of viruses or malware.

        And to those who might poke fun at me for suggesting that Mac OSX can even HAVE viruses or malware installed .. well .. I never said that OSX couldn't be infected. Indeed, the last OSX trojan that I heard of was thru pirated copies of iWork.

        That being said, if future Apple software released thru and ONLY thru an Apple controlled App store could be successfully screened from viruses or malware, would the consumer accept that loss of freedom of choice in exchange for enhanced software security?

        As for myself, if all the apps I needed were distributed only thru an Apple controlled App Store, it wouldn't make a difference to me .. moral issues not withstanding.

        As long as the Internet remains intellectually free .. Thank God I don't live countries that exercise strict Internet censorship .. I could live with a extremely locked down computing environment .. with the all important caveat that all the apps that I needed were available.
      • No one prohibits any way of distribution of the software: Mac stays "open"

        @jperlow: no one will prohibit to a user to go and buy a box of software in a shop or to buy it via internet as he/she can do it right now.

        (Even Jobs himself admitted that Mac App Store will be just one of many ways to buy software.)
      • RE: Apple's iPad Gateway Drug: The Mac App Store and Beyond

        @jperlow But if Apple is the only distributor of software, then they can set the price of the software and there would be no competition to set the actual market price of the software! I can buy Photoshop from Adobe, or get it cheaper from a third party vendor! Talk about monopolistic behavior!
      • RE: Apple's iPad Gateway Drug: The Mac App Store and Beyond

        It is generally thought that wikipedia would call them weasel words, pardner.
      • RE: Apple's iPad Gateway Drug: The Mac App Store and Beyond

        @jperlow<br>Based on what?!? You have not a SINGLE piece of evidence to support this RIDICULOUS assumption. It is not even a logical end conclusion.<br>Case in point.<br>Macs connect to the internet. Please list a SINGLE piece of software that is ONLY available through physical media. Every major package you can name is co-distributed online. Even without a CD, DVD, or USB drive, there is NO physical barrier to software installation.<br>Your claim is spurious and baseless.<br>It is not even close to what Apple themselves have said repeatedly about the direction they are going.<br><br>Your conclusions are pure fantasy.
      • RE: Apple's iPad Gateway Drug: The Mac App Store and Beyond

        "You suspect" but you suggest no basis for spreading this FUD. Stick with reporting things you know... please.
    • RE: Apple's iPad Gateway Drug: The Mac App Store and Beyond

      @kenosha7777 Removal of all USB ports from all Macs will take care of that. Why would they need a USB? Over The Air syncing coupled with removal of all ports = big money for Apple. They want to take a percentage on every single thing built for or running on a Mac.
      • RE: Apple's iPad Gateway Drug: The Mac App Store and Beyond

        I download most of my software from various internet sites now anyway. It works better, faster, and is more available; and brick and mortar stores don't carry much that you can't get online now. Plus, you can create a disk image of the software for back-up.

        These pundits just like to use scare tactics to get readership. Plan for, but don't worry about, things that haven't happened yet -- you'll live longer.
      • RE: Apple's iPad Gateway Drug: The Mac App Store and Beyond

        If apple does this, I will never buy an Apple again. I work on Apple, Linux and Windows (which I have all 3 loaded on my MBP). Nothing pisses of engineers more than taking simply, useful mechanisms away. (Most of my Mac engineering friends are still very unhappy with the IPads lack of a USB port, this will be remedied when a useful Android slate rolls out). I personally do not like to be restricted where I buy my software from (paying the Jobs tax is enough on the HW). Also, with all the useful free software on the Internet for my MAC, why would I buy one from their store.
      • USB or similar cannot be replaced by wireless....because

        @condelirios.... taking away the ability to connect storage to a computer phyically is plain ignorant. No backup way of getting data to your computer when all wireless is down or the only way of getting data off of a stand-alone test/research computer is thus physical connection and not network. I am sure the scientific community would frown on this and thus look for alternatives for computers, tablets, etc...

        As for the apps store, it is a step toward Apple's full control on their platforms. They do it with iPad, iPhone, and iPod. Why not do it for Mac and computers in the future? Just one more reason to move away from Apple computers and use Open source or even MS products and hardware. Besides, I can build a better, faster and cheaper computer with non-Apple compliant hardware/Sofware (I did this by first gathering what Apple gave as choices on their computers and went out online and gathered higher quality parts together and smashed the performance and cost lines doing so), so why would I buy an Apple computer with locked architecture and software that can only be purchased thru Apple?