Well, it's official. Apple has now announced it's bringing the App Store concept to the Mac and it looks like they'll be restricting apps with FairPlay DRM too for good measure. When we first began talking about the problems with the App Store on the iPhone and iPod Touch, people wanted us to drop it and stop talking about the DRM tricks being pulled by Apple on the grounds that the iPhone wasn't a general purpose computer (it is, and the iPad is too) but rather an appliance.
Presumably, Apple won't (yet) be stopping the Mac from installing software from other sources as they have with the iPhone, at least not just yet. But consider this: just like the original iMac shipped without a floppy drive, the MacBook Air (recently updated) was the first Mac without an optical drive -- will this have the effect, intentional or otherwise of making the App Store the only place to buy certain software, including its own iLife suite of 'lifestyle' applications?
While downloading software from independent or non-approved developers isn't likely to go away tomorrow, this is an important wake-up call:
This is Apple's latest attempt to 'iPadize' the Mac OS X platform, where your computer is just a lifestyle device, where all your media is purchased from approved sources, where someone else makes the decisions about what software you're allowed to run and what you're allowed to do with it. Nevermind that it's the freedom to tinker and explore with computers that made Apple's operating system possible to begin with.
If you have a Mac, make sure you're ready for the apocalypse now. Install VLC, install Adium, install Firefox, install all the free software you can, before it's too late, and some guy in a black turtleneck decides you can't. Once you're used to those applications, you can make the transition to dropping Mac OS entirely in favor of GNU/Linux, which respects your freedom.
And don't use the new store -- vote with your feet to say that you oppose Apple's move toward further control over your software.
Email Tim Cook at email@example.com -- he loves getting emails from the general public.
Write emails to independent Mac developers, asking them to not support the Mac App Store.
Don't buy another Mac! You don't know when Apple will try to make installing unapproved software impossible.