Thursday, October 21, 2010

Why the Mac App Store is kind of a big deal

Anyone who has used an iOS device knows that the App Store is a great way to get applications for your iPhone or iPad. In fact, it's the only way, unless you jailbreak. In many ways this is a good thing.  It provides for a better (arguably) user experience. It keeps buggy programs out (HA!). It provides the user with a central location to get new apps, and keep their old ones updated.
It's not all roses though. Thing is, for a long time Apple didn't tell anyone why they were rejecting Apps. They only recently published guidelines. Even then, it appeared to be out of pressure from consumers. Yay! Logical guidelines! This means that if someone follows the rules their App will be allowed right? Wrong. A lot of these rules are subjective. This is what concerns me about the Mac App Store. Mac users are a growing segment of the computer-using population. Giving them a dedicated place to check out new apps, buy them, update them and review them, is, on the surface, a great idea. The problem is that it also transfers more control to Apple. Here's the published guidelines (thanks to Engadget). My concern ultimately stems from laziness. Once people have this one place to go, installing apps "manually" will become the domain of the geek. Meaning that great software may not be allowed into the app store, due to some guideline that had different meaning from reviewer to developer. These guidelines range from the plain stupid to anti-competitive.

2.19 - Apps that require license keys or implement their own copy protection will be rejected
Really? Come on. (They must really hate Adobe and love software pirates)

2.20 - Apps that present a license screen at launch will be rejected
Apple's single-handedly trying to rid the world of the EULA? I think not. That's one of the stupidest rules I've ever heard of. Especially when you recall launching any Apple app for the first time.

2.21 - Apps may not use update mechanisms outside of the App Store
This means that if any exploits are found in software you downloaded from the App Store, you better hope that the App Store reacts *extremely* quickly. If you have to wait for something like a patch for pdf's that can remotely execute arbitrary code, you're in a bad spot. Prepare for the onslaught of Mac viruses.

3.1 Apps with metadata that mentions the name of any other computer platform will be rejected.
This one just seems anti-competitive. For example, "Parallels Desktop 6 - 'The Windows Applications you need, on the Mac you love'" would be rejected for including that text in the description. Come on. That's retarded. "Maybe if we just don't say the name, it won't exist!"

4.3 - Apps that use location-based APIs for dispatch, fleet management, or emergency services will be rejected
Apple doesn't want anyone managing a fleet of trucks NEAR their products, let alone using one.

5.3 - Apps which appear confusingly similar to an existing Apple product or advertising theme will be rejected
This one all depends on how easily confused the reviewer is. Ridiculous.

6.4 - Apple and our customers place a high value on simple, refined, creative, well though through interfaces. They take more work but are worth it. Apple sets a high bar. If your user interface is complex or less than very good it may be rejected
Another really subjective one. I guess Photoshop is out. I think it's complex.

11.1 - Apps portraying realistic images of people or animals being killed or maimed, shot, stabbed, tortured or injured will be rejected
No first person shooters on Mac. Depending on how you read it, you could eliminate most strategy games too.

11.3 - 'Enemies' within the context of a game cannot solely target a specific race, culture, a real government or corporation, or any other real entity
Wow, they really don't want Modern Warfare on the Mac platform, huh?

12.1 - Apps that present excessively objectionable or crude content will be rejected
I find anything I disagree with to be excessively objectionable. (Really though, what concerns me on this one is the same thing as on the iPad and iPhone, media being censored to Apple's liking.)

So, here's the thing, I'm concerned about the power this could allow Apple to wield over it's users. Not just them though, developers too. As long as OS X doesn't end up like iOS, in that it's so locked down, the only way to install Apps is through Apple, everything will be fine. I just don't think that it'll stop there.

Coming soon! "How to Jailbreak your iMac"

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