Paul McAleer

The Harbinger

Paul McAleer

Good news, everyone! Apple has come up with a solution to the ridiculousness that is installing and updating software on your Mac. That’s right: no more messing around with myriad DMGs or dragging files to your Applications folder. There’s a new mechanism which fully manages that for you, and as a bonus, handles updates elegantly too. Oh, and you can now effectively share software between your Macs. Dig it.

There’s one teeny, tiny thing I left out though: this all only applies to apps sold through the new Mac App Store.

As my recent posts have suggested, I’ve been thinking about apps a lot lately so the timing on this announcement was just lovely. I’m not surprised about it, and a part of me is actually excited about it. While much of the debate I’ve read on the Mac App Store has focused on native apps, I think we’re all doing a disservice by ignoring another platform that’s also present on every Mac: the web. The dual platform model of vendor-approved apps and HTML5 apps is coming to the Mac very quickly, and anyone whose app won’t fall into those two categories must know that their days are numbered. (Apple is banking so much on this model that Flash and Java aren’t shipping with OS X 10.7.)

I can definitely foresee a future where the Mac App Store is the sole way to install, distribute, and update native apps. It almost seems like a foregone conclusion; it’s got to be built in to the long-term strategy for Apple. This is a company which has created a line of powerful, closed, purposeful computers. And if you’re going to do it closed, you’ve gotta do it right. Apple does it. (Microsoft can’t, at this point; Google’s concept of open is amorphous.)

But Apple, Google, Opera, and even Microsoft have been creating a splendid open application environment in the web. HTML5 is robust and targets application development more than any of its prior iterations. The promise of cross-platform development lives on the web (possibly solely) now, and I strongly believe it is foolhardy to stick with Flash or Java for native-ish apps.

The Mac App Store will face competition from other distribution methods, of course, and that’s something new for Apple. It’s possible that the Mac App Store will fall flat on its face and join Sherlock in that great OS install in the sky. Given Apple’s intensely focused vision of what computing could be, I don’t think it will fail. If it does, though, we’ll always have the web.