Friday, 17 February 2012

Will OSX and Windows 8 force geeks to choose Linux?

With details of the next version of OS X (10.8 Mountain Lion) being released through developer previews, one feature has caught the eye of the geek technology press in particular... Gatekeeper. As the OS News article explains "Starting with Mac OS X 10.8, Apple's desktop operating system will be restricted to Mac App Store and Apple-signed applications by default (with an opt-out switch), following in Windows 8's footsteps". To a regular Mac user this kind of change might be at first a tad annoying, but as the Mac App Store has been with Mac users for over a year now I expect they are quite familiar with heading there as the first port of call for any new App search.

As iOS (and Android following on) have shown that their respective software repositories that for the majority of users this is the place you get new software. Games, utilities, themes, stupid sound boards, they are all here. What some people think Apple (and as eluded to in the OS News quote, Microsoft with the upcoming release of Windows 8) are trying to do is to close the box on their respective desktop operating systems. The mobile OS market has demonstrated that if you control the method of new software installation you can generate a huge income stream beyond the initial sale of the OS. This is where Amazon are going with the Kindle Fire, by swapping the Market with their own App Store they can redirect Google's revenue stream from the Market. 

I said earlier that the "regular" Mac user will soon adjust to this. Why? Well they probably also own a smart phone of some variety (I'm willing to make the safe bet that it is an iPhone) so this environment is very natural for them, especially as for the previous few versions OSX has started to look and feel more like iOS (swiping of touch pads, visual tweaks, application porting). The same could probably be said of the typical Windows user. Most of those are locked down in offices anyway with application control managed by the IT support department. The home users too are likely to be smartphone users and/or already own an iPad or similar.

Where does that leave us geeks? In my opinion the first action will be to rebel. The respective desktop OS's will be the subjecting of jail breaking, rooting, hacking* (delete as appropriate for your word of choice for gaining elevated user privileges to the OS). This is already common amongst the geek community for the smartphone world. 

But what will follow? The smartphone world doesn't have the luxury of popping in a DVD with an alternative OS of choice, complete with device drivers tested against your hardware. It is hard enough trying to get an updated version of Android onto your 'already running Android' device!

Thom Helwerda's of OS News made a statement within his article which is what got me thinking "In the end though, it doesn't really matter how geeks like us feel about the war on general purpose computing. We'll always have Linux and the BSDs, and Windows 7 surely isn't going anywhere soon either. We have the options and the knowledge to resist these developments." How many of you 'geeks' would give up on OSX or Windows to keep your freedom of install choice and device functionality?

Pretty much the only thing I don't like about iOS is the lack of configurability. Android by stock has a lot more granularity about it and even the ability to replace the built in apps (messaging for example) which keeps my desire to tinker in tact. Yes I've also rooted as it still doesn't allow me to do a full backup for instance. But there isn't an alternative that offers this without jail breaking, rooting, hacking etc.

So will I (and other geeks) be forced by these likely upcoming changes in Windows and OSX to think twice about my desktop OS? Linux might just offer an alternative in the desktop world where no alternative is available in the smartphone world. 


teflon said...

I'm 90% sure of Apple's intentions on this one. They want developers to be inherently trustworthy, that's it.

It doesn't even matter who the developer is, anyone can get a certificate from being in the developers programme. (though I believe you do have to pony up $99 a year to be recognised by Apple) All that does is mean that if your app becomes a known threat to Macs, Apple can flip a kill switch and shut you out for 99% of users. It's a good, logical security measure.

The only real area I can see this affecting is open source... Maybe... Though even there, we're seeing VLC making a return to iOS soon etc. etc.

Aside from that, as long as we have direct access to the file system and Terminal access, we'll be able to find ways past whatever idiot-proof measures Apple takes. For developers to be able to develop for iOS and OSX, they need free reign to the entire system, and Apple know this. iOS works on different principles, but OSX can't lose these functions, so these moves are all simply overlays on top of the deeper functionality that is still there to use.

Windows 8, though... Well, on the plus side, Windows has a long history of letting you turn off or remove the crap you don't want. Metro on intel does seem to be removable, though the smashing together of touch control concepts with K&M control is a bit bizarre. I expect that they have similar realisations over how they need to retain all the gubbins in the background for it to remain a viable platform. Especially in the work environment.

Thomas Harrison-Lord said...

Configurability, such a quaint word. I can never get my tongue around it.

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