The next version of Apple’s OS is going to have a piece of software installed on it that might be a surprise to some people. Mountain Lion, due out possibly as early as this summer, is going to include something Apple is calling Gatekeeper.
To put it simply, Gatekeeper is a program that will decide which pieces of software will be allowed to run on your computer.
The idea of Gatekeeper is to keep malware and other annoyance-ware from running on your machine, but it will create many situations much more complex than that. When developers produce pieces of software they want to sell through Apple or their app store, they need to run the gamut of Cupertino’s famously restrictive, matrix – like approval policy. Running through this process allows the developer to attach a digital signature or certificate to their product basically certifying it is safe and useable. Sounds good. But the problem is that any developers that don’t undertake this process will find themselves locked out.
Following the advice on this blog post, I downloaded and ran the RB App Checker on the current software on my machine. I’ve got a MacBook Pro that is only a few months old and I am often fanatical about making sure that all of my stuff stays up to date. Yet I still found a lot of worrying things. If Gatekeeper was installed on my machine today, well over half of the software on my computer wouldn’t run. This includes software of all types:
– Planbook (great little piece of software I use for lesson planning)
and the list goes on from there…
Gatekeeper is going to come installed with three settings:
– the highest setting will only allow software that comes directly from Apple and the app store to run
– the default setting will allow products from Apple as well as from independent developers who manage to acquire a certificate / signature from Apple.
– finally, you will be able to turn Gatekeeper off and run your machine without it (which is basically what you have right now)
This may have huge implications for schools who famously run a wildly diverse software ecosystem including freeware, open source products and software from major developers. I would guess that most independent or open source developers simply do not work through the process of acquiring these certificates. And while I am also sure that some of them (Firefox!) who are larger developers are most likely doing what they can right now to ensure they will not be locked out in an Apple upgrade, many will most likely be caught behind the curve.
Remember Palladium from Microsoft? About 10 years ago they tried this same type of initiative and the public outcry over the loss of control was overwhelming and forced them to back down. Will that happen to Apple? Or are people now so sick of viruses and malware that they are ready to accept this?