image[1] Some people are worried that Steve Jobs may be starting to erect walls around another garden.

It’s starting with relatively small things. CNet points out that, starting with the new MacBook Air, Apple is no longer shipping Flash preinstalled on its Macintoshes. Flash will still work on them, of course, but now users will have to install it themselves.

It hardly needs saying that Jobs has been loudly critical of Flash in the past, to the point of insisting it will never come to iOS and for a while that it must not even be used as an intermediate step in developing apps for iOS. This seems to be the latest step in reducing its foothold on Apple products.

But Apple’s other application language move is considerably more noteworthy. The Register has a report on Apple’s recent “deprecation” of Java with the release of OS X 10.6.3. Apple explained:

This means that the Apple-produced runtime will not be maintained at the same level, and may be removed from future versions of Mac OS X. The Java runtime shipping in Mac OS X 10.6 Snow Leopard, and Mac OS X 10.5 Leopard, will continue to be supported and maintained through the standard support cycles of those products.

In one of his famously terse e-mails, Steve Jobs reportedly said, “Sun (now Oracle) supplies Java for all other platforms. They have their own release schedules, which are almost always different than ours, so the Java we ship is always a version behind. This may not be the best way to do it."

Though Java developer James Gosling points out this isn’t true—a lot of platform developers push their own versions of Java, and Sun only provided the versions for Windows after Microsoft violated their contract and Linux because there wasn’t anyone else to do it—the fact remains that Apple is reducing its commitment—and perhaps more importantly, will not be allowing apps based on “deprecated” technologies into its new Macintosh app store.

The app store is going to have a number of other restrictions, too. CNet has an article looking at them. They include the standard no-porn restrictions, no “buggy or crash-prone apps”, but a number of others that developers might have issues with as well.

Apple says no apps will be allowed that present a licensing screen on launch, neither will apps that require license keys, or that download and install other apps, or download to the dock or leave a shortcut on the desktop. And if your app’s metadata even mentions another computing platform, you’re out too.

Some people have noted that this means that iTunes, which presents a huge licensing screen every time it’s updated, would not be allowed in Apple’s own store.

On the other hand, a CNet editorial by Scott Stein pooh-poohs notions that the Mac app store will lead to any kind of “Orwellian” future for the Mac. People can still make their own software for the Mac, or install software from non-Apple sources—not something you can do for the iPhone or iPad without an expensive developer license. Apple doesn’t need to wall up the Mac’s garden in order for the app store to turn a profit. And as I said the other day, consumers won’t put up with having rights taken away from them.

It’s not clear whether there’s anything to worry about yet in terms of restrictions on Mac desktops. But one thing’s for sure—Steve Jobs and Apple are no strangers to provoking controversy in whatever they do.


  1. Jobs is always ahead of the game, while the rest play catch up. I am sick of the idiotic ‘walled garden’ nonsense. As a personal and business user I want my software system well protected by a well controlled wall – especially after decades of Windows and having to spend hours every week protecting it against crap applications, viruses, worms, etc etc etc. The more Walled Jobs makes it the better as far as I am concerned. Look at the security mess that is Android now. No one to control or filter what Apps goes on their App store and it’s no wonder it causing chaos.

    Java is fading in the same way as Flash and as usual Jobs is thinking down the line.

  2. Response to comment no. 1.
    I to am sick and tired of Windows security issues, antivirus, antispyware and antimalware software fighting over each other and slowing down my computer. I am tired of looking for software on questionable sites, and then finding out that software I have downloaded is nagware, crippleware, begware or well disguised expiring shareware.

    My solution to the problem, however, is different. Mint Linux. Most of things work out of the box, the vast majority of software I need is available to be installed by a few clicks in package manager. The rest I compile with options to my taste (like Vim text editor) or install from developer site, like Calibre.

    Do you realise that our favourite book management software Calibre would be very unlikely to get approval in store? Calibre is being developed very, *very* rapidly and could be only made because its author – Kovid stands on the shoulders of giants. Giants like authors of Python, GTK library, imagemagick, and many, many other components used.

  3. Name… Linux is def better than Windows, especially for servers but MacOS and iOS are better for bog standard computer users. Linux requires too much work by an ord user to find good software a month other things.
    My wider point was really about the value of what is being bandied about as a “closed system”

  4. I’ve long said that including third-party software like Flash and Java with new computers/OS releases was a very bad idea (unless you also automatically update such apps along with the underlying system so they’re always up-to-date, and very few do this because it’s too difficult).

    I’ve lost count of the number of Windows and Mac users I’ve found running years-out-of-date versions of Flash on their machines because they’re the versions that originally came with the computer and the users are unaware of newer releases. Usually they are unaware they even have Flash installed nor have any idea what it is or what it’s for. Apple at least kept their version of Java updated via their software update mechanism but Flash was whatever version originally came with the version of Mac OS they use.

    The OS vendors desire to make the initial set-up simpler and less hassle led to long term insecurity for many non-technical users.

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