Apple shifted the earth beneath our feet with the release OS X 10.7 Lion. But that was the setup for the next major desktop operating system refresh, OS X Mountain Lion, scheduled to arrive next month — Apple is changing how users experience the Mac in big, important ways.
One of the more fundamental shifts, where users get software, comes via a new OS X Mountain Lion feature called GateKeeper, a setting in System Preferences (> Security & Privacy > Allow applications…) designed to limit user access to unvetted and potentially insecure software.
Of course, anyone with an iPhone, iPod touch or iPad is already familiar with the experience as its the iOS App Store. Whereas i-thing users don’t have any choice where their software comes from, jailbreaking aside, GateKeepers provides users three choices.
By default, GateKeeper allows only (image above) software download from the Mac App Store — if it doesn’t come from an Apple approved developer selling (or giving away) their app on Apple’s walled garden software marketplace, you can’t have it.
If you attempt to open an app downloaded from anywhere other than the Mac App Store, GateKeeper will spawn an alert (image).
The second option — Mac App Store + signed apps — allows you to download and install apps from Apple vetted developers that have signed their code with a Developer ID.
Warning, Will Robinson
Lastly, with “Anywhere” selected in GateKeeper, you can download any software from any source including unsigned apps from developers not in Apple’s Developer Program. Access to this “free range” software will, according to Apple, make your Mac less secure.
GateKeeper: There is a work around
If you receive an alert (image) that an app is from an unidentified developer, you can still choose to install it. Control-click the installer or the application icon to reveal a contextual menu. Choose Open and you’ll see a dialog that allows you to install the application — OS X Mountain Lion GateKeeper
Although a vocal minority decry GateKeeper as a huge Apple power grab that will lead inevitably to locked down Macs that only run software acquired via the Mac App Store.
Whatever. GateKeeper is super easy to either turn off or work around. Should Apple choose to lock down the Mac, jailbreaking will likely be as trivial as it is on the iPhone and iPad — it is very difficult to get upset about this.
That said, GateKeeper will keep a lot of n00b and know nothing users from hurting themselves and that is a very, very good thing™…
What’s your take?