OS X 10.8: Functional Split between MAS and direct-sale apps

Apple has been doing one-on-one previews of OS X 10.8 (Mountain Lion) with journalists. This article is John Gruber’s writeup of his presentation. It’s a fascinating report! Gruber notes:

I’d love to hear what Keith thinks after contemplating this coming split in functionality.

Given that iCloud is Mac-only, it’s never going to be a great option for all our users anyway. I think it’s too early to look at any split in functionality. Given sandboxing limitations (which are going to be forced upon MAS apps from next month), if anything, things will go the other way - Mac App Store apps will have more limited functionality than versions sold outside of the MAS.

I’m downloading Mountain Lion right now, but as I’m under NDA, I won’t be able to say anything about it anyway. :slight_smile:

This article from Panic Software (a fine third-party Apple developer) is a fine description of Gatekeeper, a means of enhancing the security of OS X Mountain Lion. The developer also mentions a private briefing that they had with Apple – showing Apple’s commitment to third-party developers. Finally, the developer talks a bit about the functional split in Mountain Lion.

Yes, I’ve seen and read that already. Very interesting, but there will be no major functional split between Scrivener on the MAS and Scrivener off the MAS, except that MAS users may be inconvenienced more in the short term because of changes Apple are making and forcing upon MAS apps before those changes are quite fully ready (i.e. still buggy).

I very much hope that Apple does not start introducing features that are MAS-only, as I wouldn’t really want to be part of that. Currently, this only applies to features that require their servers, such as iCloud, which is understandable.

I’m certain you and most developers keep up on this discussion. I was also putting it here as a note for other enthusiasts. Apple owes a lot to you third-party developers. The Panic Software story makes it clear that Apple understands that, too.

Sorry, that didn’t come out as I intended it in my speedy reply.

I think your view of Apple may be a little optimistic, though. :slight_smile: Another view might be that, despite how many users we third-party developers may have brought to the Mac platform, after having gotten a bite of the, er, apple on iOS, Apple now wants 30-40% of the profits of all third-party Mac developers. That’s just a possible interpretation, of course…

Any spilt in functionally seems like a bad idea to me. When most developers are tying to get the functionally the same on all platforms, now they will have different functionally on the same platform?

One major problem I’ve had with the mac store is how it authenticates your machine. I’ve read its ties itself your system’s etherent mac address or something along those lines. I’ve been having problems with my ethernet port just dropping. This means I can’t open any Mac App Store apps.

I’ve been able to temporarily been able to fix this buy reseting the PRAM or the SMC. This always works for a little while, but then the ethernet port drops out again and I’m force to do the same thing again. I’ve yet to find a permanent solution to this. I know I’m not the only one to have this problem and I think Apple released a Firmware update, but it is for another ethernet port related problem in early 2010 Macbook Pros–Lion related, I’ve been having this problem since the App Store released on Snow Leopard-- I’m not sure if this has corrected the issue or not.

This lead me to repurchasing all the apps I used from the app store straight from their developers. So I would have to go through all the trouble of having to reset the PRAM or SMC to get the app I want to use to open. I know I’m not the only one that had this problem because I found the solutions for it on the internet–Apple always told me to check my billing information and make sure its updated–but I guess the problem just wasn’t wide spread enough. All and all, it does me no good to buy from the App Store when the apps won’t open when I need them.

I already had Scrivener, thankfully, because I don’t think I could get by a day without it.

30-40% of the profits? Come on, 10% is more than enough, anything over 20% is highway robbery!

Though I would love to see iCloud sync, but as long as other synchronization tools are working, I can live without out it.

An “amusing” fact about the App Store: although one of its big benefits is that it is supposed to free up users from having to save serial numbers (because all validation is done through the App Store so there are no serial numbers involved), a great number of users don’t realise this. So, they buy an app through the App Store and then wonder why they haven’t received a serial number. They then write to Apple support asking where their serial number is, at which point Apple support - rather than explaining to the user how the App Store works - tells the user that they should contact the vendor (us), leaving the user thinking that we have been somehow remiss. So we then get angry emails from users who think we have failed to send them something that the whole point of the App Store is to do without, and which no one at Apple told the user… So I’m guessing Apple’s 30-40% isn’t going towards Mac App Store support staff. :slight_smile: (Neither does it seem to be going towards updating the store so far, seeing as the App Store still provides no way for developers to offer discounts or upgrade pricing, or to reply to users encountering problems who leave negative reviews.)

Don’t get me wrong, we do pretty well out of the Mac App Store, I had just hoped to see more improvements to it after a year in operation. Instead, all of the effort seems to be going into sandboxing, which will be enforced on the Mac App Store from 1st March. After which we won’t be able to update Scrivener on the Mac App Store at all until Apple fixes some bugs that would currently leave a sandboxed version of Scrivener with all sorts of major problems (such as an inability to save .scriv files…).

I’m going to go out on a limb and say that’s unacceptable.

Me, too (but I think it’s already too late).

Other than API availability, is there any unsolvable problem that prevents a direct-sale app (running Lion or later, and on supported hardware) from participating in iCloud? From what I’ve been able to read, Apple’s prohibition seems completely arbitrary, and without any technical basis.

This article (in addition to discussing potential gotchas with code signing) quotes a developer to imply that Apple could allow direct-sale code-signed apps to participate in iCloud:

By arbitrarily restricting iCloud participation to MAS-only apps, Apple appears to be using iCloud as both carrot and stick to influence developers to get with their MAS program, where Apple is desirous of making big bucks.

iCloud is all about having my data, content, and (iOS) apps available on all of my (Apple) devices. Great stuff, very convenient, but hardly essential. And, don’t get me started on whether using cloud-things for storing my data is secure (it’s not), private (see the TOS), reliable (not enough data and experience yet to tell), or even if my files or content are owned by me (see the TOS); who gets to snoop on my activities (see TOS and privacy policies) – and so on, and so on.

A lot still has to happen before I jump onto this train. But, if Apple continues to split functionality between MAS and direct-sale apps, they will have pushed me out of their ecosystem – unless Apple unveils some gee-whiz-bang set of features that:

  • fixes the elementary issues with the MAS that Keith describes;
  • is resilient enough to preclude problems like the ones Broken Thought describes;
  • enhances safety and security of their platform and my data in some irresistibly compelling and affordable way; and
  • has TOS and privacy policies that do not require an advanced law degree to comprehend, and that I do not have to revisit periodically to detect changes that could alter any of these assurances at any time.

The situation today is:

  • MAS-only apps:
    [*]suffer from reduced basic functionality, and

  • are subject to sandbox bugs, but

  • have full access to iCloud
    ]Direct-sale apps:

  • remain fully-functional, and

  • are not subject to sandbox bugs, but

  • cannot participate in iCloud
    Despite the delicious irony, this situation cannot continue for long. Apple’s recent uncharacteristic preview of ML, and their inclusion of a Gatekeeper option to accommodate signed, direct-sale apps, seem less of disclosure for the purpose of comment, and less of compromise, than preparation for the blow that is yet to come – the MAS as the only source of apps, and a locked-down platform that has restricted access to the file system, in the style of iOS.

In the meantime, for data availability anyway, a thumb drive works for me :slight_smile:. I’m happy that Scrivener is available for Windows – I might need it one day. And, I’ll start visiting the “Scrivener on Linux” forum, too. (Hmmm…I can run Windows and Linux in VMs on my Snow Leopard Mac…:wink:)

Thank you for this discussion. One thing that I’ve been wondering about as a non-MAS Scrivener user:

As we look forward to an iOS version of Scrivener, might we expect it to work with synching services other than iCloud (e.g., Dropbox, Simplenote) as well?

I should add to this, that over the past week Apple have both put off the sandboxing deadline and added some significant improvements to sandboxing that mean that Scrivener functionality should not be limited on the Mac App Store after all - phew! I’m now working hard to sandbox Scrivener for the next MAS update.

Absolutely - we have to keep Windows in mind, too, remember, so it’s important that all versions of Scrivener can sync with the iOS version, no matter where it was bought from.

All the best,

That’s great to hear. I was afraid the MAS was going to have a broken version of Scrivener, an old version, or worse, no Scrivener at all. The MAS would be a dark, dark place with no Scrivener.

Hey Keith,

What means this? Synching with other versions is great, but how will it work? Have I to worry about closing my project on my Mac or not?

I mean.
Can I synch “insert your project name here” to iOS and Windows or another Mac without closing a project on an another Mac or an iOS device? Will you use iCloud or Dropbox or other way of synching?
When this is true, that this will be great, so I can work where I want on which machine I want, and when I came home my project will be updated. That would be cool.

Regards Jake

For the iOS version, you will be able to sync to it and not worry about closing the project on your Mac. But you will still have to worry about closing your project on the Mac if you want to open it on another Mac or on Windows. Syncing is non-trivial, and even iCloud only really works with documents that use a flat file structure (single files). Scrivener projects are not single files, but many files inside a package, and syncing will always be a big issue for such file formats. We want to investigate better syncing between open projects for 3.0 for collaboration, but “investigate” doesn’t constitute a promise, of course. :slight_smile:

Just out of curiosity, iCloud also has a granular, database sync, e.g. for Contacts. Would it be worthy to explore the possibility of a database storage system (CoreData?) instead of the package system? Wouldn’t that also help in terms of compatibility across platforms assuming that CoreData is fully compatible with sqlite? Not pushing, just out of technical curiosity and without any expectation for an answer!

No, that’s not suitable for Scrivener (and remember it has to use a file format compatible with Windows).