According to AppleInsider on their forums [Apple to release Mac OS X Lion through Mac App Store – sources – AppleInsider], Apple plans to move to a digital distribution model for the upcoming Mac OS X 10.7 codenamed Lion.
Apple’s App Store for iPhone, iPad, and iPod and now the App Store for Mac OS X 10.6 Snow Leopard are the culmination of something Larry Ellison advocated way back in the 1990s. He said in effect why are bits boxed? He argued that bits should be carried through the network to computers rather than carried on media like CDs or DVDs. Apple seems to be further shifting to this model with this rumored distribution model for the next operating system.
I am not so sure how much I like this idea for the operating system. For distributing applications, I think that digital distribution is great. Unfortunately, more ISPs are wrongly implementing download caps. Additionally, it will increase the time for reinstallation for those of us who like to reinstall the OS every so often to maintain a clean computer workspace.
CmdrTaco on Slashdot commented on this change by writing, “A lot of questions surrounding this related to the ability to make bootable disks. And also, why don’t they just use apt-get? I gotta admit: it makes me nervous getting my OS from an App Store — which is strange considering how many kernels I’ve downloaded, built and booted over the years” [from here]. I have to agree with him that there is much that we do already to get software online–including OS kernels for Linux (Ubuntu in my case). I suppose the big difference is that with open source software, the bits aren’t controlled by a corporate overload. In Apple’s case, they will control access to those bits. If they follow their current model for third party software in their App Store, they will allow you to re-download software as many times as you want while you are logged into your account. Unfortunately, they will ultimately hold the keys to the kingdom and those policies could change.
I will write about cloud computing and cloud storage in a future post, but I will say now that I believe these issues of digital distribution and personal file storage in the cloud are interrelated. Both depend on access to the network and access to files stored “out there” in the cloud. I am a proponent of personal, local control of my files and the software that I license.