1984 and the Future of Mac Software

Today we’re going look way back to the beginning and see a platform and a company that was defined by breaking the mold and breaking free of restrictions and uniformity.

We’ll contrast this with a critical look at the direction that Apple is headed in today. Do their current goals reflect the anti-establishment personality portrayed in the infamous 1984 commercial or have they become the establishment?

It’s Good to Be Back

For those of you who’re faithful enough to read both sites, you may have noticed that I’ve actually left my post as the iPhone.AppStorm editor and taken over for David Appleyard here at Mac.Appstorm. My entire web writing career, now a full-time venture, started right here so I’m thrilled to be back writing about the Mac.

Aside from nostalgia, there are quite a few other reasons that I’m glad to be back. For starters, I love writing about the Mac as a platform for amazing development. Despite the fact that I absolutely love my iPhone and iPad, being a Mac nerd has been ingrained into my identity for well over a decade.

“Apple keeps such tight reign over iOS and its accompanying apps.”

Having spent so long focused on iOS, it actually feels quite liberating to come back and write about Macs. The primary reason for this is that we’re “allowed” to do so much more with our Macs. Apple keeps such tight reign over iOS and its accompanying apps that one can’t really dig in and poke around without going rogue and ending up in a ceaseless back and forth battle with Apple (aka jailbreaking).

This line of thought has me wondering about Apple’s new direction for the world of software and whether or not it ends well for us.


I absolutely love digging into my Macs as soon as I get them. I run custom terminal commands, set up shell scripts to run Geeklets on my desktop, break into and customize dashboard widgets and install applications that may slightly alter certain parts of the core OS. In short, I make the computer my own.

This is tricky enough that most consumers never attempt it and in reality don’t even know that half of it is possible, which keeps the experience shiny clean for them. On my end though, it’s always been one of the main things that I love about Macs; they have a rock solid architecture but can in fact be taught plenty of great tricks.

“Jobs and Woz are hackers from way back.”

It’s important to note that none of this has ever really felt like I’ve done something wrong that Apple would condemn me for. Jobs and Woz are hackers from way back and fully understand the need to play around and see what can be done with a system. Shoot, AppleScript and Terminal are tools that have been provided just for these types of folks.


Contrast this with iOS. Don’t get me wrong, I absolutely love the system, but the way that Apple has set it up is quite different. Here, in the place of freedom, we have an assumption that developers and users will screw stuff up if you don’t keep a close eye on them.

“In the place of freedom, we have an assumption that developers and users will screw stuff up.”

Instead of providing us with fun tools that allow us to bend the rules and stretch the possibilities, Apple spent millions attempting to literally make it illegal to hack your iPhone (fortunately, they failed). Jobs the hacker has suddenly forgotten who he was thirty years ago and wants to turn kids that act like he did back then into criminals.

All of this under the sacred religion of providing a better experience. Give people freedom and iOS goes down the tubes. An interesting argument given the impressive number of Jailbreak features that keep finding their way into the official version of iOS.

Where Is the Mac Headed?

Earlier this week we published an article containing ten apps that you won’t find in the Mac App Store. Interestingly enough, several of the apps mentioned simply aren’t allowed in, despite being on just about everyone’s list of “must-have” Mac applications.

iStat Menus is one of the most notable examples of this. In short, iStat digs into deep system files that Apple doesn’t like people screwing around with, so they won’t approve it. It’s an amazingly useful app, we all use and own it, but the fierce dictators at Apple wag their fingers in disapproval.

Fortunately, at this point, it doesn’t matter whether or not Apple approves an app for sale on the Mac App Store. iStat was popular before the MAS and can go on living without it. We’re all free to download and install any Mac apps we see fit to live on our machines.

“How long before a version of Mac OS launches that only allows for apps to be installed through the App Store?”

I can’t help but wonder if the dictators are scratching their heads about how to fix this in the long term though. Will Mac OS always give us the freedom that we now enjoy or will we start seeing that freedom slip as the iOS framework slowly starts making its way over? How long before a version of Mac OS launches that only allows for apps to be installed through the App Store? How long before Apple starts a campaign to make it illegal to Jailbreak a Mac?

Even to me these start to sound like the paranoid delusions of a madman. “Apple would never…” is my response. The truth is though that Apple already has, and they seem to be loving the control. iOS is widely praised as the future of computing in this “Post-PC” era and I can’t help but wonder if that era will be defined by only those applications and utilities that our gracious protectors have deemed appropriate for us to have. I can’t help but wonder if Apple is on the road to playing the part of Big Brother in the 1984 commercial while the Jailbreakers and hackers take up the symbol of the heroine hurling the hammer.

“Today, we celebrate the first glorious anniversary of the Information Purification Directives. We have created, for the first time in all history, a garden of pure ideology — where each worker may bloom, secure from the pests purveying contradictory truths. Our Unification of Thoughts is more powerful a weapon than any fleet or army on earth. We are one people, with one will, one resolve, one cause. Our enemies shall talk themselves to death, and we will bury them with their own confusion. We shall prevail!” – Apple’s 1984 Superbowl Commercial

What Do You Think?

At this point all I have is questions. Please feel free to chime in on any and all of them.

Will Apple continue to tighten their control over developers? Is the regulation that we see in iOS making its way to the Mac? Is Apple using App Stores to launch an “Information Purification Directive” that will result in a big brother scenario? Does the scene in the famous 1984 commercial bear a strange resemblance to the WWDC of the future?