Mac App Store sandbox-only rule coming in March

The way Mac App Store-bought software works is changing. From March 1st, all Mac apps submitted to the store will have to run in a sandbox mode. What this essentially means is that apps will only be able to interact with other data in a set of predefined ways. Want to control your iTunes? Nope. Want to use something other than Time Machine for backups? Forget it. What about apps with plugins? That doesn't look likely either.

One developer has helpfully posted the list of allowed interactions on his blog. Pauli Olavi Ojala explains: "If your app uses Apple Events or Mach ports, Apple may grant you a temporary license to keep doing so, if you can make your case convincingly."

The entitlements are:

Read-only access to the user’s Movies folder and iTunes movies
Read/write access to the user’s Movies folder and iTunes movies
Read-only access to the user’s Music folder
Read/write access to the user’s Music folder
Read-only access to the user’s Pictures folder
Read/write access to the user’s Pictures folder
Capture of movies and still images using the built-in camera, if available
Recording of audio using the built-in microphone, if available
Interaction with USB devices
Read/write access to the user’s Downloads folder
Read-only access to files the user has selected using an Open or Save dialog
Read/write access to files the user has selected using an Open or Save dialog
Child process inheritance of the parent’s sandbox
Outgoing network socket for connecting to other machines
Incoming network socket for listening for requests from other machines
Read/write access to contacts in the user’s address book
Read/write access to the user’s calendars
Use of the Core Location framework for determining the computer’s geographical location
Printing

Does this mean we can expect similar from Windows 8's app store? Microsoft's previous track record points to no, but there's always the possibility that Apple's new rule will catch on and become commonplace. Similar lockdown has been seen in the mobile industry, with the shift to Windows Phone 7 influenced by the success of iOS. Moving to a brand new system of Metro-style apps would be an ideal time to introduce this, but only time will tell.

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