Installers and Updates

One last refinement to the overall Mac OS X experience I’d like to see in Lion is the simplification of installing and updating applications.

This is an area that Mac OS X could very much learn from iOS. Installing and updating Apps on my iPhone and iPad is so straightforward it’s almost funny. Most of all, it’s easy to explain to someone else.

Try to imagine teaching App installation to someone who is new to the Mac, or maybe even computing in general. I do this often, actually; and the hardest thing for folks to grasp are the various methods of installing Apps. It’s intimidating. Some Apps come with installers, some come in disk images. Some disk images illustrate the need to drag the App to the Applications folder. Many don’t. Some even are packaged in a ZIP archive, and leave the uncompressed app in the Downloads folder, with no further instruction.

What a mess.

Some have suggested that Apple should make a Mac App Store. I do not think an App Store is the solution. I am fairly positive many developers agree. However, I’d love to see Lion bring forth a single, unified method for installation and updating Apps. Why can’t installation be more like installing a Dashboard widget? Mac OS X recognizes the .wdgt extension and offers to install it in Dashboard. Why not do the same with the .app extension? Or some other unified method that someone much smarter than me has come up with.

As for updating apps, Sparkle works fantastically in many of the Mac Apps I have. I’d love to see Apple employ something similar. Heck, the developer used to work on Apple’s Installer and Software Update team back in 2008-2009. Here’s the pertinent info from his résumé:

Designed and implemented exciting new technology for the Installer that will be employed throughout Mac OS X—details under NDA, but I can disclose that it’s awesome.

We can only hope.