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Questions Raised by Lion’s App Store Installation Requirement

Mac OS X Lion will be throwing away the DVD — and heaven help you if you need it. Apple says the $29.99 operating system update will be available only as a download from the Mac App Store, which itself only runs on 10.6.6 Snow Leopard and later. That leads us to ask a number of questions to which we may not get answers until the day the Mac App Store suddenly says Lion is available for purchase.

Installation -- Apple has told us a fair amount about parts of the installation process. We know that you’ll be able to install Lion on multiple computers, as long as they all share the same Apple ID. In essence then, the $29.99 fee for Lion takes over for the family pack, previously $49.99 for Snow Leopard or $199 for Leopard.

However, we don’t know if or how Apple will restrict the number of installations — presumably there’s a difference between installing one $29.99 copy of Lion on your iMac and MacBook, and installing it on every Mac at your 25-person office. And while such a small office could at least conceive of downloading Lion 25 times, what about a large enterprise installation that might need hundreds or thousands of installations?

One possibility, though an unlikely one, is serialization, where you could download a single copy and then install it multiple times by using appropriate serial numbers. Apple has never required a serial number to install a desktop Mac OS X client before, although Mac OS X Server formerly required a serial number. Lion Server will be a separate $49.99 download from the Mac App Store that will install on top of the regular Lion.

After purchasing and downloading Lion via the Mac App Store, the installer will be available in your Applications folder. Ostensibly, you could then copy it to other computers, and run it on them without downloading again. Lion’s system requirements list an Intel Core 2 Duo or newer processor, which includes machines all the way back to 2006. But can you launch Lion’s installer on a Mac running 10.4 Tiger or 10.5 Leopard? Or will you need to upgrade to Snow Leopard before installing Lion? We’ll have to wait to find out, although Apple’s Web site implies that upgrading to Snow Leopard first will be mandatory. (The developer previews likely can’t answer the question, as they aren’t designed for mass-market installation.)

We’re particularly concerned about the story for people without the bandwidth or with bandwidth limits. Some people have low-bandwidth accounts (satellite-based Internet connections, for instance, or slow DSL connections), and 25 percent of Americans still use dial-up to access the Internet. Plus, in many parts of the world, Internet access is metered, and a multi-gigabyte download could come with non-trivial costs. As far as we can tell now, people in this situation will have to find an alternative connection. But what if they don’t have a laptop or don’t have an alternative nearby? Might Apple make a DVD installation option for Lion available for people for whom a download simply isn’t feasible? Will someone need to haul their 27-inch iMac to the nearest Apple Store or approved retailer? We can hope, but Apple has said nothing on the topic.

Restoration -- Of course, you only have to install Mac OS X once… if you’re lucky. As we all know, installations become corrupted, hard disks fail, people upgrade to larger disks, and so on, all of which can require reinstalling the operating system. In the past, you always had a Mac OS X installation DVD to fall back on, but if you’re getting Lion from the Mac App Store, you’ll have to use alternative recovery methods (for an indication of what they might involve, see “Recovering from Disk Corruption Without a SuperDrive,” 10 June 2011).

You can of course restore a Lion system using a Time Machine backup, as with earlier versions of Mac OS X. But Lion also creates a special recovery partition on your internal hard disk that enables you to boot into a minimal installation of Lion that contains all the standard Mac OS X utilities for repairing another partition or restoring from Time Machine. That’s a good move on Apple’s part.

But what if your hard disk is damaged such that you can’t boot from the recovery partition, and you don’t have a current Time Machine backup, or if you use another backup method that doesn’t create a bootable volume? We’re not sure if you can create a bootable version of the Lion installer on DVD or flash drive, given that what you get from the Mac App Store is itself an app, not a disk image. The solution to that problem will be especially important to Mac consultants, who are regularly faced with needing to bring an ailing Mac back to health no matter how negligent its owner has been in terms of backups or caring for the hardware.

Most people undoubtedly won’t face these difficulties, but not only are these problems critical for those who do encounter them, the increasing popularity of the Mac — 54 million active users, remember — means that the raw number of people who are going have problems installing or reinstalling after something goes wrong will be large.

We’re actively trying to find out what Apple’s answers to these questions are, but the company is not known for being forthright, and we may not have solid information until Lion hits the Mac App Store sometime in July.


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Comments about Questions Raised by Lion’s App Store Installation Requirement
(Comments are closed.)

All good questions that I thought about when they were announcing all the stuff the other day, but I guess we have to take a "wait and see" approach until Lion is released. No use speculating on what Apple will or will not do.

One area that has'nt really been talked about is AirPlay or what ever it is. Were you can send different types of files from one computer to another that are within 30 feet of one another. Sure hope that Airprint will follow on the heels of this since the procedure one has to go through to set up a WI-FI connection to printers is pretty hideous in this day and age of syncing everything.
Another issue relates to selling used machines with Lion installed. If the OS is tied to your Apple ID, how do you break that tie to sell the machine? If you erase the hard drive, how does the new owner install an OS in the first place?
Welles Goodrich  2011-06-08 12:56
Here's one solution...
Marc Farnum Rendino  2011-06-08 13:03
> but the company is not known for being forthright

Really? That seems a bit strong; too sweeping at least.
Glenn Fleishman  An apple icon for a TidBITS Staffer 2011-06-08 13:46
We're using that word in its sense of frank and upfront, not in the sense of honesty.
Turner Bain  2011-06-08 16:58
I think that it is an understatement. Perhaps, selectively non-communicative?
Gord Locke  2011-06-08 13:08
Right now the Lion instructions on Apple's web site are carefully worded. It says to install Lion "on day one," you'll have to use the App Store. I'm sure they'll make Lion available on DVD... at a higher price than $29.99 no doubt.
Chris Pepper  An apple icon for a TidBITS Staffer 2011-06-08 13:32
I'm reasonably certain that Apple will do at least 2 of:

1) will create a bootable thumb drive (or even DVD) installer.
2) Apple will offer a DVD installer, and corporations & schools will get them as part of their standard Apple diagnostic/media kits.
3) Apple will invite people to bring Macs to their local Apple Stores, to install over the in-store WiFi. Who remembers bringing home the sacred blue floppies with handmade labels and 6.0.x copied onto them by the local Mac retailer?).
Mark Fuller  2011-06-08 13:56
The big issue for families is that not everyone shares the same Apple ID. My wife and I share one, but not my children. So, at first blush it appears that it's $29 for my wife and I and $29 for each kid. I currently have a Family Mobile Me plan so that hasn't be a problem up to now, with iCloud and the way it integrates into the various devices, I see some real issues for families.
Walt French  2011-06-08 18:27
“Real issues,” as in, “we can afford $1000 for a Mac but we can't afford $29 for a new version of OSX to run on it.”

Did I get that right? A device that maybe has a useful economic life of 5 years isn't worth having that life extended by a couple of years, with an upgrade or two that would increase its total cost by less than 10%?

I guess you have an easy answer: tell the kids to lump it: if they want to be economically independent, it'll cost them another $29 every year or two. Tell 'em to hate Apple for it.
Ted Stoffers  2011-06-12 15:23
Apple users have this problem. I paid $399 in a heartbeat for my iPod Touch (64GB), but I have a problem paying $3.99 for an app...

You should just be able to authenticate each computer with your Apple ID you bought Lion with, and then install it
David Emme  2011-06-08 14:08
> Lion creates a special recovery partition on your internal hard disk

Another question: what happens in the case where the installer can't create this recovery partition? I recently upgraded my internal drive to a (smaller) SSD (to save money!), and that smaller drive is completely filled by two existing partitions. Am I then just out of luck regarding this recovery option?
Glenn Fleishman  An apple icon for a TidBITS Staffer 2011-06-08 14:43
Apple apparently has the ability to modify GUID Partition Map partitions, I believe. So I'm assuming this is the same jiggery-pokery. Whatever your boot partition is, if it's GUID, it'll be reduced by the size necessary to install the recovery partition (5 GB? 8 GB?). If you don't have that space, I imagine you will be locked out from install.
I have had fiber optics the past 2+ years. But in August I move to an area where Satellite is the best and the best package allows only 400 MB download in any 24 hour period. Not good scenario! I will live only 70 miles from LA (a 3 hour commute each way if no traffic), and it will isolate me totally from this kind upgrade. Definitely would like to see a DVD option.
Wierdninja  2011-06-08 15:25
No DVD, is a big mistake by Apple. To much too soon. The cloud is still too expensive and unreliable at this point in this country. I'll be using snow leopard for some time to come I guess. Being forced into the cloud is just a bad idea. Caps are an issue with most people. I guess apple doesn't care about the core of it's customers. Apple is becoming too corporate. This is not well thought out
Rob Russell  2011-06-08 15:40
We have a 40GB data cap here in NZ and regularly run right up to it (we don't watch many YouTube flicks - it's all remote connections to client computers). With 4 Macs eligible for Lion, the cost will be a good chunk more than 4xNZD60 (the estimated cost here) when we include overage charges. I'm more than a bit wary of a download only option.
And don't for a moment think we are chucking our music up into the cloud...
Turner Bain  2011-06-08 17:04
I live out in the swamps, and a trip to an Apple reseller takes about the same time it would take me to spend a day at the beach. Even though I like Apple, I prefer sand to cement and asphalt.
My wireless cellular connection has a good strong signal, but really spotty dataflow. My experience with Apple downloads in particular is that I get whirly disks and often have to start over. 4Gb's? Have mercy. I can understand the efficiency of not having to manufacture, package and ship, but it leaves a lot of us with thread like holds on civilization out in the wild (pun intended).
Martin Cohen  2011-06-08 22:54
How about if a computer is in a closed environment where there is no internet at all?
I don't like this at all Time Warner Cable in Raleigh-Durham never gives me better than 3.5 kbit/sec. An OS install would take a LONG time. God forbid that I should live in Alaska or someplace more remote.
Jon Bloom  2011-06-09 16:07
Surely you mean 3.5 Mbit/sec? 3.5 kbit/sec is slower than a dial-up modem circa 1993!
claudio  2011-06-09 07:05
multiple installations provided are under one id. i have just finished askin how to have one id valid for my imac and two mackbooks. the answer was "not possible" please clarfy how to do it
Matt Neuburg  An apple icon for a TidBITS Staffer 2011-06-09 09:07
My thought of the day (could be crazy): Maybe Apple has just done the math and decided they don't need people without Snow Leopard / fast Internet as customers? Just like their decision not to support non-64-bit processors (thereby eliminating a healthy chunk of early Intel adopters) and their decision not to support Rosetta.
I’m in favor of both the download option and a physical media option. This way customers can purchase the best product for their need.

Reduced sales – several of my clients who went to the Apple Store to purchase Snow Leopard, returned with iPod nanos, iPads, a Magic Mouse or a Trackpad.  Having Lion available only at the App Store will reduce store traffic and therefore unplanned sales.

If your hard disk dies you have lost your ability to reinstall, now what do you do? Two weeks ago, I had a client with an apparent drive failure, had to boot from DVD to run diagnostics.  (A restore partition will not help in this situation)

Based on my experience, two major selling points to Windows customers, US Based Phone Support, and re-installation media.  My Windows clients absolutely hate not having re-installation media.  This is why many refused Windows computers at the last upgrade cycle and instead began purchasing Macs.

27% of the US has broadband, almost 30% of this is below 1.5mbps.
"you could download a single copy and then install it multiple times "

How 'PC' we've all become! Perhaps you could update to Lion Server and use - Software Update Server. I know it costs tens if not hundreds of thousands to do in Windows but we're Mac people aren't we?
SamuraiArtGuy  2011-06-09 22:34
All of the questions and reservations are quite germane. I am a self-employed designer with a budget tight as a pole dancer's g-string. So I am still rocking a perfectly functional pampered G5 Tower machine with Tiger.

But my upgrade doom is when I get an Adobe CS5 file that will not open in CS3. That $900(!) upgrade will cost me another $2500-$4000 for the machine to run it on... but of course I won't have to worry about having to two-step upgrade to Snow Leopard to get Lion.

But for the moment, running Tiger on a G5, no Mac App Store for the likes of me. I do have a leopard Mac Book Pro, but my wife dominates it, and cries when I take it out to client meetings.
John Beatty  2011-06-10 07:14
Another issue: my 10.6.0 installation DVD weighs in at 6.6 GB. So at first blush my boot partition will need to be 6.6 GB larger? Time machine will back up another 6.6 GB to back up from it? And I typically have at least one periodically cloned copy of the boot partition; we're now up to an additional 13 GBs, not to mention the extra space in backups. And in time when cloning a boot partition. I hope we can at least *move* the installation data to a different partition, replacing it in /Applications by a symlink...
Country Boy  2011-06-10 10:22
Here is my problem with Lion only being sold from the Mac App Store. I'm in the BVI, and do not have access to the App Store. So how do i upgrade to lion when it comes out? I've been a Mac user since 2003, and even though I couldn't get the upgrade shipped directly to me, i could at least have it shipped to a relative in the US and have them ship it to me.
Well with Lion it seems like my ability to upgrade is over, and i'm going to be stuck on Snow Leopard.
Wierdninja  2011-06-12 14:03
Apple is trying hard to push everything into the cloud. I think it's a few years too soon for an OS without physical media. The cloud is too expensive, unreliable, and insecure, and not available everywhere. Until this changes, I think Lion being download only, and, iCloud, will not be as game changing as Apple thinks. If you lose your internet connection, or don't have any, what do you do? No one seems to address this simple fact. I, for one will stick with Snow Leopard. Many people I know pretty much say the same.
Adam Engst  An apple icon for a TidBITS Staffer 2011-06-13 05:31
From Apple's descriptions so far, it sounds as though iCloud will mostly be used as a way of moving data from one endpoint to another - your Mac to your iPad, for instance. If that's largely how it will be used, the lack of an Internet connection merely means that such movement will be delayed until such time as there is one.

But keep in mind, with 3G data becoming more commonplace (it's easy to imagine a future MacBook Pro having such a capability), Internet access is becoming ever more ubiquitous.

And, from a personal standpoint, I've found that I almost can't do much work at all without an Internet connection, so without one, I just do something else. Obviously, that's specific to my line of work, but I'll bet it's becoming more common too.
Doug Lerner  2011-06-13 16:28
There's probably going to be a DVD of some sort that comes with new Macs. And everybody who has upgraded to 10.6 has a DVD.

So my guess is that if you don't have a bootable backup, such as CCC, that you will be asked to recover from the DVD you do have and then re-download Lion?

Still, keeping a CCC clone sounds even more useful going forward. I started doing that so I can mirror my iMac on my MBP for trips - and reverse the process when I got back. And I'm sure glad I did because I discovered that Time Machine chokes on the Mail "database rebuild" for my large database going back to the 1990s. Apple Support could never figure out the problem, so I'm glad that in in addition to Time Machine that I use CCC, which has been great.

Michael B  2011-06-13 20:13
TUAW had a couple relevant blogs:

1) How to burn a Lion boot disc:

2) How to install Lion from an SD card :
JoAnne  2011-06-14 04:55
not to mention the arrogance of only offering it in the app store. don't like to use a credit card on line? too bad! like to support your local apple store? too bad! want to see apple become less greedy and selfish? too bad!
bjatthebeach  2011-06-14 06:55
Another issue with the App store I found out when I purchased the new iPhoto upgrade. First, the 700 odd MB was not compressed to around 100MB necessitating excessive download time. And secondly, once I purchased it via the App store, I was prevented from upgrading via the Apple website - had to go through the store. Bad news - and last big app i will purchase there. All this would be much worse with Lion. We need ability to purchase a hard disc.
Apple "giveth" and Apple "taketh away." Apple has given us all these neat new toys to play with that has increased it's customer base tremendously. And then it always seems to screw it's long time loyal base with such restrictive policies that leaves many customers in the dust. Jobs may be good at most things, but he sometimes falls way short, as in the case of this update (if you're worse fears come true and there's no available DVD).