Will Apple Kill Off Mac Audio Plugins?

broken apple mac computer

Reader aymat is worried about the future of audio plugins on Mac OS X.

Apple recently announced that applications sold through the Mac App Store need to be ‘sandboxed’, meaning that they need to live in their own space and have limited access to the filesystem and other applications.

Some, like WireToTheEar’s Oliver Chesler, are suggesting that this will be the end of audio plugins on OS X:

Beginning next March Apple will require Apps sold through the Mac App store to be “Sandboxed”. Sandboxing keeps the app in it’s own space and restricts what it can do system wide.

Apple does this on iOS to protect your phone from being hacked, taken over, etc… One side effect is that as far as things stand today you can’t use plug-ins. Obviously for musicians using sequencers this would have serious implications.

Before you get into a huff we will still be able to install and use unsandboxed Apps and plug-ins as long they are not sold on the Mac App store.

The benefits of sandboxing apps are many. They’re easier to back up, they can be synced to the cloud and there’s less danger of malicious apps screwing up your machine. And some level of sandboxing is absolutely necessary for an App Store to be feasible. The OS can’t cleanly update or delete apps purchased from an App Store unless it knows where the app is writing files to.

Some think that the future for Macs, though, is tightly locked down computers that only allow you to load software if Apple approves it and gets a cut of the sale.

And, if only sandboxed apps are allowed, where would that leave your investment in audio plugins?

What do you think? Is this a real concern or just a bunch of over-caffeinated bloggers working too hard to connect the dots?

Image: Choubistar

25 thoughts on “Will Apple Kill Off Mac Audio Plugins?

  1. I think it would be quite stupid of Apple to completely drop Audio Unit support – after all their own software Logic Studio depends largely on third-party plugins. But maybe they plan to release a successor sometime in the future? Avid are already replacing their old RTAS/TDM plugin frameworks with AAX, why not a more flexible AU2 – as far as I know, the current standard causes problems with the MIDI communication anyway…

    But having to run the sequencer and every effect and synth in a seperate sandbox, just connected by IAC and Soundflower or something similar would be a catastrophe 🙁

  2. The real “problems” with this are two-fold. First, the dominant companies will force-feed the market whatever it will bear, even if its maddening or dilutes what worked well for most people. Remember how VHS tape beat out the superior Beta format? So the first battle is always a cross between greed and what is simply rational marketing by sincere, functioning businesses who deserve a decent profit.
    The second is the more serious culprit, namely, people having so little character that they are thieves. Hackers are not just damaging; they’re INSULTING. Even now, copy-protection is a major burden on every legitimate user. Dongles and convoluted registration processes suck hard; we all know it. The only fix MIGHT be to publically take a hammer to the hands of those you catch, but unless HBO can make a buck from the pay-per-view fees, no go, there. Also, if you started that, The Man would start breaking hands by the thousands under dubious circumstances.
    So what to do? Either keep paying up for every bloody “upgrade” & paradigm shift, or take up the banjo. I find the Cloud very unpalatable, so I’ll keep as closed a home system as possible, but when you do a cost/benefit analysis, eh, WTF… I’m greatly enriched by the tools I have and I spend money willingly on Apple, Camel Audio, Korg, MOTU and a few others. People are always the biggest problem with any endeavor, but they’re also the greatest asset and driving force. C’mon, what price COULD an old prog-head say was higher than the glory of having a $150 Mellotron whose tape racks never snarl into a knot? There’s the line. Either surf it or give up the good aspects with the bad. Its an unsane situation in general, but I vote for the former.

  3. This article is complete drivel. Apps sold through the app store need to be sandboxed, but apps available everywhere else can still be installed like they always have. People are too damn paranoid.

    1. I think the discussion is not about how things are right now, but about future developments. There are enough signs showing that Apple might shut off any software install from outside the app store. That’s what it is all about.

  4. This is an unfounded fear, and not even worth talking about. Also, don’t forget that you can already buy NLog through the app store and download the AU as well, so we already have a working model for this scenario.

  5. The answer has been there all along. HARDWARE!

    A good hard disc recorder and some quality outboard processors, a few good instruments. No worries.

    I will soon be off the endless treadmill of updates, dongles, and GUIs. I could have owned that Eventide box by now.

  6. If you didn’t believe in corporate bullies trying to monopolize the entire sector at the cost of their current users in an attempt to acquire more percentage of the market share while increasing profit margins to satisfy stockholders.

    If Apple thinks they can have a successful closed system based on executive decisions in the boardroom, they better be willing to accept the fact that people will wake up and move to a cheaper and an open source based community with Android.

    As soon as more Americans wake up from this materialistic daze they walk around in all day. Piling up debt on their credit cards just to get the newest, coolest looking but inferior in performance gadget or bling bragger.

    With out Jobs, Apple has zero chance to survive the up coming years.

    1. “If you didn’t believe in corporate bullies trying to monopolize the entire sector at the cost of their current users in an attempt to acquire more percentage of the market share while increasing profit margins to satisfy stockholders.”

      If you add an independent clause next time, people might understand what you’re trying to say!

  7. 100% frivolous red herring. Are any major DAWs available on the Mac App Store? Even Logic isn’t.

    I’ve read more interesting speculative rumormongering already this morning, and I suspect I’ll encounter more before I have lunch. Oliver must have been light on material and up against a deadline.

  8. i have to agree here, sand boxing is just 1 end of the branch, the other is the fact that we are moving more & more to a desktop less environment.. windows 8 , no desktop , ios & lion are best suited to single, screen full operation, im worried that as the desktop is replaced with launchers & every app becomes fullscreen the idea of placing my studio & plug ins around 2 monitors of real estate is actually at threat.

  9. If necessity is the mother of invention then contraint is the great grandfather. I think it will be interesting, but this is only apps in the appstore. I’m sure reason would be a great hit as far as that’s concern but its not changing much. You can still buy cubase and load up on vsts or get numerology and a few au’s…this is fine as far as I’m concerned. Its a streamlining of a streamlined process, advanced users will likely not be effected.

  10. Apple is NOT banning any apps or plugins. They are limiting apps sold in the online Mac App Store only.

    Is it possible that years down the road Apple will merge the iPad/iPhone iOS with OS X and try to sell some sort of locked-down OS that protects the filesystem against hacking? The likelihood is really, really slim. If sandboxing were the law of the land you’d never be able to run backup software that clones a hard drive, and you’d never be able to run disk utility software either. (In fact those specific apps can’t be sold today in the Mac App Store for that reason, and Apple is showing no interest in making those apps disappear either.)

  11. it makes sense. if you want a plug-in, buy it from the manufacturer instead of teh app store. problem solved. stop being lame-ass doom-sayer geeks. you dipshits aren’t marcus yallow and you never will be, stop acting like ANY rule applied to your techy-wet dreams are somehow going to lead to fascist dictatorship. it’s to simplify and protect the integrity of a system that Apple has spent a few years building. I would do the same damn thing.

  12. For the record, unlike the article states, I´m not worried about the future of audio plugins for Mac… its quite the opposite in fact, as I could care less what happens with Mac since I dont use one. But I did find the article interesting 😉

  13. I really believe that they will sandbox more and more, and that it is a GOOD thing. However, that being said, people need to realize that an AU plug can be made by anyone, do anything, and still be sandboxed INSIDE LOGIC. Whatever the next logic X is, I’m sure it will be the edge of the sandbox, not every plug. I don’t feel I need my AU plugs to access all of my computer anyways.

  14. I think this article opens some really interesting questions, and not only related to the Apple world. Right now we have a great choice of plugins, hosts, DAWs and so on, and we have free access to what we like and free choice to how we want to get them, to the extend that we can even pirate them (which I totally disapprove, but just to say how free we are right now) and everything is more or less fine.

    The real question I read in the article is: what’s next? What awaits us in the next years? Some of you rightfully say “who cares? I might not even make music anymore when anything happens” or “why don’t we just use hardware?” and that’s also a good point.
    Still, part of my work involves working in interface design, and software, so I find the topic quite interesting.
    So far I’d say the tablet is the new laptop, hardware and software manufacturers will focus on that, and Apple has a trendsetting role in this field (though sales might tell a different story in a year or so). Apple has effectively imposed a new sales model through his mobile app store on iOS (though the idea really isn’t new) and now starts to carry the same principle over to mac os, the idea is clearly to start a process of unification between the two platforms. Other manufacturers and developers are following the lead and doing more or less the same.
    The reason people are worried is because on iOS you can’t have plugins. If Mac OS becomes like that (and Apple would have enough reasons to do that) we’d all have a problem. Even more because if Apple does it, all the others might do the same.

    This said I firmly believe that Apple will try to slowly get more of the big players to sell their applications on the app store and then shut off all external “sources” for installs, but I also think they are working on something to enable some form of plugins to be installed, because they know too well that plugins mean good money for them, if they are to get their cut on the sales. So in the end we don’t have anything to worry about after all… except…

    Do we really want Apple to take complete control over the platform? Deciding what is allowed in and what not? Do we want Google and Microsoft do the same? In the end we’d have three walled gardens, with only three multinational corporations deciding what software is allowed to be released, and possibly controlling not only that but also controlling books, films, music…

    I admit that this is a pretty paranoid vision, and while Apple might go for such a system, others might remain more open. Still, this tendency is in the air, and somehow it has to do with the laziness of people in how they use computers, and the fact that the computer has become a consumption device (with all the negative aspects related to consumism in general), shifting the market from the work-oriented sector to the entertainment sector.
    Anyway we will see what happens, I find it all exiting and frightening at the same time.

  15. That screen has been broken by abuse….. if that is not the screen in question then why would you use it to describe a potential software problem. Seriously…. welcome to reality sweetheart.

  16. Whilst the concent of sandboxing revolves around locking code into its own environment, it does not exclude the ability for a program in a sandbox to run modular code such as plug-ins. For an app to be sandbox-savvy, all it needs is the ability to make its own copy of a code module which runs inside the sandbox governed by the host app.

    Fear that this new sandbox criteria will kill modular synthesis and stop DAWs from running synths and effects via AudioUnits, VSTs or RTAS modules is groundless. What it will break are things like ReWire, Remote VST and Plogue Wormhole.

  17. Plug-ins *should* be sandboxed. There is no reason that an AU needs to read my e-mail. Unless it’s some new form of e-mail based synthesis.

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