Just open source it!

Dvorak must not have a lot to write about these days. He’s says Apple should 100% open source OS X. “That would make the battle between OS X and Linux the most interesting one on the computer scene”. I didn’t know Apple was worried about competing with Linux. If anything, I view them as complementary to each other – once boasting a microkernel and one a monolithic kernel. One that is open source, and one that is somewhat open source. I’ve had countless deployments teaming the two OS’s together and it just works together.

While the geek in me wants OS X source code really bad, the truth is there are a lot of business problems with this. From my perspective, I buy Macs because of OS X and the common reasons why go with that (stability, UNIX backend, VPC support, etc). If the code were opened up, the first thing that would happen is a forked distribution that runs on commodity hardware. Then another group would throw out the microkernel and replace it with Linux 2.6. This would anger the pro-microkernel people who would retaliate by calling them names and chanting meaningless babble. In the end, we have 3 or more distributions of OS X, none of them 100% compatible, and all of the fall out would go right back to Apple. Once it’s on the Internet and it has value, it stays on the Internet forever.

No offense Linux crowd, but I can’t see how innovation comes from open code that delivers the same functionality as other platforms is an advantage just because the code is available. The reality of the world is there aren’t a lot of people who know how to (or want to in their free time) program and add to the code – especially in Mac circles. Calm down, great things have come from open source and I’m all for it. While making the code available does make sense in some cases, OS X is right where it belongs (from a business standpoint – remember Apple does this stuff to make money). Sure I would like to see Apple offer up more, but to call for 100% is a bit of extreme logic.

“Much of the positive reaction, though, seems to stem from the mistaken supposition that having Windows on a Mac will make OS X look better by comparison, so people will flock to OS X. This is a dubious and dangerous conclusion for Mac heads to draw.”

Call me a Mac head then, because that’s exactly how I got into using OS X to begin with. The more I used OS X the more I didn’t like using Windows. It took a few months to wean myself, but it was nice having Windows around during that time. It made my wife comfortable with using a Mac too, because the things she couldn’t figure out on a Mac she could do on the PC. Now here we are a few years later and she cringes at using a PC. I’m not expecting a mass exodus and I don’t think Apple is either. Just watching my wife validates that some, if not most, will make the jump more to OS X and less to Windows. What I do think is the OS market is too heavy on one side, and balance is the only answer to many of the problems in the industry now. Sure one will dominate, and that will probably be Windows for a long time. There is nothing wrong with that; the fault is when dominance equals no competitiveness.

“Since no company, including massive IBM, has been able to compete with or unseat Microsoft from the desktop, Microsoft’s stance alone may prevent any universal acceptance of OS X on the desktop from ever happening. In fact, I assume that as this is being written, Microsoft has coders in its skunk works tearing into OS X looking for deep flaws that it can exploit and publicize. Don’t think otherwise. It only makes sense that they’d do this.”

Let’s turn the tables here. Would anyone suggest Apple is at the heart of the vunerability discoveries in Windows as a means to gain market share? Since virtually all the discoveries are noted (and often a polite thank you) with an author or researcher, I have a hard time finding Microsoft or Apple thanking each other for finding vunerabilities in the other’s code. Oh, and last I checked what Dvorak suggests is in the gray area of illegal. He makes it sound like OS X is already open and Microsoft has a room of ninja trained monkeys laughing at how easy it is to find vunerable code. Wouldn’t a mature Microsoft just work at making their flagship product better, instead of resorting to playground bully tactics like these? Probably not, but OS X source code isn’t in Microsoft’s hands – at least publicly known anyway – just as Windows source code isn’t in Apple’s hands.

Open source is a good model for a lot of situations. I’ve had my share of open source work as well, and use it whenever it is a good fit. If you think about this, so does Apple, and that makes all the difference.


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