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Article:
  How Does Open Source Software Stack Up on the Mac?
Subject:   Why reinvent the wheel?
Date:   2006-07-30 12:36:42
From:   dogzilla
Response to: Why reinvent the wheel?

You are reframing my post as an OSS vs. the world debate, which I'm frankly not interested in having. You should always shy away from phrases like "You sound as if..". And yes, I'm quite aware that Darwin is the underlying core of OSX. Are you aware of the current hits Apple is taking from OSS advocates / Tom Yager on the supposed closing of Darwin? http://www.infoworld.com/article/06/05/17/78300_21OPcurve_1.html


Thinking that OSS is what drives Apple to innovate seems a bit specious to me. Apple was driving innovations in the computer market well before the concept of Open Source had any kind of widespread traction. I feel pretty confident in stating that if every OSX open-source app dropped off the radar tomorrow, Apple would continue improving it's home-grown apps. Perhaps even adding tabs to iChat.


While I disagree that simply having alternatives does anything to affect a given market (eg: having Yugos available does nothing for the innovations in Minis, even though they're both compact cars), that wasn't the point of my post in the first place. My point was: why include all of these me-too OSS projects that are doing little or nothing to drive their particular categories forward while glossing over the large number of OSS apps and tools that provide unique functionality readers may not even know are available.


As for tabs being a unique feature: I think an argument could be made there, but again, that wasn't really my point. My point was that there is already a 3rd-party solution from a small developer that offers this. Apple may be making a conscious decision to *not* include them and crush the small 3rd-party developer. Especially since they've been accused of doing just that in the past. Ultimately Apple doesn't really need to continue updating programs like iChat, iPhoto, et. al. to be cutting edge tools. These tools are designed to be given away, remember.

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Showing messages 1 through 3 of 3.

  • Matthew Russell photo Why reinvent the wheel?
    2006-07-30 13:18:10  Matthew Russell | O'Reilly AuthorO'Reilly Blogger [View]

    My point was: why include all of these me-too OSS projects that are doing little or nothing to drive their particular categories forward while glossing over the large number of OSS apps and tools that provide unique functionality readers may not even know are available.

    Well, I do think that an article on the "large number of OSS apps and tools that provide unique functionality" would be a fine endeavor. The reason this particular piece looked at the apps you claim are doing "little or nothing to drive their particular categories forward" is because I disagree with the premise of that very statement. I do think that OSS apps, even if they're not developed by Apple's very own software engineers, do make a difference. And personally, just having options means a lot to me. I typically frame problems in terms of incentive (if there is a strong enough incentive for doing something, it'll get done -- otherwise it probably won't) and I'm excited about how OSS is capable of fueling that fire. Sure, maybe some of these apps aren't doing much "right now" but at one point Linux wasn't doing much either. Now look at where it's at. That's just one example. The Gimp isn't "all that" in my book, but I sure would prefer to use it (for free) than dishing out hundreds of bucks for more of Adobe's stuff that I probably don't need anyway. It had pretty humble beginnings too...and yes, I realize we're getting off topic again but just a couple more things...

    Apple may be making a conscious decision to *not* include them and crush the small 3rd-party developer...Ultimately Apple doesn't really need to continue updating programs like iChat, iPhoto, et. al. to be cutting edge tools.

    If Apple's incentive becomes strong enough, I'll just go out on a limb and say that they will "crush" any developer that threatens their own applications by integrating whatever features they need to -- it's their responsiblity to their share-holders to do so. Apple is in the money making business, not charity work. I think it's great that they don't scoop up every little developer's project and wrap it up into their own little Cupertino empire, but if their incentive became strong enough to do so in certain circumstances, I don't think they'd even hesitate.

    Besides, it just doesn't make sense to me to think that AIM and all sorts of other chat clients will one day have tabs, but Apple will hold back for fear of crushing a small developer. While I would applaud the self-restraint, the realist in me says that at some point, they're not going to be able to have a state-of-the-art chat client without tabs or a better way of managing multiple sessions at once. Sooner or later, they will do something. Even those these apps are "designed to be given away", I still think that Steve Jobs is anal enough to want them to be the best there is, and that even if that weren't the case, it's still Apple's responsibility to try and make them that way.

    I disagree that simply having alternatives does anything to affect a given market

    I couldn't disagree more, but since you've noted that a lot of what we're talking about didn't have much to do with your original point (which was a good one), I won't bother trying to cook up a discussion about economics here, but I will say that it just seems pretty self-evident to me that having options is always a good thing and that it is usually those options that drive competitiveness in a market -- which drives innovation and creates a win for the consumer.


    Again, your original point quoted at the top of this node is very well taken. A lot of other stuff just came up in our discussion that I thought was interesting enough to continue talking about even though it was "off topic." I obviously find the economics of the software market to be a very interesting topic...
  • Matthew Russell photo Why reinvent the wheel?
    2006-07-30 14:33:16  Matthew Russell | O'Reilly AuthorO'Reilly Blogger [View]

    Hey, I thought some of our discussion was interesting enough that I pulled and merged some of the ideas together into a separate blog entry. I hope you don't mind...

    http://www.oreillynet.com/mac/blog/2006/07/apple_and_oss_re_why_reinvent_1.html
    • Why reinvent the wheel?
      2006-07-30 20:09:33  dogzilla [View]

      Heh. Just opened up my RSS reader and the article was the first item. Cool. And I agree with you - this is an interesting discussion that touches on a bunch of other important (well, I think they're important anyway) points.

      I'm interested to see the comments from others and to bask in my chance to be famous for 15 people.