I thought I would use this blog entry to address the many excellent comments to my previous blog entry on Apple moving away from computing and turning into Sony with a design sensibility. A quick note of policy, I welcome all comments and I try to have a thick skin. I write what I want to write, not what I think will create controversy or provoke anger. Now to the comments.
Firstly, Anonymous wrote “IT IS NOT THE BUSINESS THAT APPLE IS IN. They make their money selling hardware, and they do it well enough for me to invest my money in.” Well said and I think you are right, Free Software is not the business they are in. But so much software these days is built on top of Free Software, or software covered under the GPL, that most software companies should be in it. It leverages work already done. Why did Apple try to hire Linus Torvalds if they are not in the software business? Presumably it was to work on the kernel, so Apple really is in the kernel development business.
Many people mentioned that a final descision has not been made on the kernel sources for the Intel architecture. This is of course true and I am grateful to readers for pointing this out. Still, if something is not open, it is closed, whatever its future status may be.
More than one comment implied that I was at fault for claiming that Apple will lose certain “real” developers. fryke said “And saying that “real” developers won’t touch a platform with a closed-source kernel is both pretentious and ignorant, but more importantly: A very closed-minded view.” I apologize if I appeared pretentious, ignorant and closed-minded, that was not how I wanted to appear. I maintain that there is a significant number of people who hack on kernel source, for a variety of reasons. What about printer vendors? They have become familiar with GPL restrictions and seem to be much more friendly to that particular license, they see the growth of linux as a positive thing, certainly HP does, so there is a constituency that would use kernel sources and most likely welcome the source code. I also maintain that it is more open-minded want Free Software to remain free.
Readers raised an issue with MySQL and the Mach kernel. This is something that appears to have a long history. You’ll get some interesting comments from MySQL guru Jeremy Zawodny if you google “FreeBSD kernel MySQL.” But I want to include a link for my critics who state I lack evidence; to wit, a link to the FreeBSD-performance mailing list from April 2006 to which I subscribe: http://lists.freebsd.org/pipermail/freebsd-performance/2006-April/thread.html
A quick look at that list will show some remaining issues with the implementation of threads in FreeBSD versus Linux and the way that MySQL takes advantage of Linux threading.
Some readers informed me it was old news to say Apple is a consumer electronics company. Maybe I was niave to think that the switch to the Mach kernel, GNU and FreeBSD tools would make Apple a serious contender for the attention of developers. I may have been fooled by the supercomputer built in West Virginia from Apple hardware. And I may have been fooled by Apple itself when they state - ” These powerful additions to the modern, UNIX-based foundation make Mac OS X Tiger the most advanced operating system available.”
No, I frankly do not buy the argument that Apple has always been a consumer electronics company. Most consumer electronics companies have no idea about computers and operating systems. That is why Apple can crush Sony in the mp3 player market - they get the idea that you can use computers to hook up the selling and playing of music into one networked interface. Sony doesn’t get that.
When Apple itself bases its “most advanced operating system available” on Free Software, it should realize the importance of maintaing a healthy and open developer community based on, and often in proportion to, its contribution. That is why I say again that Apple must make a firmer commitment to Free Software and support the developer community that helps refine the many tools that Apple uses in it operating system, including the Intel kernel.