4 reasons why Apple is not criticized by Linux / Open Source proponents

On Wednesday the 26th of August 2009, the Free Software Movement launched the Windows7sins site. This was just days before Apple released its Snow Leopard OS, prompting a lot of criticisms from some corners of the blogosphere  that the FSF is giving Apple a free ride. I simply disagree with such criticisms for the following four reasons.
Reason 1 – Mac OS X is Open Source
Mac OS X is  in full conformity with Unix OS and is built on Mach 3.0 and FreeBSD 5 comprising over a 100 Open Source products. Besides major components of Mac OS X, including the core UNIX, are made available under Appleā€™s Open Source license, allowing developers and students to view source code, learn from it and submit suggestions and modifications. Can anyone of those leveling criticisms against the FSF confidently say that about Microsoft? This alone is enough reason to give Apple a breathing space when it comes to Open Source! I don’t think I can say that about Microsoft and their Windows OS. 
Reason 2 – Size
There is no sense in wasting limited resources trying to fight Apple when they have just a small fraction of the OS market share. Microsoft is the world’s dominant computer software vendor and as such makes sense to fight them. Why spend time fighting someone closer to you in size and market share when the two of you have a much larger “enemy” in common?
Reason 3 – Choice
I have more choice when it comes to Apple than Microsoft. Anyone that buys the hugely expensive Mac computers is consciously choosing to use Mac OS X. This is because Apple manufactures its own hardware and as such has every right to preinstall it with their own OS. But Microsoft is just a software vendor that has used its dominant market share to get OEMs to preinstall their machines with Windows. This gives little choice to end users who purchase such systems. 90% of the time, you always have only one choice of OS when you buy a new non Apple computer- Windows. Why should such a situation not be fought against?
Reason 4 Attitude
The attitudes of both Microsoft and Apple towards the Open Source movement are two worlds apart. Apple actively contributes to and respects that Open Source movements. Microsoft on the other hand, treats the Open Source movement with disdain and spits on them at any given opportunity. There is more here and here about Apples’ approach to the Open Source world.

Apple has its bad sides no doubt, but being an active Linux and Open Source proponent, I am inclined to judge Apple solely on its treatment of the FOSS movement and nothing else.

There are many other reasons why Linux / Open Source proponents do not waste time bashing Apple like they do Windows, but I am just restricting myself to these four basic reasons. 
Do you think Open Source/ Linux proponents should actively chase after Apple? Share your thoughts.

9 Replies to “4 reasons why Apple is not criticized by Linux / Open Source proponents”

  1. Yeah, Apple's open enough to close the iTunes store to only Windows and Mac users and make each iteration of their iPod have to be re-engineered to work in something other than Apple and Windows.

    And Windows is only done because they have the largest market share.

    Real open. At least Google has worked at providing their applications to Linux through the use of Wine. Not ideal, but at least it's an effort.

    Apple is just smaller and is a fellow "against the man" as Linux. Other than that, it's just another proprietary company trying to become a monopoly.

  2. I agree wholeheartedly with the previous comment. In many ways, Apple is just a "smaller Microsoft". Not as bad as the Redmon guys, and the BSD thing is a good example of it, but close enough for me to criticise Apple.

  3. @drew,@victor i agree with both of you. But the point is MS has done more to setback the open source movement than Apple has. Again despite all the genuine points you raised, Apple still is more open to FOSS than MS in the current context

  4. "Apple uses software created by the Open Source community, such as the HTML rendering engine for Safari, and returns its enhancements to the community."

    "uses software created by the Open Source community"

    Doesn't say much about going the other way. Wouldn't this master of marketing also tout the open source projects and contributions as well?

    I wish I had some reference to point to, but I seem to remember when Apple worked with KDE on the Webkit and KHTML, there was a backlash afterwards that they took the work from the KDE group and left without providing anything back to the community.

    Apple took from BSD, but did they give anything back to BSD? Is there anything that BSD can say "apple gave it to them"?

    Apple's position is more because from people going anti-Microsoft than Apple giving back to the community.

    Apple will use the Webkit and KHTML in Safari, but where is Safari for Linux?

    Apple is only including non-DRM music through iTunes because of business reasons. Otherwise your choices for playing DRM music is via iTunes which is already mentioned to be Mac and Windows only.

    Apple Quicktime is proprietary and cannot be played on a Linux system legally without using something like Fluendo, illegal codecs or while living in a country that doesn't recognize USA Patent laws.

    Apple has never released any drivers or anything that would allow Linux users to use even older iPod/iPhones, they have had to be reverse-engineered every time a new version comes out.

    Microsoft provides a greater choice in hardware and software. While Apple slaps lawsuits on anybody that wants to run Apple on anything other than an overpriced box they sold.

    Microsoft applied the Community Promise patent licensing to the ECMA C# and ECMA CLI standards. This allows the use of C# in Mono (an open source project) which provides the ability to run .NET code on Windows, Linux AND Macs.

    So which open source Apple projects are you using right now and is there a version available for my platform?

    Apple is popular with open source primarily because they are not Microsoft OR because of the quality of their hardware, not because of their contributions.

  5. One reason I do not despise Apple but do MS is because we are all forced to pay for MS even if we not use it ourselves.

    Ever time I pay my taxes a percentage of this is giving to Microsoft (not apple) through schools, hospitals (bearing in mind that recently hospitals in England have been grounded due to Windows Viruses) and the military – http://www.loosewireblog.com/2009/01/virus-hits-british-defences.html

    At least if our taxes went to a Linux company the benefits would help the whole software industry rather than one company that produces the worst software (hoverer it can play games…)

  6. "Again despite all the genuine points you raised, Apple still is more open to FOSS than MS in the current context"

    Sorry to disagree again. While this is true, "not as bad" doesn't mean "good", no way, so we shouldn't give Apple a free ride.

  7. Sorry guys, but if you say Apple's size is small, you are dead wrong. Dead wrong.

    First, Apple's market share in MP3 player is anything but small, and MP3 player is growing to importance these days. I remember once (in a rather distant past, when iPod was still not working well with GNU/Linux), I tried to convert my sister to GNU/Linux. When she asked if GNU/Linux can work with her iPod, I stumbled (I did not, and still don't, have an iPod to know), and she flatly refused. That's great hinder.

    Secondly, Apple is the "proof" that "proprietary works AND is necessary". Why does Microsoft support Mac OS (in form of MS Office and, earlier, IE)? Because Apple is hallmark of proprietary. Microsoft seeks to be "cheaper and more business Apple". That's their relationship. By supporting Apple, Microsoft nurtures the myth of the importance of proprietary. Don't believe me? Try to see how people "compare" Mac OS and GNU/Linux, and say things along the line that "Mac is art, Linux (no GNU, of course) is nerdy". Of course, any person with working memory knows that Apple steals. But (big but), the media play along, and Apple is always the innovator.

    Lastly, the mindshare of Apple is enormous. What they command is not finance (Microsoft command that) but trends, which is much much more effective as a weapon. Microsoft is, of course, very comfortable with following the trends, but FOSS is another story. If we follow the trends, we will immediately be labelled as "stealing" ideas and being "communist" and whatnots. This trend-setter position also provides Apple with very powerful place in the media which they don't have to pay for. That's another deadly weapon.

    In conclusion, Apple is like the military. It is "small" because either it is not in mainstream radar or people choose to ignore it. However, the power it has it enormous, way larger than Microsoft. Let's be serious now.

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