Why Apple snubs its open source geeks

Tom Yager argues how unfair is for Apple to close their kernel’s source after being open for years.

You all know that I am no one’s fangirl, but I will have to stand beside Apple on this one: Apple made a concious choice in 1998 to use FreeBSD’s code to enhance NeXTSTEP’s own Mach kernel and create Mac OS X. If Apple didn’t want to have a business choice of closing their code at some time in the future, they would have gone with Linux or QNX. But no, they had consiously chosen FreeBSD and the BSD license, which is a business-friendly license.

“But, but, but what about the coders?” I hear… Well, what about them? Apple is a business first and foremost and then a charity or a bolster of democracy. They have an obligation to their shareholders before anyone else. And if the closing of their kernel means less piracy in the x86 world, then so be it.

It sucks for some open source developers, but let’s face it: very few outside of Apple enhanced that code or had a practical use for it. Instead, that Intel-based open code was used more to HACK it and PIRATE OSX than to actually ENHANCE it. It is on the best interest of Apple and its shareholders for this code to be closed until Apple actually uses a DRM chip on their hardware that can’t be easily hacked or emulated.

I just hope that some academic and high-end projects can get that code if required, after a special license. Sun Solaris was licensed under such terms and its full source code was given away to companies (long before it became officially open source) that needed to modify it for their purposes, for the right price: $100,000.

Post a comment »

JBQ wrote on June 14th, 2006 at 10:48 AM PST:

Microsoft also used to grant source licenses of Windows 95 and Windows NT to their closest partners, and they probably still do for Windows XP.


Thom Holwerda wrote on June 14th, 2006 at 11:35 AM PST:

I have a different view about this. I don’t care about Apple closing it (it’s their right), but what bothers me is how Apple is still advertising the OS as being open-source, while it clearly is not. THAT bothers me.


This is the admin speaking...
Eugenia wrote on June 14th, 2006 at 11:42 AM PST:

OSX’s guts are still open for the Power PC line. And it’s also open for the x86, except the kernel. That would make OSX’s guts about 75% open overall — for both platforms. But when thinking of the whole OSX, OSX was never more than 25% open.

In other words, you, the average user and even average programmer, didn’t lose much over this change: OSX was never a truly open platform to begin with. It has some open source code, but in its entirety is a closed OS. It always was.

The rest is just Apple marketing blah-blah. We already know about their marketing lies, these are well-known to the world, but don’t confuse this valid decision made by management with the crap their marketing department is spitting all the time.


Jonathan Thompson wrote on June 15th, 2006 at 1:51 AM PST:

Effectively, by using the NeXT code base, they made that open/closed source code decision back when they decided to go with NeXT, and that was/is completely within their legal and moral right to choose at any time to no longer release any details, or all details of their changes.

As to them buying Be and using BeOS, the reality (even as much as I’m working on a major project for the OS) is that BeOS at that time (and even now) wasn’t nearly as capable of a total solution as NeXT was, and had and still has huge holes in it, and isn’t as stable when pushed to the limits as many people would have you believe. For example, there’s the VM and memory protection: were you aware that to this day, all versions of BeOS allow any BeOS process to do whatever it wants with the memory areas of any other process, including the kernel? That’s right: you can delete any area of the kernel or any other process from any process, meaning that if an application deliberately or by bug happens to call delete_area() with the ID of a kernel area, the OS will demonstrate just how fast your hardware can reboot! I’d be very surprised if NeXT (the OS: I know the DSP had to be programmed very carefully to keep it from going up in flames) was ever released with gaping holes like that.

In addition to the relative incompleteness at the time, there are a number of things of curious origin within the codebase that would have possibly caused them some licensing issues, though how much of the code at the time Apple was contemplating whether to Be or not to Be existed at the time, is an unknown, so if they had built off of BeOS, they still wouldn’t have been open, and would have likely been even more closed source than they have been.


Thom Holwerda wrote on June 15th, 2006 at 11:59 AM PST:

They should’ve just bought Be :) . Negating the fact Gassée was going all mental and megalomaniac, of course ;) .


stew wrote on June 15th, 2006 at 12:23 PM PST:

Apple made a concious choice in 1998 to use FreeBSD’s code to enhance NeXTSTEP’s own Mach kernel and create Mac OS X.

I might be wrong, but as far as I know, NextStep did use BSD code long before it was sold to Apple, so it wasn’t Apple’s decision.


This is the admin speaking...
Eugenia wrote on June 15th, 2006 at 12:24 PM PST:

More (newer) (Free)BSD code was used when Apple got hold of NeXTSTEP. They replaced as much as they could with it. The rest, remained Mach (which used very old bits of BSD code).


Comments are closed as this blog post is now archived.

Lines, paragraphs break automatically. HTML allowed: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>

The URI to TrackBack this blog entry is this. And here is the RSS 2.0 for comments on this post.