Apple & FreeBSD relationship

Daniel Staal DStaal at
Thu Mar 10 15:56:33 UTC 2011

On Thu, March 10, 2011 8:51 am, Tom Worster wrote:
> i think it's deeper than that. they know what they are doing.
> back at the beginning, os x was great. finally a decent, user-friendly gui
> on top of a decent unix-like thing, which, oh joy, felt like bsd. for
> years, apple improved os x and did some oss work. e.g. webkit is decent
> stuff. life was good. ms word in this window, terminal in that one, mysql,
> perl,
> then the iphone and the disaster of not having an sdk ready (other than
> mobile safari) happened. they wised up and everything changed.
> with ios apple has a strategy to get away from all that openness. they are
> steering developers away from the web and portable web apps. so they are
> backpedaling on safari and os x as best they can. if they can dominate in
> mobile hardware for a while longer they may achieve some serious api
> lock-in. then we will be in trouble. it is the same strategy ms used after
> they won the browser war with netscape -- they backpedaled on IE, got very
> deep windows api lock in, and made a load of money.

There's another business reason for it as well, I think:

When OS X first came out, Apple was a serious underdog.  Nearly out of the
game entirely, really.  That openness helped them by lowering the
cost-to-entry of products, and bringing in any product that already
supported the standards.  Building on open-source technologies also meant
they could pick up something that was pre-written, and well-tested.

So they got goodwill, a cheap product, and support from third-parties. 
All of which were vitally important to a company that was battling for
it's life against Microsoft.

Now they have recovered, and are a solid contender on the desktop on their
own, as well as being the undisputed leader in mobile computing. 
(iPhone/iPad level mobile, though even their laptops have a greater
marketshare than their desktops do.)  The only one of those reasons that
still really applies is goodwill: They already have their product, and
third-parties will always try to support the dominant force in the market.
 (Because that's where their customers are.)  Openness in many ways is now
a threat: It means that someone who can create a new system that supports
the open standards can grab all of Apple's customers easily.  Proprietary
lock-in is a better bet, as it means that the customers they have will be
less likely to leave.  It becomes a pain for them to transfer their stuff
out of the proprietary ecosystem.

This is actually a typical cycle, both in the industry and for Apple
itself.  The Apple II series was fairly open, and the Mac series was more
closed and closed off further until Apple realized they'd gotten
themselves in a bad position.  Then they opened up again with OS X.  To
me, at least, it was fully expected.  Apple produces awesome, open
products, when they have less than 40% or so marketshare.  (Extremely
random number there.)  Above that level of marketshare, their products are
usually awesome, but closed, and the awesomeness may or may not be
something you use/want.

Daniel T. Staal

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