I recently had a conversation with an avid Mac enthusiast that swore up-and-down to me that Apple was a knight in shining armor for the Open Source movement.
While his arguments were very weak, it got me thinking: What is the impact of Apple and the Mac OSX on the adoption of Open Source software? More specifically, is Apple a supporter of open source, a staunch opponent, or somewhere in-between?
It turns out, the answer was much simpler than I thought it would be. Apple is decidedly an opponent of open source.
Before the flame wars begin, please allow me to walk you through my logic. I will present to you all of the evidence that I found -- decide afterward if you agree with me. Also, I'm not an anti-mac guy -- I think they've created a fantastic operating system with a well-thought-out marketing campaign. I just wanted to set the record straight for those that think Apple is beneficial to Open Source operating systems.
Point 1: Apple does not make ITunes available to open source operating systems.
Normally, this wouldn't be a big deal. However, the use of some of Apple's other products, namely the IPod, require the use of the of ITunes. I ran into this problem when my wife bought me an engraved IPod Nano for Christmas. The iPod requires ITunes to sync music, photos, and videos to the device, but when I went to find ITunes on Linux, there was nothing to be had. Apple is, in effect, forcing me to use a commercial operating system if I want to use the device I purchased from them.
Why doesn't Apple provide a version of ITunes for free operating systems? The argument from Apple is that there is not a demand for the Apple IPod among Linux users, however a recent online petition requesting that Apple port ITunes to Linux has gotten over 17,000 signatures at the time of this writing (http://www.petitiononline.com/mod_perl/signed.cgi?itmslin).
Others (http://www.psychocats.net/ubuntucat/wake-up-call-apple-wont-port-itunes-to-linux-2/) have made the argument that there would be no benefit to Apple porting ITunes to Linux in any respect. The main argument is that most Linux users are moving away from IPods anyway, since they are so limited in functionality (no radio, microphone, etc).
However, from a personal standpoint, the limitation in features is precisely the reason I chose the IPod to begin with. I work in a restricted area where devices with radio or recording capabilities are illegal, and the IPod fits the bill nicely. Additionally, the argument that Linux users are switching to other devices because of the lack of support (really, the lack of ITunes) emphasizes the need for an ITunes port.
Point 2: Apple IPhone development requires you to use a MAC
The IPhone SDK is only available on the MAC platform. Many people use IPhones, including open source enthusiasts and developers. Apple is removing people's operating system choices by forcing its developers to purchase a MAC if they want to do any development for the IPhone.
I can understand that Open Source operating systems compete with Apple's MAC OSX, and I can understand not wanting to make their software available to the open source community. However, limiting development of applications for the IPhone to only those that can afford (or want to use) to use MAC OSX (which requires them to purchase a new computer entirely) stifles the open source development of IPhone applications.
I argue that these practices are in place with the explicit purpose of alienating the Free Software community, not supporting it. Supporters of Apple can sometimes reach cult status, often defending their beloved operating system beyond logic.
Can any of my readers think of an instance in which Apple has been beneficial to Open Source software, or the development of it?