Yesterday we reported that Linux advocate Leibovitch opined in a ZDNet opinion column that
Apple hasn’t embraced open source software, but is only interested in “what it can extract, both in technology and publicity.”
To say that lots of folks disagree is an understatement. By the way, open source is a term for the historical development model used by the Internet community to facilitate distributed development of complex, high-quality software. The basic principle is to involve as many people as possible in writing and debugging code, by publishing the source code and encouraging the formation of a large community of developers who will submit modifications and enhancements.
David Barrett, CEO of R/com Networks and MediaSchool, told MacCentral that Leibovitch’s argument falls apart immediately. And, as soon as anyone with experience realizes that he hasn’t even read the BSD License, it’s clear the rest of his assumptions hold little, if any water, he added.
“For those people who assume or want to assume that Apple is using Mac OS X to kill Linux, an individual such as Mr. Leibovitch must be looked upon as someone who can part water or assemble all of the animals on the planet two by two, etc.,” Barrett said. “The key purpose of open source is to provide developers with the opportunity to extend the capabilities of the code. Just because nobody pays much of anything, if anything, for Linux doesn’t mean that open source equals free (as in don’t pay for it). On the contrary: the licensing is very specific about what is free and what isn’t. Licenses also refer to extended third and fourth party responsibilities regarding source and access to same.”
Chris Coleman, open source editor for the O’Reilly Network, wrote in an online column that
Apple has given back exactly what was asked of them by the BSD community and that Leibovitch is asking the company to give back more than they’ve taken.
“He wrongly asserts that they haven’t given anything back,” Coleman said. “The Darwin project is an open source project started by Apple to allow the source code for the project to be available to the community. The code they have taken is made available via the Darwin project. They also have paid developers working on the project, which in my opinion is giving back to the community. However, that wasn’t what was asked for by the BSD license.”
The license is designed to allow a piece of software to become a standard and be used in proprietary software, without requiring anything except recognition, he said. And Apple has done that and more, he added.
“Apple has used BSD software to create their product and they have openly recognized the fact,” Coleman said. “They have gone one step further by making the code available via the Darwin Project, which is an official Apple project. While, it would be nice if Apple went even further and open sourced some of their other components, we can’t require it of them just because we want it. The accusations that Apple isn’t giving back seems unfair in light of the agreement they signed and just designed to scare people into using the GPL, a license that forces its creator to make compromises in order to make the software ‘free.'”
In an online Slashdot interview, Robert Watson, FreeBSD and TrustedBSD developer,
praised Apple’s work. Mac OS X’s Darwin is based on FreeBSD. Slashdot asked, “How good a member of the open source movement has Apple been? Have they contributed anything back to the FreeBSD project?”
Watson’s reply: “The easy answer is that Apple is involved in the open source community, and appears to be strongly committed to releasing their own software as open source, and contributing changes back to other projects whose software they use. Clearly, they’re fairly embroiled in their upcoming release process at this point, but I’d expect more news on this front in the future. They’ve had a strong presence at various technical conferences, including the BSD Conference in Monterey last year, and they’re helping to sponsor and are participating in the Open Packages project.”
And in Linux Today, Eric Raymond doesn’t defend Apple, but does
offer his take on Microsoft’s view of the open source movement. He said that open source “threatens” Microsoft’s money in the bank, but “the far more important asset of over 90 percent desktop market share and tight control of its customer base through proprietary lock-ins.”
“It’s that lock-in, that control of customers, that is what open source threatens most,” Raymond wrote. “With open source, customers can have real choices; they don’t need to be locked into a perpetually more expensive upgrade treadmill, they can own and inspect and modify the software they depend on, they can have real security because they can know exactly what’s running on their machines. That choice is the fundamental threat to Microsoft’s business model, and it’s the reason they’re getting clobbered by Linux in the server market (every month, more Linux installations come up on web servers alone than in Microsoft’s entire Windows 2000 customer base).”
It’s not just individual open-source projects like Linux and Apache Microsoft has to defeat, but the open-source way of thinking about software, he added.
And Microsoft certainly lived up to Raymond’s predictions when Craig Mundie, senior vice president of the world’s largest software company, blasted the open source philosophy as impractical for businesses like Microsoft in a major address at New York University, and pushed Microsoft’s own more limited ”Shared Source” partnering approach. According to a Daily News article, he said that
freely distributed, open source software poses a threat to commercial intellectual property rights.
“Fundamentally, the thing that informs our choice is this belief in protecting our intellectual property,” Mundie said. “The really big difference is there’s not as much focus (in open source models) … that you have to make a business out of this.”
Mundie’s speech, heralded as a major position statement, blasted the open source movement “using more forceful language than the typically ambiguous, jargon-filled phrasings of software industry executives,” according to Daily News. He described the open software movement as “flimsy” and ”flawed,” jeopardizing property rights and threatening to undermine the software industry, a key economic growth engine. What’s more, open source software creates greater dangers of security risks, software instability and incompatibility and could force valuable corporate intellectual property into public hands, Mundie said.