What’s Your Apple Made Of?

Brian Christiansen

May 29th, 2007

What’s under your software’s hood? Whether your developing for the desktop or the web, could you be borrowing more? Simson Garfinkel’s piece “The ‘New’ Apple” in the MIT Technology Review points out:

Unlike most of its hardware and software rivals, Apple has eagerly used open standards and open-source software to develop–ironically enough–a system that combines proprietary hardware with proprietary software. Apple’s iCal was one of the first widely available desktop calendar programs to adopt the iCalendar standard; Apple embraced iCalendar so early that many people mistakenly thought Apple had invented it.

Being so intimately familiar with Apple myself, sometimes I forget than many people may not know how involved in open-source software Apple is. It has a reputation for being proprietary, but since the return of Steve Jobs, UNIX and other open-source projects have become a staple upon which Apple innovates.

All this borrowing is completely legal, and the result is that Apple is able to direct more of its R&D dollars to developing distinguishing technology, since it doesn’t have to spend as much on the “plumbing” of today’s information infrastructure. That directly benefits customers by lowering Apple’s cost of innovation. It also benefits Apple’s third-party developers by making Macintosh development not all that different from Linux development, which is generally regarded as a lot easier than developing software for Microsoft Windows.

If you’re curious how much they are leveraging this, Apple’s produced a 20-page PDF on the topic of open-source and UNIX in Mac OS X 10.4 (Tiger). Expect more in 10.5 (Leopard) this October.

Could you free up some resources by using more pre-fab plumbing in your product?

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