Apple – Friend or Foe?

Apple is the hot topic at the moment – chang to Intel, success with iPod, etc.
And everyone talks about Apple as it would be the nice version of Microsoft – I don’t get, why, I must admit, so let’s have a look:

Sure, there is Darwin – it’s the core of their operating system, and it is real open source – if you take your own desktop environment, you are able to build your own distribution based on this core. This is a nice step, and one reason why several people address Apple as a half open source company.
I think that’s a little bit to much.

Sure, one of the ideas of open source is to give back code, to provide it to the masses – Apple does that, and they does it in other projects, too. Their safari web browser, for example is based on KDE technology – and there is a code exchange going on. But here is the first shadow: the code exchange was there, but it wasn’t in a way which was friendly to several developers. A lot of people grumbled about how Apple provided the new code, and the situation didn’t change until some developers raised their voice and pointed out that Apple was acting bad – they were acting legal, but bad.

And back to Darwin: they prodive code, and it is the operating core code. But there is nothing provided which deals with the main desktop environment – that part which makes MacOS so special. Sure, they don’t have to – but than don’t refer to them as some kind of nice open source company which is so much better than Microsoft – even Microsoft released some code (applications, management tools, etc.) as real open source code, and even Microsoft has a lot of Open Source licences.

But I want to point the main focus on another spot: something which is not even Open Source, but just acting friendly: file formats. Apple uses closed file formats only – only!

  • Their whole office suite uses proprietry file formats. Their are proprietary companies which are using the open document format for their own office suites, or at least provide import and export filters. Not Apple’s iWorks, that has to be proprietary. I don’t ask them to support odt actively, but it would be a first step to make interoperabilitys easier. Nope, they don’t. In this case, they even miss the chance to get part of the growing rebellion against Microsoft.
  • Their multimedia stuff is not only completly proprietary, it is also without any support for open file formats. Try to open a ogg vorbis file somewhere in iTunes – hm? What about Quicktime and ogg theora – surprise, surprise, it doesn’t work.
  • Their iPod domination is even worse than everthing Microsoft ever provided. WMA is evil, yes, but Apples stuff i worse. If you are a competitor, and have a lot of money, you can implement WMA support in you technical device. Try that with Apple’s audio file format.

And, yes, I know that it is easy to add all this stuff with extra software – but that’s also easy for Windows users.

My point is: Apple does behave in some small areas better than Microsoft, but that’s it. The big, important areas like file support, file standards and interoperability are exactly solved like in the Microsoft World: proprietary file formats, no support at all for open file formats, and, btw., no support at all for Linux users.

So, if the next person wants to convince you that Apple is nice and Microsoft is evil – ask him or her why, and try to get more information than “they have their core open sourced”. Since after this argument there will be no more arguments for a nice Apple, just for a Apple which is acting similar as Microsoft does.

Finally, what I also don’t get is that Apple is doing all this stuff like that: where is the harm for them to support open file formats, especially odt? Why don’t they provide import- and export filters (mark: I’m not talking about building around the file format, I’m just talking about im- and export), just to make sure that they help to battle the Microsoft domination in the world office market.
I have no idea why they do not want to use these possibilities. Probably it is because they have a firendly realtionship with Microsoft, and they don’t want to damage this. Probably because they aim to just replace Microsoft and behave like Microsoft did. I don’t know.

But from all possibilities I wasn’t able to figure out one which let Apple appear in a good light. :-/


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