Why Mac open source gets no respect

Why Mac open source gets no respect

Summary: Why hasn't open source made more of an impact in the Mac universe? Following are some theories.


For a system evolved from a BSD Unix the Mac OS does not get much respect from the open source community.

There are Mac-only programs in the open source firmament. AppleJack is a nice troubleshooting assistant. The XBMC media center . has no counterpart in the Windows world. Fink connects the Mac to the Linux open source mainstream.

NOTE: The XBMC folks write to say that there are versions of their software for both Windows and Linux, as well as the Mac.

But most of the popular Mac open source products out there are familiar to Windows users. These include the Mozilla Foundation's Firefox and Thunderbird, Gimp, and the VLC Media Player.

Why hasn't open source made more of an impact in the Mac universe? Following are some theories. Feel free to add your own, or just heckle:

  1. Mac people are users. As opposed to programmers. When your initial bundle is filled with usable software who needs to go into the code?
  2. Steve wouldn't like that.  Apple is not friendly to open source. Their attitude makes the relationship between Microsoft and open source look like a first-class bromance.
  3. No critical mass. I don't mean there aren't enough Apple users out there, I mean there aren't enough angry ones. Linux people know they're on their own, and Microsoft frustration abounds. Are you an angry Mac user? Do you have any other friends?
  4. No profit in it. A lot of open source effort is driven by the profit motive. How much money can one make in Apple open source?
  5. Apple gets there first. Apple is quite adept at exploiting new niches within its own ecosystem. The capabilities of its operating system are full available in the commercial market.
  6. Mac people are upscale. Since Macs generally cost less than PCs, ownership of a Mac shows you are not a penny pincher. This changes the make-or-buy equation, tipping it strongly to buy.
  7. You're not looking hard enough. There's really a ton of Mac open source out there, but PC-using reporters are too lazy to go look at it.

What would you add to this list?

Topics: Apple, Hardware, Open Source

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  • "Since Macs generally cost less than PCs"

    THEY ARE? Since when?
    And that doesn't jive at all with "Macs are upscale"... and cheaper. Mmmm no.
    • Yes, he needs to clarify this.

      Mac's cost more than white box PCs, but about the same or less than
      a name brand PC with identical specifications like a Dell or HP.
      Upgrading a Cheap PC to Apple's specs tends to cost more than a

      Let's not go into the whole "Total Cost of Ownership" thing. PC's do
      not fare well there. But, it doesn't sound like that is what he was
      talking about.

      The perception is that Macs cost more. Okay, right, I'll buy that if all
      you are looking at is the sticker price. Manintaining the computer is a
      whole other thing.

      Mac's are upscale; they have panache. They are designed for people
      who have no money issues and are just looking for the best.

      That person is also not likely to be a hacker or a tinkerer. In fact,
      Mac's are sold to people who don't know what is inside and would
      never think of cracking the case.
      • Dude... Seriously... Better cut back on that koolaid...

        Macs cost more than a name brand PC with the same level of hardware - same CPU, same RAM, same sized hard drive.

        There's no perception about it. It's cold hard fact. Visit the Mac configurator and then visit Dell.com or hp.com and build an equally configured system and see for yourself.

        • Not always.....

          There have been times when for a brief periods of times that a given
          Macintosh was cheeper vs it's PC match. Not often mind you but there
          have been times when this was true. I prefer Vidration to Kool Aide
          tastes good 0 calories and vitamins.

          Pagan jim
          James Quinn
        • compared a dull......

          Funny, Dell doesn't seem to produce a workstation class machine with
          the new Xeons.

          Even so, comparing a Mac Pro to and equivalent Dell Precision, the
          Mac wins, will be faster thanks to the 5500 series Xeons, has more
          memory and a larger hard drive as standard equipment.

          My company did this comparison when selecting a new workstation
          for me. 2x2.26 quad core, 16GB of ram and 4x1TB drives, beat a
          lower spec Dell by several hundred dollars. OS X Leopard, 2xWindows
          XP, and 2xLinux OSs running simultaneously. Rarely will I max out all
          8 processors (I will max out ram though).
          middle of nowhere
          • Just out of curiosity...

            What sort of work are you doing and what were you using previously?
    • Macs less then PCs?

      Maybe he's talking total cost of ownership? More likely it's just a typo. If you reverse the order the whole paragraph makes sense.
  • Thats what I was saying

    Must have been a typo or this guy is more on the anti-PC side than the truly unbiased reviewer I thought he was at the beginning of the article.

    Stick to the facts man!
  • RE: Why Mac open source gets no respect

    [i]Since Macs generally cost less than PCs, ownership of a Mac shows you are not a penny pincher.[/i]
    Macs were the most expensive last time I've checked.
    There are some other reasons regarding the development platform and access to source code and documentation on the Mac.
    Apple has lots of work to do here to catch up with Linux or even with M$.
    Linux Geek
    • Good catch. I will change it

      I meant more. Sorry about the error.
    • What's missing?

      "There are some other reasons regarding the development platform and
      access to source code and documentation on the Mac."

      Can you give examples? I haven't found source code or documentation
      missing in my work. I've compiled network software, scientific software,
      X11 software, you name it. If it compiles on BSD, it compiles on OS X.
      That's been my experience.

      Maybe you last used OS X when it was in version 10.1 or 10.2.
      • free development tools

        even M$ have some.
        Linux Geek
        • Check out Apple's Developer's Connection

          I don't know if I can post links on this site, but I'll try anyway.

          Free developer memberships are available from this link...


          You want to join the ADC Online Membership.

          ADC membership grants you access to all of Apple's developer tools and
          access to their beta software (for example, Snow Leopard beta was
          available before its release), all for free.
        • XCode...

          Totally free. Comes with the OS.

          Some argue that XCode is not as good as Visual Studio, which is
          absolutely superb - arguably Microsoft's best product - but it works
          well enough, in fact its an extremely good IDE and I agree not quite as
          good as Visual Studio - but better than Visual Studio Express. GCC is
          fully supported and implemented on the platform, along with Java,
          Perl, PHP, tcl, Ruby, SQLite and Python. In fact the Mac platform is
          arguably the best of the lot for developing Ruby and ROR. Of course if
          Eclipse or NetBeans floats your boat, they are available for OS X too.
          The Mac also remains very popular amongst web developers.
    • Up-front or life-of-device costs?

      Mac wins, hands down.


      Oh dear, Apple's lower than the others...

      iMacs include a display, which is of far higher quality than the $400 P.O.S. 24" monitors that can be bought from a big box store. (H-IPS vs TN for panel technology. Apple uses the former, the overhyped P.O.S. monitors all seem to use the latter. The good 24" monitors being via online retailers or the Apple store, sad but true. You get what you pay for, unless they overprice cheap TN garbage...)
      • I like this link better:



        (and not to mention OS X vs Vista, XP, or Win7 and hwich platform can run which OSes... And OS X beats 'em every time, quality-wise.)
      • so it is about value not price but value; a good strategy

        I was a bit confused reading some of the flames here over price/cost as I have always perceived mac to be 'more money'. The lowendmac.com link above says that mac don't do the race-to-the-bottom-on-headline-cost that the PC vendors do. It seems that mac only choose to play at the 'high end'. Thats smart as it is more efficient to shift a smaller high value units than lots of lower value units whilst retaining a 'high end' image than to play for peanuts. So yes there is 'more money' involved but 'better value' which can be seen as 'less cost' if you are out to buy a high end workstation.
  • No counterpart to XBMC?

    There are a ton of Media Center applications for windows, including Windows Media Center, which is fairly adept at just about everything I throw at it.

    I haven't tried XBMC, but after browsing through the site for awhile, it seems to be on par with MCE. I'm always looking for a better media center- is XBMC the bomb and I just don't know it? Does it do a lot of stuff MCE doesn't?
    • I was thinking similar...

      ...that XBMC runs on Windows, too. http://xbmc.org/download/ has a Windows link, and it's not something that directly comes to mind when I think of "Mac Only Software", even OSS. Then again, it took me a few hours to successfully mod my xbox to run it, so I may be a hair jaded.

      To answer your question, as an XBMC user on the original Xbox, it's nice in that it plays virtually every media format available. Also, there's lots of add-on scripts available that add all sorts of additional functionality. MCE is not as adept in this regard, though XBMC doesn't support TV timeshifting like MCE does.

    • Window Media Centre - close but still no cigar

      When I first saw media center on a friends machine I was blown away. Six months later the friend was saying "Well... sometimes it records the right thing, and sometimes it stops half an hour from the end, but it is hit and miss, and I cannot find out how to tell it always to recored an extra 30 minutes just to be sure". So the same old story. I have never owned a mac (iphone aside) and I run ubuntu linux. I expect to have to have to try to work out how to get things to work. Windows friends just expect things to break and to be unfixable. Mac friends just expect things to work and seem to get what they want. So it would appear on face value that windows gives more opportunities for opensource to grow than a mac does.