Eclipse Ecosystem

A blog devoted to promoting the Eclipse ecosystem

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Why do people I respect like Apple so much ?

I honestly can't think of any organization in history that has been more closed, proprietary, controlling and just outright evil than Apple.

Why do many people I respect in the Open Source community have Apple hardware? Why do they seem so gleeful when bragging about having and using Apple products?

I'm clearly missing something. Please enlighten me.

- Don


  • At 12:12 PM, Blogger Kyle Adams said…

    "Closed" and "proprietary" may be different ways of saying that Apple controls the complete stack, whether it be iPod -> iTunes or Mac -> MacOS X. By tightly integrating the software and the hardware (which can have the side results of said software/hardware being closed/proprietary), Apple is able to really focus on boosting user productivity.

    People like Apple because Apple's products let them get stuff done. It seems like you're focusing on the how ("evil" tactics) to the exclusion of the end results (getting the job done). Are you an idealist or the pragmatic sort?

  • At 12:23 PM, Blogger Lucio said…

    Hi I'm an italian Java programmer,
    I was a Linux and an Open Source fanatics for 15years and I wish to tell you my experience...
    Last year I bought an MacBook Pro (I choose it because was the only under 2kg laptop with the chipset for hardware virtualization). My idea was.. keep the macbook try OSX and after 1 or 2 h of funny mount Linux... but.. surbprise.... OSX works fine!! Is not windowz that after 10min make me crazy! It is an FreeBSD with a nice graphics... I always prefer KDE look but OSX is easy and I give it anoter chance!
    Now after 1year (more or less) I'm an Apple guy! All I need can run on OSX and yes! Apple is a closed company but his software and hardware is better than other closed company and on the side it software and hardware is not so "hard" close. :)

    So I like Apple very much!


  • At 12:35 PM, Blogger Donald Smith said…

    @Kyle -- I am not an idealist, far from it. But at LinuxWorld a few weeks ago I saw lots of people flogging MSFT et al for being closed and proprietary whilst bragging about their new iPhone.

    I don't get it.

    - Don

  • At 1:03 PM, Blogger EJCorreia said…

    If it's closed and proprietary, but it WORKS (ala Apple), it's no big deal. But if it's closed and proprietary and DOESN'T work (ala Microsoft), it is a big deal.

    Most software makers have (finally) caught on to the idea that that you need consistency (of interface) from one app to another to maximize productivity. That's just one of the MANY, MANY things that Apple pioneered, starting with the first Mac in 1984.

    What else is common today that Apple pioneered? CD ROM drives, in-line memory, SCSI, the serial bus, FireWire, peer-to-peer networking and printer sharing, affordable desktop publishing, computers in education, Ethernet and wireless Ethernet as standard equipment, the all-in-one computer, PostScript and the portable document format, the list goes on and on and on.

    Apple users share a proud heritage.

  • At 1:17 PM, Blogger fabrizio giudici said…

    "If it's closed and proprietary, but it WORKS (ala Apple), it's no big deal. But if it's closed and proprietary and DOESN'T work (ala Microsoft), it is a big deal. "

    Clever statement, but needs some more clarification. "Open" means a lot of things other than FLOSS. Mac OS X for me is open enough because, as a general purpose operating system, I can install and run on it a lot of things. OTOH the iPhone is f**ing close and I can't install what I want, so I see as a big regression in the smartphone world, not an innovation - so I would never buy one.

    PS OTOH, after two years of Mac OS X, I'm starting to be disappointed. We're having Java 6 with one year of delay; and Linux is around 50% faster in compiling projects (I've done some benchmarking).

  • At 1:41 PM, Blogger AlBlue said…

    When I ran my own business, we had Linux servers. They're rock solid, dependable and lots of other things ending in -able.

    But the client sucked. Worse, the client applications sucked even more. Random tweaks to /etc files, not being able to start the right resolutions, and the fact that each application looks and behaves slightly differently are just some of the examples. No-one in their right mind would describe GIMP as a usable tool; powerful perhas, but not usable.

    On the other hand, Mac (like its predecessor beforehand) has consistent applications. They look the same, behave the same, act the same. Actual, real, attention has been paid to how the user operates with the application instead of "Oooh! Ctrl+X+7 hasn't been used yet; let's use that as a keystroke!".

    Drag-and-drop between applications just works. System-wide frameworks for spelling, speech, printing; all of it's there in the base classes. (Sadly, Eclipse doesn't use those since it's based on the antiquated Carbon.)

    I bought a Mac when 10.0 came out, and since then, Macs have been edging out Linux, both on the desktop and on the server. The clients because They Just Work; the servers for simplicity (though I've got no real objection to Linux on the server; in fact, the main reason I left Linux is because the box got rooted with a zero-day exploit).

    As I've grown older, I've got less and less interest in tinkering to make things work. I just like to plug'n'go. Linux is (was?) too draining, like an adolescent child with 'wanna wanna wanna' in order to get going.

    On the flip side, the Mac hardware works without needing to do anything; and you don't get all that crap that comes with Windows.

    There are also some nice features that Mac has that Linux doesn't; not that are in-your-face features that you couldn't live without, but useful none the less, like the ability to zoom into a particular area on the screen or the ability to close all windows of an application in a single go. I wouldn't buy it *because* of those, but it certainly makes the experience more pleasant.

    And then there's interaction with the Terminal, where if you want to, you can do everything you can on Linux anyway. There's also things that work between, like the ability to script applications with AppleScript (the same language for all apps, rather than one-per-application if it's even available on Linux apps) as well as command line tools like 'open' and 'pbcopy' which let you switch back and forth between them.

    In summary; it's not a political statement, it's a usability one. But each to their own, and I've got nothing against Linux. In terms of Stuff Just Works, I've saved the one-off cost of the laptop with the time saved many times over since I started using Macs.

  • At 3:00 PM, Blogger Chris Aniszczyk (zx) said…

    Don, I think part of it is marketing. I think Apple has this saintly image that they can shit a brick and people would use it.

    The brand loyalty is amazing, it's almost cult-like.

  • At 4:37 PM, Blogger Kelsin said…

    Recently a new job gave me the opportunity to try OS X in a productivity setting. I hated it, and now I'm back with Linux. If OS X let me control windows with the keyboard better I'd be better with it. If they didn't use the command key instead of control it wouldn't screw with my windows and linux settings, but it does.

    So I'm back on Linux! I admit that apple's UI lets you "get stuff done" faster than windows in many ways, but to truly get stuff done you have to use applications that let you do things your way. I spend all day in emacs and bash, and I'd like to think my productivity is great.

    The bottom line for me is Apple has the worst performance/buck ratio in the business. I can't ever see myself buying a mac simply cause I won't ever want to bypass the better computing power I can get from other places.

  • At 5:24 PM, Blogger Daniel Beck said…

    I think, many people use Apple's product because they believe that these products make them look trendy, alternative and professional. Many students at my university are able to speak several hours about the ipod (hu!)

    I used linux & osX quite a lot, and I had not the impression that working with the one or the other augmented my productivity.

    Furthermore, I think Vista, or a well configured Linux (like Ubuntu), looks as good as osX.

  • At 5:49 PM, Blogger Evan Hughes said…

    As Daniel and Chris said, marketing is a big part of it. If a crappy knock-off brand came up with an MP3 player that didn't have a display, only allowed fast-forward, rewind, and random, nobody would care. Because Apple has a well spun brand, sucke^H^H^H^H^H consumers couldn't wait to pay for it.

    I suspect having a sexy UI helps, but, as always, that's secondary to the hype.


  • At 5:57 PM, Blogger Fabio Mancinelli said…

    I would like to ask you a question... Have you ever tried OSX for more than 1h?

    I switched from Linux to OSX one year ago and I've found it really a perfect match.

    It's a BSD so you don't have to leave the "UNIX way". Applications show an impressive level of consistency and everything works and can be found where expected.

    Simplicity drives the whole ecosystem. That's a +.

    Moreover don't forget that developer tools are free. This gives access to all the proprietary frameworks and gives you the opportunity to develop from day 0. And let me tell you... Cocoa is amazing. A real masterpiece of software engineering.

    The developer community around OSX is driven by other forces (shareware-like products are commonplace) but it is a very active and helpful community nevertheless.

    Last but not least, Apple controls all the details, from hardware to software. No surprises that things work better and almost flawlessly. So it's a pleasure to use this platform because you don't have to fight with configurations/tricks/hacks and so on.

    Finally, Apple really cares about user-experience and this is reflected in every pixel of what is shown on the screen. It's no surprise that all the software produced for this platform tries to follow the same guidelines.The result is a great platform.

    I think that opensource could learn some lessons about software quality by looking at Apple and its community, including the opensource one.

    Masterpieces as Adium, TextMate and many of the applications listed in are miles away from their equivalents.

    Maybe Eclipse too should take a bit of inspiration in order to polish its interface and become a better product.

    All IMHO, of course :)


  • At 8:04 PM, Blogger Brad Reynolds said…

    Brand loyalty is important but it can't describe the level of adoption, especially of developers. If it doesn't work developers aren't going to be productive and will eventually move away from the platform. So there's got to be a reason...

    >"Why do many people I respect in the Open Source community have Apple hardware?"

    Because Apple's created a solid platform. I rarely spend time on maintenance of my system. It comes preinstalled with Java, Ruby, Python, Apache, and many other languages and tools. This allows developers to make certain assumptions about the platform. For example I never have to wonder if the user has a JRE installed. It's there and I know that it's setup correctly (e.g. JAVA_HOME doesn't have to be set). Having a strong platform allows developers to assume certain libraries are installed. You also get APIs at the OS level for manipulating data, images, sound, video, and in the next release you get animation.

    >"Why do they seem so gleeful when bragging about having and using Apple products?"

    Geeks like their gear. You get this with every platform/hardware. When something works well people are happy and they brag. Ask a linux user to show you beryl, you'll get the same response.

    Saying that they're closed is unaccurate. The "closed" article that you linked you says basically that Apple isn't going to be responsible if future updates can't be installed because of hacks. I don't see that as unreasonable. But I also don't know all sides of the issue. My guess is that this is being done because of contractual agreements. But they normally don't show their hand. You could accuse them of being secretive, that would be accurate.

    I don't think they are evil just as much as I don't think Microsoft is evil. They're both businesses driven my the almighty dollar with a lot of good people trying to do the best job they can. The leaders of Apple think having control of the whole stack creates a more solid experience. You might not agree with it philosophically but the fact that my mom can work her iPod without any instruction/support says quite a bit. Their products work really well for how they expect them to be used. If you want it to do something different then you're going to have to go somewhere else. They seem to be OK with that. If the iPhone doesn't do what you want, don't buy it.

    Anyway, we don't all have to agree. But I think it's ironic that the more "fan boys" a company has the more "haters" they have as well. Both tend to accept or reject anything Apple does without actual usage/knowledge of it. My best advice is to try the platform. In my opinion it's the best development platform out there.


  • At 8:49 AM, Blogger David Kyle said…

    You forgot to mention disposable and a menace to the environment.
    Buy an Apple product, then buy it again next year. And the year after that and so on.

    When it comes to evil, Apple is the "mini-me" of Microsoft.

  • At 11:12 AM, Blogger John Graham said…

    On the heady presumption that I'm someone you respect, I'll throw in my thoughts. :-)

    I use a lot of different hardware and software combinations in my work, but for my personal choice, its a Macbook pro with OS X.

    And I really like it. Far and away better than anything else I've used.

    My inner geek says: It just works (yes, really!) The one time I bought a crappy software package at my local Apple store, they took it back. Even though the box had been opened, I explained the software's problems, and they refunded my purchase.

    My outer business persona says: It's cool!

  • At 10:52 AM, Blogger Peter said…

    I think we need to differentiate between Apple and the Mac, and Apple Computer and its newer incarnation, Apple, Inc.

    Clearly, these comments have answered your question: what people really love is the Mac. Now, there's obviously a proud iPhone / iPod market, and let's just leave that as what it is; they're elegant designs with elegant interfaces in a market that keeps getting basic design principles wrong. The flipside is all the stuff you've talked about, closing iTunes/iPod, locking developers out of iPhone, etc., but some people inside the Mac community have been as critical as those outside.

    Comparing iPod/iTunes to Mac/OS X doesn't make any sense at all. Beyond being linked to Apple hardware, you have a platform that is very much open to development and supports non-proprietary standards. Apple's Java support has been disappointing, and I'll be the first to complain about it. But you have to look at the overall value of the computer to people.

    As a musician and artist, I use open source tools wherever possible. But there aren't real alternatives to things like Logic and Ableton Live. (Ardour comes close on the former, but without the extensive instruments and effects I rely on.) There's no video and motion graphics tools like Final Cut, Premiere, Motion, or After Effects. When I can, I do go to OSS, as with Blender. But for all the complaints that running OSS software on Windows/Mac would detract from Linux, no one has pointed out the obvious flipside: talking only about Linux ignores the massive benefits of OSS on proprietary platforms.

    So, for that reason, I co-develop on Mac and Linux. I can dual boot my Mac to both, and ultimately that's a whole lot more valuable than picking from other commodity laptops, because I've got the best of both worlds.

    And, frankly, I don't have to like Apple -- I just have to get my job done, and I'll choose the best tools for doing it. And that's why you've got so many people running Eclipse/Java on Mac.

  • At 11:25 PM, Blogger Alexander said…

    I for one can't understand it. Their practices are abusive at the very least. Staying away from any software issues, which are their own argument altogether, why would apple not want you to be able to replace your own battery in a macbook or an ipod? Why can't you put a microsd card in your iphone? Is it perhaps because they can charge twice as much for a 32gb iphone 4 as they do for an 8gb iphone 4, and a 16gb microsd card can found for about 50 dollars? Or how bout the outrageous amount they will charge you for the proprietary power supply cable for a macbook? Apple seems to be the only company that has been able to behave monopolistically when they have competitors that are offering better services at much cheaper and have their customers still keep overpaying for products that are either comparable or inferior in quality to those in other brands. If you bring this point up to any apple fanboys they will undoubtedly bring up Microsoft but at a certain point two wrongs are no longer capable of making a right.


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