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What to Make of Apple…

Posted in Apple, FSF at 5:55 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

Macintosh with transparency

Summary: Should Free software supporters just let Apple be? Should Apple be defended?

I HAVE just been involved in a discussion about Apple’s nature in Groklaw.net. For many months I have abstained from bringing up the subject as I foresaw it leading to unnecessary friction. The straw that broke this camel’s back is Groklaw’s suggestion that hypePhone 4 has no exceptional antenna issues and that claims about those antenna issues originate in (or got exaggerated by) Microsoft. So anyway, I raised the subject politely and received polite answers from regulars of Groklaw, as in those who regularly participate in the discussions.

It has taken up a lot of time this morning and it’s basically about whether we — Free software or GNU/Linux supporters — should defend Apple or not. Apple is no "David" (as in David versus Goliath), but that’s not the point. The point is that Apple does a lot to harm software freedom and the Free Software Foundation definitely agrees about that. Over at Slashdot there is currently a discussion about the arrogant nature of Apple and some of its customers. To quote just the opening:

It’s not exactly official, but should also surprise no one: According to a new study the psychological profile of iPad owners can be summed up as “selfish elites” while have-not critics are “independent geeks.”

Over the years I have sent about 1,000 E-mails to Groklaw (probably more than that), but Apple is the only issue where I disagree with Groklaw. So my question is, am I misled in my criticism of Apple? Is the truth perhaps somewhere in between (between the stance of Techrights and the stance of Groklaw)? Thoughts welcome…

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  1. Needs Sunlight said,

    July 28, 2010 at 6:51 am


    Debian, Ubuntu, OS X (Darwin), and Suse were all heading in the direction of freedom, some further along than others. Debian was founded on the idea of freedom. What happened lately is that they are becoming less free. No need to tolerate that or the people who promote Microsoftianism, because along with the freedom, there are also other details like quality.

    If people do nothing, these valuable distros are destroyed.

    All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing.”

    Dr. Roy Schestowitz Reply:

    Yes, that’s exactly the type of message I was trying to get across.

    What was most shocking to me is advice of censorship (against dissenting opinions).

  2. dyfet said,

    July 28, 2010 at 7:29 am


    I think Apple is one of those companies that is very successful at creating emotional brand attachment, or as some say the Apple fanboi reality distortion field ;). But clearly the Apple of today is not the Apple of Wozniak, which I think would have been a far more interesting outcome that sadly never happened. What we are left with instead is an Apple lead by a sociopath, but also with many good people still “trapped” within it. Perhaps it is those trapped within that so entrances PJ at Groklaw. At least I will say that it is in this respect a rather different beast from Microsoft, which is thoroughly and institutionally is sociopathic at all ranks and levels. Different leadership possibly can fix Apple, or at least make it into a company that is not openly hostile to software freedom. Different leadership cannot fix Microsoft, nor can most of the people that have worked for Microsoft be trusted. The only solution for Microsoft is quarantine.

  3. mcinsand said,

    July 28, 2010 at 11:07 am


    When it comes to opponents of FOSS principles, I fear Apple far more than I fear Microsoft. I have said this before, and I will continue to say it; Apple has forgotten more about vendor lock-in than MS will ever learn. The irony is that MS built it monopoly on interoperability, whether across varied hardware platforms, working with different formats (Word to/from WP, Excel to/from 1-2-3), but Apple has consistently shunned any sort of choice where at all possible. To take my fears one step farther, I really do fear for FOSS if Apple gets stronger as MS starts to collapse.


  4. twitter said,

    July 28, 2010 at 11:55 am


    There is no conflict between what you are doing and most of the things GL does. Apple is a vicious enemy of software freedom. It is right to condem the bad things they do. PJ and Techrights are also right to notice that Microsoft sues competitors by proxy [2]. It is strange that PJ would defend Apple’s draconian restrictions and I’m not sure that’s what she is doing.

    Dr. Roy Schestowitz Reply:

    No, she does not defend the draconian restrictions.

  5. anthony said,

    July 28, 2010 at 12:25 pm


    +Apple are using MPEG (ref. MPEG-LA – patent ‘licenses’) to create a cost barrier for GNU/Linux. Apple would be respected more if it did the right thing for itself (placing this patent licensing money instead in to the VP8/WebM code), and moving their products to VP8/WebM + Vorbis. This is the only/ most needed change .

    +Apple are an investor in ‘Intellectual Ventures’. Apple should be fearful of capability; not intent. As a minor change.

    +Apple have chosen their proprietary iWorks document format since formation of ODF. As a minor change.

    As already said by ‘dyfet’, the flat structure in Apple (compared to the promotion or the door culture in Microsoft) means no peer pressure with Steve Jobs, so he can more easily be convinced. Steve Jobs needs to be shown that he will be respected far more for doing what is right, both for his own reputation and the shareholders investments, and that patents are more of a threat than GNU/Linux. Apple do not be scared of the support business model.

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