Bonum Certa Men Certa

Mac OS X: The 'Missing' Development Platform

Steve Jobs and GNU
Source of original photo



Summary: Developers increasingly favour Free software, which means no Apple, a suppressor of the GPL

THE Eclipse Community Survey came out a few days ago and we posted some links about it yesterday. Few people pointed out the absence of Mac OS X in this survey. It's a nice reminder of the fact that GNU/Linux is ahead of Apple in many areas, one of which is development (depending on the type). To quote some more articles about the survey (ones which we didn't post before):



i. Eclipse Community Survey: Good News, Bad News

That's really significant, because for many free software applications, historically people have tended to develop on Windows, and then deploy on GNU/Linux. If the developers are moving to GNU/Linux on the desktop – as this survey suggests - maybe the tide is beginning to turn there, at least among that particular community (well, it's a start...).


ii. Eclipse users developing on Linux, considering cloud

The primary takeaway from the results is the shift in how engineers are choosing to develop and deploy. Linux, especially Ubuntu, has taken market share from Windows on an ongoing basis, and is now used by just shy of one third of respondents as their developer desktop, up from 20 percent in 2007.


iii. Eclipse Community Survey shows good growth for Linux

In 2007, 20% of users said that Linux was their development operating system, but by 2010, that had increased to 33%, with Windows dropping from 74% to 58% in share. Linux continues to be the most popular deployment platform for Eclipse developers with 46% saying it is their primary target platform.


iv. Eclipse Study Shows Major Gains for Linux Among Developers

The confidence and comfort associated with developing on Linux, reflected in the growing number of developers who say they prefer the OS to alternatives, are also leading indicators of Linux's adoption in the enterprise. Linux use has been growing among enterprise users for a decade, but we're at a proverbial tipping point. The collision of technology maturity, a new generation of developers and IT professionals, and a new economic reality are putting Linux in a position to experience faster growth than other OSes in the enterprise.


In other news of interest, Apple gets flak for its disdain or 'allergy' to real software freedom (not the BSD-type freedom, which to Apple means that "oh! We can have all of this decent code and stuff without paying"). Here is the the comprehensive coverage from LWN.

Smith followed up the original post with a more detailed explanation on May 27. In it, he says that the particular license violation that FSF bought up with Apple was section 6 of the GPLv2, which states that a redistributor of the licensed program may not impose further restrictions on the recipients to copy, distribute, or modify the program. Apple's App Store terms of service do impose several restrictions, such as limiting usage of the program to five devices approved by Apple.


With the exception of Apple worshippers (with employment history at Apple) who masquerade as something else, the GNU/Linux community was on the FSF's side. In general (or statistically speaking), GNU/Linux users are not terribly fond of Apple. The options from Apple are "not Microsoft" but they are not "not proprietary".

Here is a sceptical look at Apple's actions and the FSF's response (or vice versa). It is not from a GNU/Linux-oriented Web site:

One might point out that you can certainly work with GNU Go and test out modified source on your own iPad. All you have to do is join Apple's developer program, which is not really too much of a big deal.

But the FSF doesn't really see this as freedom. First, developers in Apple's program can only redistribute software to others under Apple's terms. The GPL insists that redistribution not attach any additional restrictions to derived works. And secondly, a user who develops a modified version of GNU Go may or may not be able to distribute it - they are subject to Apple's capricious approval process. Again, this is a limitation on their freedom.

As it stands right now, the Apple iPhone/iPad ecosystem is not going to work with code published under GPLv2 or GPLv3. This is a shame, and it would really be nice to see Apple do something to remedy the situation. Free software has been very good to Apple, and in many cases, Apple has given back to the movement. But the current situation is such a blatant slap in the face to free software that every one of us can feel the sting.


The Bangkok Post writes:

Apple removed the product, prompting the FSF to note that Apple doesn't value people's independence and creativity.


That's just true. We previously wrote about the FSF-Apple standoff in [1, 2].

The Financial/National Post is also giving Apple a hard time, emphasising that Apple is very closed and restrictive.

Apple is so hot right now that everything it unveils flies off the shelves, sending its share price higher. The question longer term however, is whether its "closed" strategy of development can continue to deliver the goods -- and the buzz -- as open-source operating systems such as Android offer slick new applications and growing competition.


Poor Apple has gained market share among the world's wealthiest population, but can it maintain such a lead as Linux continues to advance? Apple's aggressive reaction (suing Linux) says that Apple is afraid. Linux is not a company that Apple can compete with. Linux represents people's perpetual desire to control their digital destiny. Apple cannot deliver this. Instead it combats people's natural desires, teaching them that choice is bad and "free" means shoddy and inadmissible.

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