Musings of an anonymous geek

July 7, 2005

Will Apple Get it Right?

Filed under: Apple — m0j0 @ 10:01 pm

I have had a Mac in my house, on loan from work, for a couple of years now. It’s a dual G4, and I recently updated it to OS X Tiger. Generally, I use Linux at work as well as at home, but I’ve slowly grown to love the Mac. It doesn’t aspire to run on every conceivable hardware platform, it doesn’t make a particularly good server, and I’m not about to throw an extra interface into it and make it my router/firewall.

What Apple claims it does well is all understatement. What Apple says it does well, in reality, it does with absolute mastery. In addition, guys like me who have an environment to administer can have a usable shell, easy configuration of NFS mounts, and all the niceties you need to integrate it into a UNIX-y environment. My worry, though, is with the future of the Mac.

I feel like OS X achieves everything I’ve been wanting Linux to achieve for the better part of a decade now. Yes, I want all of the power of Linux – no doubt about it. But when I’m not at work, I don’t want to work. I don’t want to have to be a system administrator simply to make my desktop system usable. The Mac, to me, represents a very happy middle ground. When I’m not at work, I don’t have to think about my desktop system. It just works. In the event that some emergency email comes in, however, I can pop open a shell and see what’s going on.

It’s using tools from the Linux world: OpenSSH, the OpenLDAP libraries, GCC, bash, perl, and the list goes on. Heck, it even comes with Apache and PHP! I think the smartest thing Apple ever did was essentially say “ok, these tools work well. We can go ahead and delegate the main development responsibility, for the purpose of these tools, to the community. Now let’s get the interface right.” And they did.

Oh I’m not saying there’s *nothing* I’d change – but overall my Mac needs far less tweaking and pruning than my Linux desktop. The OS X interface also is something of an adjustment. Sometimes too much of one. I, for one, use a two-button mouse with a wheel. I’m just advanced that way 😉 One-button and no wheel just isn’t gonna cut it for me.

So now that everything is going well, Apple decides to move to Intel. I understand the why. It’s a business decision. I can respect that. I just worry about the pain of migrating. I worry about how it will be packaged. I worry about pricing. I wonder about support for the older systems. I wonder about hardware compatibility. I wonder about just how closed the new system will be. I wonder about Apple’s commitment and contributions to the open source community in exchange for freeing up so many engineers to work on other parts of the system.

What’s their plan for all of this? What will a Mac look like in 3 years? If I buy a G5 right now, am I going to be completely unable to find hardware for it a year from now? Software? Is this move going to have a chilling effect on new hardware and software being introduced on the Mac, or will it be just the opposite? Maybe more stuff will be easier to do now that the underlying system hardware is the same — or will it be? Are they going to take the Intel chip and then make everything else a black box?

I want more information. Who has some?


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