Apple and Open Source Software

Apple Inc. has a muddled relationship with open source software: the company supports open source, generally, but Apple is also know to be rather tight-fisted. Apple sells hardware, and therefore, their involvement in software is meant to promote the use of Apple products generally, In the nineties, when Apple was struggling under the thumb of Microsoft, the company realized that Mac computers wouldn’t appeal to users if Internet Explorer still ruled the web. Apple thus makes a serious effort to push forward significant Mac software. Embracing open source was a big step in the right direction for Apple.

Apple has an open source site which includes a good chunk of source code for OS X. The site contains archived material since 2000. OS X and iOS, Apple’s main operating systems, are based on FreeBSD (free code developed by a large group of people). Apple has contributed a lot of their source code to the open source community, in a seemingly generous way. Apple also lets anyone develop applications for Macs (and iPhones and iPads), and a lot of high quality software for OS X is open source. For example, Firefox, Cyberduck and Adium are open source applications developed for Macs. The open source community encourages sharing ideas and improving code, which certainly benefits Apple due to the constant creation of innovative and functional software.

Apple claims that they were the first company to embrace Open Source and make it an essential part of their software development strategy. Programmers are able to learn from all the source code Apple displays, and the projects Apple puts forward. However, Apple doesn’t embrace open source 100%, as not all of their OS X code is exposed, but they are one certainly avid open source supporters. After all, open source software, in many ways, probably saved Apple’s business model. By helping Apple to create free and effective software to use on Mac computers, Apple was able to sell their hardware and turn a profit.

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