Apple is a Friend of Open Source

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Apple is a Friend of Open Source

In computing lore, Microsoft is the monopolistic beast who crushes the creative and entrepreneurial aspirations of small, open-source (or non-proprietary) developers. Apple, on the other hand, is one of the "good guys." It would certainly seem to be true, since OS X is built upon the community-coded FreeBSD kernel and Safari uses open-source technology called WebKit [source: Cubrilovic]. Also, the application programming interface for Apple iOS is available for anyone who wants to dabble in creating their own apps for the iPad, iPhone and iPod touch.

The irony is that Apple, the friend of open source, is now viewed by many techies as more proprietary than Microsoft [source: Asay]. The complaint, echoed by many open-source software developers, is that Apple builds its products by using the very best open-source technology and then closes them off to the public behind hermetically sealed cases and teams of lawyers.

For example, Apple's lawyers recently pressured a small group of Linux programmers to stop online discussions of reverse engineering iTunes to figure out how to make iPods work with software other than iTunes. Apple says that's illegal [source: McMillan]. Apple only wants iPod to work with iTunes and it only wants iPhone users to download new applications through its own online App Store. This is frustrating for developers who have to win the approval of Apple before they can distribute their software to consumers.

Software rights aren't all that Apple's fighting for. In our article Why has Germany blocked sales of the Samsung Galaxy Tab? we take a brief look at Apple's lawsuits against Samsung and other tablet PC manufacturers for copying both its hardware and software designs. Thus, Apple isn't just protecting its own products, but it's making sure others can't benefit from cloning the features that made those products successful.

You may not be able to clone Apple products, but would Apple clone one of its products to create another? We'll answer that question in the next myth.

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