Sunday, March 23, 2008

If Apple is an Evil Genius, is Evil the New Good?

A few days ago (which, oddly enough seem like a lifetime ago), Wired posted How Apple Got Everything Right By Doing Everything Wrong. It got me thinking, is, Apple really Evil or is Evil the new Good?

I'll skip the whole part that Apple is an Evil Genius. I think Wired covered that part. Truth be told, if I were Apple, I'd think that as compliment. Apple's the smartest kid on the block and that success is entirely attributed to Steve Jobs' brand of genius.

But there are a lot of misconceptions about Apple.

People think of Apple as the new Microsoft because they think Apple is proprietary. But that's not the case is it? Apple isn't entirely closed. The very underlying technology of Apple's OS X is Open Source. And I think people are missing the whole point that Apple is what Red Hat, Suse and all the other great Open Source Linux houses should be!

BSD. Unix. GCC. Apache. PHP. Perl. Ruby. SQLite. MySQL. PostgreSQL. Some of the big names in the Open Sauce business and all successfully running on OS X. In fact, BSD, GCC are very important parts in the whole wheel that is OS X! GCC is the "complier" that comes free with every Mac and BSD is Unix that forms the foundation of OS X. From iPods to iPhones to Macs to XServers, Apple's built this gorgeous piece of operating system marvel on top of Open Source technology.

Is OS X perfect? That would really depend on what you'd want it to do. I love my OS X but having Linux running along side my Mac, compliments each other rather than competing. And what of Windows? I can't speak for the next guy, but I've outgrown Windows' limitations. Would I get a Windows Machine in the near future? Only perhaps to play games (which i hardly do anyway) but at the rate consoles are becoming the gaming platform, there maybe no windows in my future.

You'd think there wasn't any reseed between Apple and Open Source. Bonjour for example may not be the standard picked by the Open Source community but the idea of zeroconf networking is certainly taking flight on Linux so much so that there is a standard around which open source is rallying behind. Bonjour is this idea of zero network configuration like having two iTunes on two separate machines "see" each other and "talk" to each other without the user (who more likely will know anything about computer networking) telling any, "hey, you can find another iTunes at this internet protocol address". How can that not be a good for the community?

Strip out all the religiousness of Open Source and its whole premise is a level playing field. The starting line is equal whether you're a kid in a garage or a multinational corporation. You get the same set of basic rules to play with. The difference is how creative you can get. It is up to you to decide what creative avenues you'd like to take this recipe to.

Put it in another way, it's like saying everyone gets the basic recipe for Spaghetti. But hardly two people will cook it identically thus, each batch will taste differently. Most people will cook spaghetti with beef. Apple would cook spaghetti with tuna.

People will note, Apple has this "proprietary user interface". So what? I'd rather have a stable, gorgeous proprietary user interface running on top of a stable open source operating system than run an open source operating system and an open source interface that feels like it was put together by paste. What do I care about writing a new operating system every single time? I'd love to play with it on my spare time or for a specific project but not all the time. And most people couldn't even get past the whole internet address on their browser or email for that matter to care about whether the machine is open sauce or not.

What most users (who are undoubtedly are Not Geeks) want, is a machine that works. Apple has, for the most part done that with less headache for the user than say Windows and to some extent Linux distros. Believe me, when a non-geek asks you about antiviruses and networking, it's tough having to explain all that to them, step by step. Why make it hard on non-geeks? Apple's success rate on delivering quality products more than makes up for some of their "perceived inefficiencies" on being "completely open".

Like BMW or Mercedes Benz building value on top of the basic notion of a car, Apple is doing just that. Computers and Operating Systems are one and they are becoming more like cars. It's a game of spot the difference between a Honda, a Toyota, a Kia, a BMW, a Porche and depending on your price range, you'll fit into one category.

Apple as it is today has taken the whole notion of open source and built value on top of it. This is where open source should be. Take a piece of standards, or standards compliant, or open technology and build something creative, something of value on top of it. Is Apple really Evil? Then Evil is the New Good.

*I found the villain image via wiki.