Apple Displays Its Core in Mac OS X

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Apple Displays Its Core in Mac OS X
C. McNulty - April 27th, 2000

Event Summary

Apple [NASDAQ:AAPL] announced the release of Darwin 1.0, the advanced operating system core at the heart of Mac OS X, and the release of an updated Darwin Streaming Server. Darwin's open source model allows the tens of thousands of registered Darwin developers to modify, customize, and extend key Apple software, including the modern mach kernel and BSD layers found in Apple's next generation operating system, Mac OS X.

"The core of Mac OS X is the only mainstream operating system following an open source model," said Philip Schiller, Apple's vice president of Worldwide Product Marketing. "The new Darwin 1.0 posting includes some of the most advanced operating system technology available, and it's open to our customers and developers so that we may collaborate on the future of the Mac OS."

The new Darwin kernel is based on FreeBSD and Mach 3.0 technologies and supports the Kernel Extension Developer Kit (KDK) for developing drivers and loadable modules. Darwin 1.0 gives developers access to essential Mac OS X source code. This allows developers to enhance the feature set, performance, and quality of Mac OS X products in partnership with Apple engineers. Darwin 1.0 is processor-independent and is built for PowerPC and Intel platforms, enabling Open Source developers to work on Darwin projects on the widest choice of computer systems.

Market Impact

Apple's Darwin announcement only increases the pressure on Microsoft [NASDAQ:MSFT] to open up Windows - not just Windows CE. Apple Mac OS X, Red Hat Linux [NASDAQ:RHAT], and Netscape 6 [NYSE:AOL] are all, at least in part, open source. Apple's Public Source License requires all modifications to source code, and all extensions based on that source, to be publicly posted and shared with Apple.

To date, Microsoft is the largest software publisher for Macintosh platforms. Microsoft can't be thrilled about the potential for opening its code base, even if it's only for parts of Office for Macintosh.

When it comes to operating systems, it's the applications, stupid. Microsoft taught us that one a long time ago. Get the independent software vendors to build it, and the market will come.

However, open source does not equate to automatic, free software development. Netscape's open source program,, did not automatically produce Netscape 6. Developers are somewhat less eager to add their open source additions back into the revenue stream of companies like Apple or AOL. Apple needs to nurture this market through extensive support, developer forums, and seed investments in the most promising of new developers.

User Recommendations

It remains to be seen how long Apple remains committed to open source. Years ago, Apple made a great show of opening up its OS licensing program. At the time, it was touted as a way of broadening Apple's hardware market and creating a market for low cost Apple clones. Unfortunately, OS licenses were one of the first things Steve Jobs killed in 1997 when he rejoined Apple. Back then, Power Computing was on its way to US$ 400 Million in revenues. No more. Apple giveth, but Apple may taketh.

For end-users, there will be no significant effect until Mac OS X is in wide release. OS X will be released for retail sales during summer 2000, and will be pre-loaded on all Macintosh computers beginning in early 2001. Until then, Darwin remains an interesting evolution .

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