Apple’s great Mac OS X bait and switch

It’s been almost three years now since, with great fanfare :) , I switched from a UNIX Workstation to a Mac as my primary desktop workstation. That change was many years in the making – I worked with Mac OS X along side my trusty UNIX workstations for several years before making the complete jump.

Apple baited me, and a lot of us Linux and UNIX developers, with the charm of a real UNIX OS underneath – more or less everything one gets with a typical modern Linux distribution simply by opening a Terminal window – while being wrapped in a nice modern GUI supporting tons of “mainstream” Apps, like MS Office and Adobe Photoshop. No more dual-booting. No more firing up a Linux VM to do development. It was glorious, while it lasted…

With Apple’s deprecation of Java, with no warning at all last week, we have to accept that the “switch” part of the bait and switch may now be on. As Paul Rubens says in Apple Tells Developers, ‘Mac OS X, Hold the Java’:

If you’re a developer that relies on having access to Java and you happen to like the Mac platform, then don’t expect your treatment at the hands of Apple to be any better. Apple is making it quite clear that it’s not the slightest bit interested in repaying your investment in it.

Around the net, this is being passed off as a minor issue, but as The Register notes:

…the further implication is that [Apple] will halt all development of Java for Mac. If this happens, it will be left for someone else to provide a viable version of the platform for Macs. And if Apple doesn’t open source its existing work, that’s no easy task.

…We stand by our claim that if Java suddenly disappeared from all desktops, relatively few people would actually notice. But those few include Java developers, which includes, well, Android developers.

That may be what Apple’s real motivation is here, to somehow attack Android (and further alienate Android developers in the process).

No matter what their motivation, the fact is, Apple appears to be giving some of their most persuasive evangelists the finger. It’s difficult to say how many former UNIX nerds like myself jumped to Apple over the past 10 years and how many countless “regular users” they brought with them, but regardless of the actual absolute number, there is no doubt that this segment was a critical factor to the turn around of Apple’s image from “toy” to “serious” machine. Apple has probably decided that they don’t need us anymore, and they could be right. You never know though – beware the power of the nerds and geeks, I always say.

3 comments for “Apple’s great Mac OS X bait and switch

  1. While I am concerned, I think the actual situation is actually a bit more complicated than people normally think.

    Lots of people have complained about the lack of Flash on iPhone/iPad, and one could choose to interpret this as Apple attempting to assert control over the creation and deployment of applications, and they would be right. But why? The obvious motivation is to limit people to buying applications through the Apple store, where Apple gets a cut of the $$$, but I suspect that it is as much to keep control over the GUI/user experience, to make sure that the experience that is delivered while using an iPhone matches their vision of what a smart phone could be.

    You can view that as helpful or sinister as you see fit.

    With respect to Java, the future seems uncertain. Google and Oracle are facing off in a showdown, with the future of Java and Android in the balance. Oracle seems hell bent on destroying Java by litigating its biggest user, effectively killing the goose before it extracts any golden eggs by motivating Google to sidestep Java entirely. I’m sure that Apple doesn’t want any part of that situation: they want to implement their own vision for products, without any concern over the status of Java.

    Apple is probably open to letting Oracle do the work of keeping Java for the Mac a viable option, but it appears that they are going to make Oracle pay for that privilege. Sun was a benevolent partner, Oracle is acting like a malevolent competitor. While I think you have to blame Apple a bit in this situation, it probably has at least as much to do with Oracle.

  2. This is definately not a good thing. Apple has always been a little “quirky”. Ane it has not always been clear what their vision their strategy is, but, they are still here after all these years. Apple was my first programming experience and though I loved the graphics, but coding was not the easiest in the world. It will be interesting to see where this goes.

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