Apple takes Mac OS X to the open source world

Apple Computer has embraced the open source software movement with the launch of Darwin, the open source release of its Mac OS X Server operating system.

"We think this is a path to build the most secure operating system and the most robust operating system in the shortest amount of time," said CEO Steve Jobs at a press conference at the company's Cupertino headquarters. He also called Mac OS X "Apple's first modern server operating system we've ever shipped".

By making Darwin available free to developers in a few weeks at http://www.apple.com/darwin Apple claims to be the first mainstream operating system vendor to release its source code to the public.

Apple also announced that the customer version of Mac OS X Server is now shipping, priced at $US499. Apple pitched the Mac OS X Server as an affordable, easy-to-use operating system that will allow small and medium-sized businesses and schools to quickly build a Web presence.

"We're not saying we'll take over the server market, that's not our goal. Our goal is to offer an incredibly powerful and affordable server package," said Jobs.

The first release of Darwin, the open source offering, consists of the foundation layer of Mac OS X Server, including enhancements to the Mach 2.5 microkernel and BSD 4.4 operating system. It also includes AppleTalk, HFS+ file system and the NetInfo distributed database.

At least one analyst said that Darwin signalled a major change in approach for Apple.

"I think Steve in the past has been the high priest of proprietary software and this is a good step for Apple," said Chris le Tocq, director of software consulting with Gartner Group.

Le Tocq noted the lack of mail server software in Mac OS X as a drawback for corporate users who might otherwise have been interested in the operating system; however, Apple does plan to bundle a robust mail server with Mac OS X in the future, Jobs said.

Boosters of the open source movement were understandably pleased with Apple's news.

"The Open Source Initiative is delighted about this announcement ... we hope it will encourage them to open source more stuff in the future, so in the end it will all be open source," said Eric Raymond, president of the Open Source Initiative.