Despite having been given the “Mac Guy” appellation by Mario Marathon viewers, I am not an Apple fanboy. Don’t get me wrong, I really like my current and previous Mac Book Pros. The hardware has been solid (as a few encounters with gravity can attest to) and OS X is a great mix of power, reliability, and ease of use. There’s no doubt that Apple turns out quality products, I don’t have an issues with their offerings. It is a philosophical problem that I have. As an advocate of openness, can I continue to support a company like Apple?
Apple has shown a willingness to support open source software on some occasions (as one would expect, those occasions are the ones where it suits Apple’s interests to be supportive), but at times the Apple model stands in opposition to the ideals of freedom that open source (and open standards) movements are based on. The most recent example was reported by Wired earlier this week saying that the next minor release of Snow Leopard would “break” some “Hackintoshed” machines, specifically those using Intel’s Atom processor. I get it, Apple is foremost a hardware company. The software exists to promote the sales of the hardware, so allowing the software to be used on non-Apple hardware doesn’t serve Apple’s interests.
I don’t deny that Apple has the right to do what they’re doing, although if they had a larger market share, the Department of Justice might start taking notice. No, to me, it’s not about whether or not they can do this, but whether or not they should. The interests of Apple’s shareholders say “no”, the interests of the Apple community say “yes.” Apple certainly has no legal obligation to do what’s in the best interests of users, but if they want to differentiate themselves from Microsoft, then perhaps they should.
What it really comes down to, then, is the question of “how closed can Apple (or any other company) become before I am no longer willing to give them my business?” Or should it even matter? If I give up Apple, should I also give up Skype, Flash, video drivers, and many other things that restrict my ability to use a product how I see fit? These are not easy questions to answer, and the answer is different for each person. For myself, I will wait and let my thoughts on the matter evolve for a while. Hopefully by the time I’m ready to replace my current Mac Book Pro, I’ll have figured it out.