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Close it Down

What does Michael say today?

If you're a fanboy, go away. This article isn't for you. You won't like what you read here and we don't like you wasting our bandwidth. This article is for professionals. And not for graphics designers or screenwriters or web designers or dilettantes who occasionally dabble in AppleScript for Rich Siegel. This article is for professionals - programmers, administrators, and people with pencils. People who stand to make a difference and have the chops and the clout to effect that difference.

Let's start with the basics.

Windows is Gone

This section is going to be brief because the assumption is everyone already knows what the score is. Windows is gone. It's rubble. Trash. It's a standalone system totally incapable of meeting computing needs in a connected world. It's a disaster. It's a kludge. And it will only get worse. Sooner or later you're going to have to move your shop out of Windows. The smart people have already done so.

Where To Now?

The answer to the question 'where to now' is obvious and has been obvious for some time: 'Unix'. Unix powers the Internet. Over 70% of the world's web servers run Unix - and they're secure. And not only secure in the sense they're impervious to all the amateurish pranks that continually beset Windows but secure in the sense they're reliable.

They don't have to be rebooted every second hour. They don't crash and hang and lose data. They just work and they're insanely great. And the same that holds true of the world's web servers holds true of your corporate servers - and desktop workstations. Your people deserve better than Windows and you know it. You have to get them to Unix and you know that too.

The Great Hope

Apple were one of the great hopes. Apple were a great hope because they supplied turnkey systems. No egregious hunt for peripheral drivers - just open the boxes and run them. Things looked a bit dorky on the Apple desktop but people get used to everything - even the Teletubbie Windows XP. And OS X's desktop was certainly no worse.

Your developers need training. And they need collaboration. And Apple were supposed to be running a true Unix under the bonnet with the unparalleled NeXTSTEP on top. You couldn't have it better.

Before July 1997

Before midyear 1997 things looked good. The NeXT engineers came to Cupertino with an eminently platform independent operating system with an eminently clean design. And you know how important design is: the simpler, the more elegant; the simpler, the more adaptable to your corporate needs.

And no one has ever brought in a development environment like NeXTSTEP before. You could cut your development times by 80% - without the bloat, without the buggy code, and with a significantly happier programmer constituency.

Before midyear 1997 everything looked downhill. Apple were planning on sticking with hardware manufacturing but on the software side were going to continue to market NeXTSTEP - now called Openstep - across all CPU and hardware architectures.

They already had it running on four different processors and at least half a dozen underlying kernels including vanilla FreeBSD. The market was theirs.

So what happened?

After July 1997

Apple got a new CEO in July 1997. The old guy was visionary and a legendary corporate GP: he'd saved AT&T and National Semiconductor. The new guy double-crossed the old guy and got to take over for $1 per annum. Some would say he's still overpaid.

Right away the platform independence and the zeal to totally devour the market were gone. Apple were back to being 'Apple'. All that cross platform compatibility? Gone. All those ambitions to saturate the entire market with the most advanced operating system ever? Gone. Software was being tied to hardware again. Back to the margins.

And even the world's most advanced operating system wasn't good enough for these idiots. As a professional you understand this: trying to manage a corporate network from an OS X box is ludicrous. And the situation only gets worse.

Looking at the raw naked truth of a Tiger 10.4 filesystem is enough to make someone wretch. And blaming it all on Apple's incomprehensible HFS isn't going to work: Apple offer an alternative filesystem called UFS which they've mucked up even more.

The Catch

The catch? Your developers would really rather work with Objective-C and the NeXTSTEP classes than with either GNOME or KDE. Yes, both GNOME and KDE suck. But they're the only somewhat open and free platforms out there. And Steve Jobs has done his utmost over the years to first make Objective-C inaccessible and then to make the NeXTSTEP classes inaccessible.

All that great technology and it's hemmed in by a selfish little brat who won't let anyone play unless it's with his ball. All that great technology wasted because no corporation in their right mind will invest time and money in a platform that by design is to never be allowed a demographic worth bothering about.

Patented languages and proprietary code - and this coming from a company that wasted more time recycling the Sony Walkman than doing something that would really benefit the planet and themselves both.

And no matter what they do - no matter how good they be - you're never going to buy into them anyway. Skip the iSight issue in their current line of buggy overheating underperforming laptops - they're a lock-in. You can't have that and you know it and you'd think they know it too.

Especially developers are enamoured of OS X. And no wonder. It might be a shadow of its former self but developers still know the score in that regard. It's good, it's the best - for what they want, even if it should be a lot better.

But is it what you want?

From Bad to Worse

Through the years since the acquisition of NeXTSTEP and Unix, Apple have shown a flawless record of totally doing the wrong thing at every impasse. Every single corporate decision they've made has only crushed the dream more and more. What at first seemed innocuous quickly turned into something ridiculous until it finally got so bad there were no words for it anymore.

If you had any illusions Apple could take you out of Windows, they're gone by now - or should be. Microsoft might be commandeering a sinking ship, but their attitude and ability to understand corporate needs is good - something at which Apple have always totally sucked.

The Board

But Apple have a board of directors, you say. Certainly they can't sit idly by and let the company - and their potential demographic - go down the drain? Think again. With the likes of Al Gore sitting there and with the dictatorial Steve Jobs badgering them, neither they nor Apple's shareholders can get a word in edgewise.

It's no coincidence that Steve Jobs surrounds himself with sycophants who not only promise to agree with him on everything but who must also learn to groom themselves and wear the same kind of clothes as Steve Jobs. Either that or out the window.

Just imagine how stupid that looks to an outsider. Think different? Remember when Apple touted that slogan? No one dares think different at Apple. Think different is an automated pink slip.

Where's the Money?

It's not in iPods, that's for sure. Steve Jobs might get on the cover of Time but Bill Gates has the billions. Bill Gates provides business with the staple they need. It's a never-ending market. Steve Jobs provides loser loners with trendy products that have to be made obsolete on a continual basis because the demographic is so thin. His latest scam is sucking $150 for a different colour coat of paint. Only losers buy into that tripe, and you're professional - you can't and won't.

Ask IBM where the money is. They're still the biggest and most influential computer company on the planet. The money isn't in proprietary systems - it's in other things like support and applications. It's in providing computing services - on demand, if you wish.

Put another way, the money is in open systems, not closed ones. This is no secret, and you've heard it so many times before. And it's true. In today's world the system itself has to be open source. That's the only way it can remain secure and reliable. If your system is open, your system is stable. And reliable. Put what you want on top of it, but the system is the most critical part of your computing environment. It needs to be open so everything built on top can work properly.

Closing it Down

Today it became known Apple are finally dispensing with dissembling. Long have Apple pretended - for purely marketing purposes - that they were eager players in the open systems arena. Long have developers such as Rob Braun exposed their hypocrisy. Long have even developers not kept abreast of the true situation and gone on assuming Apple were using an open system like all the rest. That illusion is gone today. It's gone forever.

You heard of the silly limericks Apple put into Intel system code; you know Apple are using TPM gadgets from Infineon to protect their precious system from being used in a way that would benefit both their shareholders and the world both; you've heard - from Rob Braun - how their 'open' system was anything but; but today Apple closed the whole shebang down once and for all.

You might have hoped what was once the promise of the future - and a long awaited replacement for Microsoft Windows - would finally take its rightful place as the leading, most popular system on the planet. Give it up. Get a grip. It's not going to happen.

Apple - with the inimitable Steve Jobs at the helm - are bent on destroying everything, and today are closer to that goal than ever before.

Rats and Sinking Ships

What do you do with hardware that stops working when the supplier is no longer in business? That's right: you're 'SOL'. And what do you do with an operating system that's bound to a hardware supplier that's no longer in business? Same three letter acronym.

As someone in a position to help determine the future course of your corporation, you know that's not a situation you can ever put your people in.

Apple have been losing a lot of key people of late. Their heads of hardware and software - who both came over from NeXT before Steve Jobs - jumped ship just a few weeks ago. Is this a coincidence?

And Apple execs have been selling off Apple stock like it's going out of style. Another coincidence?

If these people don't believe in the OS X alternative, how can you?

Tell Us Again, Michael

Back in 1996 when Apple were days away from bankruptcy Michael Dell was asked what he thought the best solution was for the Cupertino klutzes. He said the best thing would be to close the company down.

One suspects he'd have the same opinion again today.

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