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Tue 14 Oct 2003

Apple Panther Tech Talk

Category : Technology

Attended the a Panther Tech Talk by Apple at Raffles City yesterday. The topics covered were : Panther, the G5, porting Unix apps to OS X, Rendezvous, optimizing C/C++ code, developing drivers, multi-lingual capabilties and a securities technologies overview.

I keep thinking, during the talks, about how business writers often miss the point about Apple. They make comparisons with Microsoft, as if the war has been won, and there's nothing else to talk about any more.

Actually, I think Apple represents an alternative way of doing technology that is equally valid. Far from being dead, I believe that it is an emerging model that is going to get even more relevant as we move along.

A lot of what goes into Panther is available in the public domain as Open Source projects - Samba, Free BSD, DNS and BIND, Apache, everything that constitutues the Internet. Apple's genius is in packaging these technologies into a whole that is easy-to-use by an end-user, creating technologies where they don't already exist to glue everything together.

The resulting product is open where it makes sense, and yet proprietary, again where it makes sense.

It has been said that a measure of intelligence is the ability to hold two (apparently) contradictory thoughts in your mind at the same time, and reconcile them. Perhaps, Apple's market share is a reflection of the number of people who can actually do that.

One day, countries like China, who're starting to learn how to build and put together the hardware pieces, are going to realise they can take Linux and follow Apple's lead to put together something that is much greater than the sum of its parts. So long as it follows Internet standards and consists of Open Source pieces like Apache and MySQL in the main, it would have a built-in ability to interoperate with the rest of the systems out there. That is, instead of participating in only one layer, take responsibility for the vertical integration and build the whole product.

It's like, we can all communicate with each other because, whether we're Chinese or Malay or Indian, we all agreed to use English as the common language. The current Windows model is like saying we all have to be cast from the same mould before we can talk to each other. Obviously, God had other ideas.

People who argue that products eventually become commoditised forget that we're talking about technologies that are designed to augment human communications. Far from becoming more standardised, we're going to see a demand for these services to grow in complexity to match the variety and richness of human communication.

If you take a perspective where you agree that that is the end you are working towards, that the technologies have to be melded so that it will simultaneously give us better and more powerful ways of communicating while becoming even easier to use, then you may become more sympathetic towards Apple's cause.

If you take that perspective where you're focused on the complexity of creating the software, then it is no idle thing to want to have a tighter control over the hardware, just so you can make the whole damn thing work in the first place.

It is no accident that Apple's stuff is so elegant and the PC stuff is so clunky. You reap what you sow.

Posted at 4:06PM SGT | permalink


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