The Illustrious Mr. Benjamin

Your friend and colleague John Gruber disagrees with two points made in your previous post about Apple’s latest software releases.

Point One: Safari

Regarding why Apple might have hired Dave Hyatt, Chimera’s creator to work on Safari, you say:

Perhaps because hiring him would help eliminate the competition.

In response, Gruber argues that there are many other explanations, primarily that, by bringing Hyatt on-board, they gain an experienced, standards-aware, browser-savvy developer. He says:

Chimera and Safari might be competitors, but they certainly are not enemies. They’re both pulling in the same direction — towards web standards, and away from over-dependence on Microsoft. Even if, after the dust settles, Chimera ends up more popular than Safari, Apple still wins. My guess is that both browsers will be very popular.

This is where you disagree. You see, Apple has learned a big lesson from relying so heavily on Microsoft for the last few years. It’s breaking away, moving forward on its own. By creating Safari, Apple isn’t just delivering a good browser for Mac OS X. There’s more at stake.

Apple’s days of relying on others to determine its success are over, and Safari is the first step toward true independence.

Apple is declaring that, indeed, Mac OS X will have a great browser, and that this great browser must come from Apple itself. Understanding this point is key in understanding Apple’s new direction toward independence and control of its hardware, its software, and most importantly, its future. This is crucial to Apple’s success in a time where success is far from a guarantee.

Not depending on other companies to create their software is the first step. Controlling and containing what software exists for their platform is the second step. Because Apple wants the best browser on its platform to be made by Apple (thereby severing its reliance on external sources), it must either eliminate or control any and all competition.

By nabbing Chimera’s creator they gain a smart, browser-savvy developer. But more importantly, they gain the mojo of the Chimera project itself. Hyatt is part of Apple now. Without him, Chimera will die (or at least suffer), and Safari will rise as the best browser for Mac. This is precisely what Apple wants.

In fact, it’s already happening. On Sunday, Mike Pinkerton (Chimera’s lead developer) writes in his weblog:

I’m torn about what to do with Chimera. It’s obvious it will only ever be a marginal product on a even more marginal platform. AOL and Netscape have no interest in supporting it. Who aspires to be number two in an already over-commoditized space? Working my ass off for 3% just isn’t any fun any more. Safari has already won, the rest is just to see by how much.

This is Chimera’s lead developer here, people.

If there is doubt about Apple’s goal for software independence and for Apple-made software to be king on Mac OS X … just keep your eye on Steve over the next year.

Point Two: X11 – Apple’s Inroad to the Enterprise

In your post regarding the announcement of Apple’s X11 software release, you say:

Perhaps the most important software release from Apple was the one it spent the least time (actually, no time) promoting: X11.

Gruber disagrees with this, writing:

X11 is only of interest to Unix nerds. It has no relevence whatsoever to regular Mac users.

Well, in the past, “regular Mac users” were most often graphic artists and designers, web developers, desktop publishers, writers, home users, and students. Joyfully, those days are in the past. Today’s regular Mac users also include serious software developers, network engineers, system managers, and DBA’s – many of whom you’re sure Gruber would consider to be “nerds.”

Nevermind what Gruber may call this group of intelligent, hard working individuals around the globe – you owe them a debt of gratitude. These are the people who make the checking of email, browsing the web, printing memo’s, and saving files possible.

Gruber continues:

This isn’t a bad thing. It’s quite good, in fact. But only for the terminally nerdy. In fact, I’m certain that the illustrious Mr. Benjamin understands exactly where X11 fits into the Mac universe. His only error was a mild case of over-enthusiasm, declaring Apple’s X11 implementation last week’s “most important software release from Apple”.

If Apple is to succeed in the long term, it will do so by entrenching itself in the Enterprise. And Apple’s success as a contender in the Enterprise requires that it appeal to “UNIX nerds.” Apple needs a clear inroad to the enterprise. Mac OS X is, after-all and like-it-or-not, a UNIX system. But it’s also got a great GUI and, unlike Linux and FreeBSD, sports a solid set of commercially supported, consumer-related applications.

Mac OS X is Primed for enterprise acceptance … except for one thing. Prior to the release of an Apple-developed, Apple-sanctioned release of X11, there was no way that commercial vendors would consider releasing their UNIX-based X11 apps for Mac OS X. Sure, you could get X11 to run on the Mac prior to Apple’s recent release, but it wasn’t official or supported, and that meant you wouldn’t find enterprise-level IT shops relying upon it. These groups want a phone number to dial for support questions. They want to know who to call if there are problems. They want to say to the BU that they run enterprise-ready, qualified, certified applications on their networks.

But now, with Apple’s own release of X11, the doors are open.

You see, if Apple is to succeed in the Enterprise – and it must, especially with its shrinking educational market-share – then it must offer easy inroads for UNIX software companies to bring their applications to the Mac without significant code changes, a Very Big Deal in the cross-platform UNIX software development world.

Additionally, the X Windows System, or X11, isn’t just an application framework used by software companies for Enterprise applications. It’s also a huge collection of pre-existing free applications that “UNIX nerds” (remember, the people who make your life possible) rely on to perform their day-to-day tasks. Without support (and we’re talking real Apple support) for these applications, no work gets done and Apple doesn’t get into the Enterprise. Again.

So there you go.

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