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Apple offers open source for Mac OS X Server

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Apple is going open source with its new server software, but as we predicted yesterday (Apple trails open source), it's going carefully. Mac OS X Server was released yesterday at $499, almost half the price previously intended, but at the same time Steve Jobs announced that the source code, dubbed Darwin, would be available free for developers. OS X Server itself will be available in traditional Apple mode for the G3 Server, but the software will also run on other Macs. Jobs however is presenting it effectively as Unix - this isn't entirely a surprise, as servers Apple has sold in the past have run Unix, but Jobs did make the point that OS X Server doesn't run client Mac apps. Which, as we suggested, allows him to go public with the source while maintaining close control of the Mac itself. And quite a bit of what Apple's giving away is open source already. Darwin includes the foundation layer for Mac OS X Server, plus the Mach microkernel, BSD 4.4 and the Apache Web server. The launch was supported open source guru Eric Raymond, who was enthusiastic but suggested, ominously, that "now we'd like to see more." This will present Apple with an interesting challenge when it ships the client version of Mac OS X in Q3 or Q4. That software will have to run Mac applications, and at that point it will become more apparent that Apple is busily embracing open source while simultaneously holding onto key proprietary elements. Unless of course the OS X Server experiment is wildly successful. Apple is clearly testing the water with Darwin, and may go further if the temperature turns out to be favourable. ®

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