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Unraveling The Mac OS X Linux Kernel Myth: Part 1
According to proponents of this myth, Apple will, could, or should shortly replace Mac OS X's kernel with Linux. They're wrong; here's why.

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The Buzz of Linux
Linux does have buzz, and deservedly so. Linux provides free access to flexible, powerful, and highly competitive operating system technology. It runs on everything from supercomputers to mobile phones.

No one company exerts control over who can use it, or where it can be obtained. Anyone can take apart the Linux source code and tweak it to suit highly specific needs. It has earned a reputation for stability, reliability, and performance.

The Linux buzz also comes from its status as a major force behind keeping the POSIX platform of Unix-like operating systems modern, relevant and optimized to real world use. Over the past decade, Linux development has refocused the Unix world behind a united front that had fallen apart during the tumultuous period of the Unix Wars.

In the 80's and early 90's, mainstream Unix vendors tried to keep prices high and fought over interoperability standards to the extent that Microsoft was able to introduce and gain widespread traction for its competing Windows NT platform, which offered cheaper licensing and ran on common PCs.

BSD offered a free alternative to commercial Unix variants, but with the lawsuit pending against BSDi, it wasn't until the unencumbered Linux emerged that a Unix-like platform could make a strong push as a real alternative to the dinosaurs holding back Unix and the upstart Windows NT platform that wanted to exterminate it.

The Unbearable Lightness of Buzz
So yes, Linux has buzz. It's great. But does Linux serve the needs of Apple's Mac OS X product? And does following buzz frequently lead one into a stronger competitive position? For some answers, take a look at a recent buzzworthy product that ended up being rather overstated: Sun's Java platform.

Five years ago or more, the idea of the Java platform was really buzzing because it offered a real challenge to the entrenched Windows platform. Everybody wanted to jump on the Java bandwagon; even Microsoft, if only to figure out how to neutralize it as a threat.

Apple first made weak stabs at providing Java VM support in the Classic Mac OS, but during the initial development of Mac OS X, Apple expended significant efforts to embrace Java.

Apple brought their Java VM development up to speed; they renamed the NeXT frameworks to Cocoa as a pun on Java; they even made significant efforts to build Java bindings for Cocoa frameworks, and experimented with the idea of "modernizing" the syntax of Cocoa's native ObjectiveC language so that it would be more familiar to Java programmers.

As it turned out, Cocoa programmers weren't really all that interested in having everything tuned to the buzz of Java, despite its status as the media darling of the moment. This only became really apparent after Apple had wasted some time running behind the Java train to maintain buzzword compliance.

While Java can a good tool for many jobs, the point of all this is that media buzz isn't very substantial, and is often fleeting. After a brief honeymoon romance, the media is more often than not ready to viciously backstab, blackball, and badmouth the same technologies that were on the tip everyone's lip just a few year's prior. I just wrote about another example of this: microkernel research.

Several years after Java's fifteen minutes of fame, it's hard to see why it made such a huge splash on the computer scene. In the same way, things that have a lot of buzz today might not have huge impacts on on what will be happening a few years from now.

So in itself, Linux' buzz isn't a compelling enough reason to embark on a massive retrofitting of Mac OS X, especially when considering the significant development resources involved.

But what about Linux being apparently so much faster? This will be considered in:

Unraveling The Mac OS X Linux Kernel Myth Part 2

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