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Unraveling The Mac OS X Linux Kernel Myth: Part 4
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.

Page 1 | 2 | 3 | 4

Part 1 introduced the myth and looked at the buzz behind Linux. Part 2 examined the claims that Linux is inherently so much faster by design. Part 3 compared Linux' standing as an industry standard. Here I'll show why moving Mac OS X to a Linux kernel is just impossible.

Problem 3 : The Substantial Reasons for Not Moving Mac OS X to the Linux Kernel
Linux isn't a good match for Apple's Mac OS X for a number of reasons. Simply stated, both were designed to solve very different problems using different approaches. I'll take a look at some aspects within three different areas where the two just don't match up at all:

I broke ideas out into these categories to make it easier to present a picture of the impossible chasm between Linux and Apple's Mac OS X. There are so many problems, from differences in design goals, to commercial practicality, to technical compatibility, that it is impossible to present them all, but here are some of the more significant issues involved:

To click or not to click... ?
Philosophical Differences

Open Source Motive - Linux is designed to be at the core of a vibrant open source movement. Apple's open source efforts are designed to share technology. Apple wasn't trying to create an upstart Unix distro to replace Linux as a command line platform.

Calling Apple's Darwin a failure because it hasn't become a common distro for a large community ignores the fact that Apple opened Darwin to give developers more access to understanding how things work under the hood, not to compete with Linux or other BSDs as either a unique kernel or as a general purpose distro.

All open source projects don't follow the same model and purpose. While Apple has both shared with and benefitted from outside development, they did not at all intend to outsource their product management or development of their underlying OS to a worldwide bazaar of code contributors.

Apple's whole business model revolves around selling hardware with well integrated, easy to use software. There's no overlap at all with the goals of Linux developers. Beyond that, there are two other philosophical factors that affect how both parties approach their goals.

The Swiss Army Knife - Linux is designed to be a kernel appropriate for any array of applications. Apple's kernel is specifically tuned to serve as the foundation of Mac OS X. This idea is lost upon people who try to compare specialized applications of Linux with Darwin. As Apple's docs point out:

Although it could be considered a standalone operating system [...] many of the fundamental design decisions of Darwin are governed by its being embedded within Mac OS X.

Worse is Better - Linux is designed to be good enough to get the job done when the job could be most anything. Linus Torvalds doesn't claim that Linux is a perfect architecture and avoids comparisons about having the best design. Linux' code quality is not unquestioned.

Apple doesn't have to design their kernel to fit a variety of needs, so they can lay out perfectionist plans to build an ideal architecture to suit Mac OS X. This allows them the luxury of chucking out clunky old ideas and starting fresh with clean modern ones, something that general purpose projects with lots of external dependencies and entrenched ways of doing things can't do. One obvious example of this is launchd.

Continued: Political Differences


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