Will Apple's opening up of MacOS X Server be enough to woo the open source developer community in to improve and enhance the OS?
Quite likely, says local Mac and Unix developer Bruce Hoult, who has already registered on the Darwin Website.
"For a start, there is some pretty cool stuff in the NeXT/Apple work and Linux people will surely take a look just to see if there's anything useful they can steal," says Hoult. "Can they resist doing a bit of cross-fertilisation the other way at the same time?"
The Apple OS, in turn, is likely to benefit from the kind of low-level optimisation that has been a feature of the Linux development process, says Hoult.
"Over the years NeXT and Apple may not have put quite so much effort into low level kernel performance tuning - virtual memory, task switching and so on - as the Linux people. In fact, it's virtually certain that they've been concentrating much more on nice high-level features.
"Which of course is the big advantage of the open source stuff - there are enough people out there who like to play with low level optimisation that it's been done superbly for Linux.
"If they worked for a company then by and large this work would be nixed by management as not being worthwhile and not adding a single tick to any features list. The result is that on every platform from x86 to Alpha to SPARC, Linux has better VM and task switching performance than the vendor's own operating systems.
"Some people have been saying that Apple should abandon kernel development and just put MacOS X on top of the Linux kernel. This development could well have exactly the same positive effects."
Hoult expects MacOS Server, as the name suggests, to fill a similar niche to that of Linux and Windows NT Server - that of print, Web, DNS, firewall, cache and database server roles.
"As an open source Unix, it can do anything that Linux can do," he says. "With a sophisticated GUI interface it is easier to set up and administer than NT. Just like Linux, it should perform considerably better than NT.
"It possibly won't perform quite as well as Linux, but then Linux is mostly on slower processors -- this will make the PowerPC architecture shine.
"On paper it's a winner. The question is: will the 'NT gives me a job for life' MIS people let it get a foot in the door?"