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Closed Source: The Most Hated Tech Luxury of All Time

We all use software, whether we love it or not. The wars between open source and closed source have been around for a long time. It’s a debate over whether or not software should be available for everyone to use and make modifications to and how much power they should have over the software. The two big examples of open vs. closed source are Windows vs. Mac OS and iOS vs. Android. If you didn’t guess which ones are closed source, it’s Mac OS and iOS, the desktop and mobile operating systems created by Apple.

Which one is better is really a complicated question and one that can start some very heated nerd wars. Let’s start with open source. Open source can have all sorts of different meanings and permission levels. For example, in Android the source code which is the base code for the operating system developed by Google, is freely available to the public. Code writers can take the source code and develop their own “flavor” of Android. The operating system will most likely look and perform differently from other flavors. Because of this, all manufacturers have their own version (and in some cases many versions) of Android. So when you buy a new Android phone, even if it has the same version of Android it might not be the same as your old Android phone. This is one of the reasons some people don’t like Android because they have to essentially learn a new operating system every time they get a new phone. Windows is another version of open source. Though the source code isn’t publicly available, anyone can install it on virtually any hardware as long as it meets the minimum system requirements. Because of this, if there is a bug in Windows it can often take a long period of time before a fix is found, depending on the bug.

iOS is an example of closed source. The operating system is highly controlled by Apple and can only be installed by Apple on the iPhone, there is no publicly available source code. Also, you can’t tweak the phone except for the settings available in the OS. Some people have “rooted” their iPhones to do things they weren’t intended to do, but this often provides minimal results. People who want a phone that just works love iOS. Mac OS is also an example of closed source. Unlike Windows, it can only be installed on the Mac. People have built what they call “hackintoshes” which is essentially hardware close to what they believe macs use, but don’t always get performance exactly like the mac. Also, it’s a violation of the End User License Agreement. The advantage of having a computer OS that can only run on specific hardware and a very small selection of it is that if there is a bug it can easily be fixed because Apple knows what hardware they have and can narrow it down really fast.

So which is better? I can’t tell you which one you will like better but I can tell you what I like. I use a bit of both. I have a custom-built PC that I use most of the time but I also have a MacBook Pro for when I can’t be at my desktop and need a computer. I like them both. If I was made of money I would buy a Mac Pro and have Windows on it either via virtualization or bootcamp, because I will never be able to completely escape Windows. Sure, there are alternative programs but in some cases they just aren’t as good, even if they are written for Mac. Until we figure out how to end this war of closed source vs. open source, we will have this problem. Since I don’t do much source code tweaking, being able to edit the source code doesn’t really effect me. However, it’s not always good for one group to have complete control over a piece of software. Which do you like better?

About The Author

Paul Shirey is the founder of Paul Shirey Tech. Paul loves exploring and learning about the latest tech stories. When he isn't reporting the latest tech news and stories to you you will find him playing Minecraft and blowing himself up as much as possible.

Number of Entries : 337
  • Anne Thomas

    truthfully I prefer Ios devices, and unix, windows I can’t get away from  but not my favorite

  • Nick

    I like Mac. Yet, my 20+ year old MacBook died (or malfunction) early last year. So, I’m using Windows 7 right now – and I’ll save money for next generation MacBook Pro plus iPad3. For me, the debate is not open v. close. It”s which company put consumer first. When you open a Windows box, you’ll notice lot of feature for M$ to brag but less relevant for me. On the other hand, Mac puts your everyday use at ease – you really don’t need all those highly technical features.

    • Anonymous

      Did they even have the MacBook 20 years ago?

  • Teresa de Grosbois

    Great article Paul.  I know what you mean about Mac Pro and Windows too.  I use a Mac Pro and wish I had of wiped it’s brain and converted it to windows when I started.  The lack of great Mac software is just all round painful.  Any word of mouth on whether this is bound to improve?

    • Anonymous

      There’s a lot of great mac software, especially the software in the App store which you all know has been cleared by Apple. The selection is good but there’s still some software devs that don’t get it

  • Jason Flaugh

    one of the reasons why I don’t like apple, besides of course the cult like culture.

    • Anonymous

      Who’s to say there’s not a “cult” of Windows users?

  • Ralph Janke

    Android is not open source, just less closed than iOS. And Windows is definitely not open source, just to make that clear.

    For Android phones, hopefully you may use Ubuntu Mobile or Kubuntu Mobile soon. For iPhones or Blackberries, no idea what to do – not my problem. All the newer Macs actually work fine with any Ubuntu flavor as do all PCs. So, compare a real Open Source OS in your mix!

    Who would buy a car with the bonnet welded shut? That is what software is when you cannot fix it. Or a house where you cannot solder the plumbing from the fixture to the dishwasher yourself. How comes, nobody would buy such a car or house, but with software it is no problem.

    And btw. you never buy proprietary software, doesn’t matter how often you buy it. You only buy a license with certain rights granted to you, which can be removed from you at any time in the discretion of the copyright owner.

  • Dan Stepel

    I keep coming back because i enjoy your posts. However I must say that this one is way over my head. But I doubt i am your target here.

  • gizmo4me2

    I most say open Source is on my list of uses. I like when I buy a phone to get something new, you mite as well keep the old one.

  • john philpin

    never ever seen anyone describe windows as open source – i know what you mean – but surely some terms are getting confused here ?

    • Anonymous


  • Branigan Mj

    I shared this on Google+

  • Andrew Woodcock

    Interesting article although I can’t agree that Windows is Open Source – it is certainly less restrictive than MacOS (as you point out, you can install it on anything that can run it unlike Apple that demand that MacOS only be installed on Apple hardware) but you cannot access or modify the Windows source code and hence to my mind it cannot be described as Open Source.

  • Anonymous

    Ok, Windows, is not Open Source.  Sure, you might be able to download their Source Code, but you can’t distribute the software.

    Open Source means that 1) you can download the software (Android), 2) you can manipulate the software and change it to your liking (Android), 3) you can redistribute the software in question (Android), 4) it’s free (Android).

    Windows does not fit into the category of Open Source because you can’t change the code, you can’t redistribute, and it’s not free.

    Other than that, it’s a pretty good article.  I think if I was going to buy a product that last and is easily fixable, (the bugs) I’d go with a Mac.  But like you said, if you’re on the web much at all, you just about can’t get around using both.  So, I say just buy both.

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