Mac OS X 10.5.2: Lots of internal fixes but little connection to the "real" world

Is Apple too inbred to play well with strangers?

Apple recently released an update to Leopard, version 10.5.2. If you read the list of goodies included, it's a pretty compelling update. I've particularly enjoyed better WiFi connectivity with the update.

It doesn't, however, solve my biggest problems with my Macs right now: an inability to sync between Microsoft's Entourage and iCal (which may be Microsoft's problem or it may be Apple's problem - both support teams point fingers at the other company when I've called on the issue) and it doesn't remedy my inability to sync between my Blackberry and Entourage (which is a RIM/Microsoft problem, but both companies like to point fingers at each other on this issue, too).

In sum, my biggest problems on the Mac today have little to do with the Mac and everything to do with the Mac's intersection with third-party software. This may be Microsoft's big moment to yell out, "I told you so!"

If I were to stay within the Apple cocoon, I'd probably be fine. My wife has zero problems working between her iPhone and Powerbook - they work great together.

But I don't live 100 percent within the Apple ecosystem. Because I like an office suite, I use NeoOffice (OpenOffice) and Microsoft Office. Because I like an integrated email client (address book, tasks, calendar, email, etc. - all together under one roof), I use Microsoft's Entourage suite. And so on. Apple doesn't control these products and, just like in the Microsoft world, the more software complexity introduced into the Mac's universe, I'm betting (because I'm experiencing it) that the "everything just works" logos of the Mac will start to break down.

All of which may demand a better paradigm for cross-platform, cross-application development. I like Firefox because it works pretty much the same across any platform (Linux, Windows, Mac). This is also why I increasingly love Zimbra. I don't want to use an application that treats the Mac (or Linux) as a second-class citizen, because I think good product design often stems from a certain amount of independence from the vagaries of a given operating system.

In like manner, I wish applications were developed with open APIs and open standards so that plugging the two together would be a bit less guesswork and black magic and a bit more science and artistry.

I'm not a programmer, so I might be asking for the impossible. I'd like to think, however, that the principle of modularity that makes open source tick could be applied more generally to software. I think I'd prefer applications with loose, promiscuous affiliations to other applications than tightly wedded applications that rely on insider knowledge to make them work together properly. I'm sure I'd be giving something up in this loose-knit affiliation model but the greater pluggability might well make it worth it.

Coming full circle to the Mac, is the Mac too tightly integrated with its kin to effectively socialize with third-party software? Any developers out there who could comment?

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About the author

    Matt Asay is chief operating officer at Canonical, the company behind the Ubuntu Linux operating system. Prior to Canonical, Matt was general manager of the Americas division and vice president of business development at Alfresco, an open-source applications company. Matt brings a decade of in-the-trenches open-source business and legal experience to The Open Road, with an emphasis on emerging open-source business strategies and opportunities. He is a member of the CNET Blog Network and is not an employee of CNET. You can follow Matt on Twitter @mjasay.

     

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