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Apple woos open source to Rendezvous

The Mac maker says it's not just opening up the source code for its Rendezvous networking tool--it's actively courting open-source developers to work with the technology.

Apple Computer doesn't want its Rendezvous to be cloaked in secrecy.

The Mac maker said it plans by next month to release to the open-source community the technology it calls Rendezvous, which allows networked devices to automatically find each other.

"If you don't have it proliferate, it's the sound of one hand clapping," said Brian Croll, senior director of worldwide product marketing for Apple's software unit.

The technology, which is built into the new version 10.2 of Mac OS X, can be used to simplify network printing, file sharing and other communications tasks. Apple uses Rendezvous in its iChat program to allow people to see a list of other people on their local computer network who they might want to chat with. It has also pledged to add the technology by early next year to iTunes, which will allow Mac owners to stream music files stored on other Macs on the same network.

By releasing the code to the open-source community, Apple is hoping that the technology will find its way into other peripherals and devices, thereby making Rendezvous-equipped Macs more useful.

Specifically, Apple is releasing the core technology needed to allow devices to discover each other, as well as its specific implementation of Rendezvous in Mac OS X. However, device makers will still need to do their own work to adapt the technology to their particular product.

Simply offering Rendezvous to the world won't necessarily make it a success. The Mac maker says it is doing more than just throwing the source code over a wall; it plans to work with developers who want to add the technology.

"I think this is probably the No. 1 new technology that we are out there evangelizing for the developer community," Croll said.

Hewlett-Packard and Lexmark have already pledged to include Rendezvous in future printers.

Apple executives say there is strong interest from developers who want to include Rendezvous, but the company declined to say what types of uses were being contemplated beyond networked printers. In theory, the technology could be used in consumer electronics in a home network, such as an Internet stereo that could grab music files from other Macs on the network.

With the release of Mac OS X 10.2 comes an update to Darwin, the open-source core that sits at the heart of Mac OS X. The face-lift to Darwin includes, among other things, version 4.4 of FreeBSD and the latest version of the Internet Protocol as well as Apple's Open Directory effort.