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View Full Version : Closed system architectures (like Apple), are the advantages outweighed by the disadvantages?


glenn1
02-17-2002, 07:12 PM
IMO, it's a harder question than it seems. The advantages of course are huge, particularly for programmers. No need to code for multiple configurations and platforms like a PC, and no compromises because of that... you can simply write the best code for the standardized architecture you're working on. Therefore, the end user gets software that's almost perfectly optimized for their use.

However, as we know, standardization and proprietary comes at a price... and it's not hard to see when you see how much Apples and other closed-end systems cost, both upfront (and the lack of flexibility and upgradability at the end user level).

So, for the end user and consumer, are the advantages that closed-end system architecture brings to the table outweighed by the disadvantages, or vice versa?

Turkey
02-17-2002, 07:48 PM
Different philosophies for different situations/markets. What situation are you talking about?

Evadman
02-17-2002, 09:56 PM
Just like Console Vs. Computer games. There are disadvantages and advantages. DO you have a specific problem you wish to discuss?

Nothinman
02-18-2002, 01:32 AM
It's not as black and white any more. Proper programming can support a highly variable system like a PC quite well, Linux and Win2K/XP both are very reliable on PCs. And compilers should take care of 99% of the optimizations needed, most programmers should never have to worry about the processor they're targetting.

I just got to play with OS X this weekend and I personally think it kicks ass, but I'm not going to drop the $2K for a G4, it's not worth it.

Locutus4657
02-18-2002, 09:21 AM
I really see why programming for a PC is any harder than programming for a Mac. For 99% code out there the programmer doesn't see the hardware at all. Now the only question is if you're a game programmer, then certainly having a closed platform would be much better right? Well not really... You see, you still have to worry about what video card you might have a in a Macintosh seeing as Mac's have standard AGP buses and you actually can get a variaty of different video cards in there. So realy, I really don't see what advatage a platform such as the mac offers a programmer over a platform like the PC. As a matter of fact programming for a pre-OSX Mac was quite a bit trickier than any PC OS. Why would I say this? Because pre-OSX MacOS was a "coopertive" multitasking OS with no memory protection. So for the C/C++ programmer, not only do you have to worry about the standard memory management (i.e. making sure you're only using the memory you need, freeing memory that is no longer needed) but also you have to make sure you're not writing over anyone else's memory because unlike a PC, the Mac won't stop you from doing that. Also if you're going to have a program with an infinit loop in it (web server etc.) you have too make sure too use the release() command, other wise your Mac OS will appear to be locked up (when infact it's only working on your program and no one else can get CPU time). So I would say the advantage has been on the x-86 side for quite some time.



<< IMO, it's a harder question than it seems. The advantages of course are huge, particularly for programmers. No need to code for multiple configurations and platforms like a PC, and no compromises because of that... you can simply write the best code for the standardized architecture you're working on. Therefore, the end user gets software that's almost perfectly optimized for their use.

However, as we know, standardization and proprietary comes at a price... and it's not hard to see when you see how much Apples and other closed-end systems cost, both upfront (and the lack of flexibility and upgradability at the end user level).

So, for the end user and consumer, are the advantages that closed-end system architecture brings to the table outweighed by the disadvantages, or vice versa? >>

rimshaker
02-18-2002, 10:00 AM
Consumer and end-user benefits?? Wow, that's easy. Take a look around! The world practically operates on IBM-based computers. Apple is mearly a niche market, with a few devoted followers as well. There must be like 1 apple computer for every 1000 ibm-compatible ones worldwide.... most likely more.

jhu
02-18-2002, 10:56 AM
given that apple has a 5% market share, it's more like 1 in 20 computers is a mac. that's not a bad share for one company with higher profit margins computers than the other manufacturers.

Shalmanese
02-18-2002, 11:16 PM
This problem was raised in the old "what if we got rid of legacy" thread a while back in the days of yore :).

Basically, you still need to code for new technologies while keeping support for the old because many people run on legacy HW/SW. If you sacrifice the legacy requirements for a completely rigid system spec (consoles) you risk becoming outdate very fast.

WaltC
02-19-2002, 04:25 PM
<< given that apple has a 5% market share, it's more like 1 in 20 computers is a mac. that's not a bad share for one company with higher profit margins computers than the other manufacturers. >>



Actually, the last numbers I saw worldwide for Apple market share came in at under 3%--something like 2.78%, if memory serves. Can't recall which is which, but in certain geographical/national areas (for instance, in the US alone, or in Europe) Apple marketshare does hit 5% or so, but in other areas of the world it might well be 1 in 1,000.

But mainly, in sticking with the topic here, it's hard to see any advantages whatsoever in consumer-based closed end systems. What's a personal computer consist of, after all, except hardware and software?

Hardware: Closed architectures (like Apple) offer very little in the way of 3rd-party hardware choices for the consumer. There are two main reasons for this, I think, which are that the market for closed architectures is so small that hardware manufacturers have a tough time justifying the expense of designing products for it, and that the sort of consumers that closed systems like Apple attract are consumers who simply do not wish to make any additional hardware purchases after the initial system purchase; people, in other words, who do not have any interest in adding or changing out hardware components--they don't wish to be bothered with such things.

Software: To me, this is so obvious it's a no-brainer. While there is a decent amount of existing, traditional software for closed systems like the Mac (Photoshop, M$ Office, etc.), and a decent supply of aging shareware, the amount of new software being generated for the Mac in all categories, especially but certainly not exclusive to 3D computer gaming, is simply dwarfed by the amount of software being generated for the x86/Windows consumer marketplace. Traditional Apple consumers, for instance, not only have a disdain for adding or changing computer hardware in general in their systems, they also aren't very "picky" when it comes to software--"picky" in the sense that having a great number of choices to make regarding software is less appealing than being restricted to choosing between two or three pieces of software designed for a specific task. If they have one or two "decent" Word Processing programs to choose between, for instance, this type of consumer tends to believe he has "enough" in the way of choice and that having as many choices as are present in the x86/Windows market is not an advantage, but rather superfluous and confusing--for this breed of consumer having a lot to choose from seems almost a disadvantage.

When you add all of this up it's not surprising to see why less than 3% of everyone who purchased a computer last year chose a closed consumer system like a Mac. So it's really hard to see any "advantages" at all, IMHO.

The rest of it is pure marketing--color and shape of the case--type of plastics used--anti-M$ progpaganda, that type of thing.

But one additional point to make about hardware. Apple is increasingly being forced by economies of scale to abandon custom-designed hardware. Even though Apple systems are still a bit more expensive than comparable x86 systems, Apple knows there is a definite limit on what its customers will pay for Apple systems, regardless of their emotional ties to the company. In other words, people might pay a small premium for custom & closed consumer systems like the Mac, but they definitely will not pay a lot more for them. As competition in the x86 hardware market has put an ever downward spiral on the cost for consumer x86 hardware, Apple has had to react by actually incorporating a good deal of x86 hardware into its systems, so as to take advantage of the economies of scale that exist in the x86 hardware market so that it's overall pricing can remain competitive with x86 systems in general. Things like the PCI bus, AGP bus, IDE, etc., which years ago were not a part of Apple hardware back when Apple designed its own hardware. There was even a time when Apple designed its own graphics chips, but even then pricing pressures forced Apple to adopt graphics systems first by ATI, and now nVidia is making some Apple graphics cards---even 3dfx made a few 3D products for the Mac before the company went under. None of this would be possible, however, had Apple not started incorporating x86 bus designs in its systems years ago. Today's nVidia graphics card for a Mac is essentially the same card made for the x86 market, but with software drivers for the Apple OS environments.

Also, Apple is in a sense possibly hobbled by its reliance on Motorola for its core logic chips and its cpus--if Motorola doesn't make progress in these areas, then neither does Apple. That's one reason the new Macs can't use DDR ram, I believe--the Motorola core logic simply doesn't support it yet. But it will, and relatively soon I expect.

So when you get right down to it, there really aren't any more "totally closed end" consumer systems available today--as there certainly were in the heyday of closed architectures in the mid-to late '80's and early 90's, when you had machines like Commodore Amigas (which was simply too far ahead of its time) selling 1-2 million machines a year in a total world-wide market of < ten million machines a year. The annual world wide market for personal computers is 10X that size today. And Apple is the last of the closed-system consumer architectures left--the point being that with each passing day what distinguishes a Mac from an x86 box is not so much the hardware anymore, but rather the color and construction of the case and the OS. And of course the software, or rather the lack thereof, in the case of the Apple environment.

Nothinman
02-19-2002, 05:42 PM
Hardware: Closed architectures (like Apple) offer very little in the way of 3rd-party hardware choices for the consumer.

G3s and G4s use PCI based systems with AGP slots so most off the shelf hardware will work, getting device drivers is the hard part. But since OS X is built from BSD it wouldn't be hard to port drivers from Net or Free BSD. Or you could go a step further and install Linux or NetBSD, both have much better hardware support and run great on PPC32 machines.

Software: To me, this is so obvious it's a no-brainer. While there is a decent amount of existing, traditional software for closed systems like the Mac (Photoshop, M$ Office, etc.), and a decent supply of aging shareware, the amount of new software being generated for the Mac in all categories, especially but certainly not exclusive to 3D computer gaming, is simply dwarfed by the amount of software being generated for the x86/Windows consumer marketplace.

Sure if you only bought a PC for gaming you're going to be limited to a Wintel box, but again since OS X is based on BSD nearly all unix programs compile and run on it with little or no modifications, so the amount of OS X compatible software has increased tremendously.

When you add all of this up it's not surprising to see why less than 3% of everyone who purchased a computer last year chose a closed consumer system like a Mac. So it's really hard to see any "advantages" at all, IMHO.

I would personally own one if the price wasn't so high just because the hardware is so much better, especially with how non-proprietary the latest Macs have become, although they're not as non-proprietary as regular PCs yet.

It's along the same lines of why I bought an Alpha and a Sparc, which are less and more proprietary than Apple hardware, it's just so much better than PC hardware (and I like to play with different things =)). The 167Mhz Ultra1 I bought runs Solaris 8 well enough to be usable for day to day use and learning, find me a 166Mhz PC that will run WinXP so that it's usable.

454Casull
02-19-2002, 07:10 PM
If there was a be-all, end-all solution to personal computing, then yes, I would think that controlled architecture is the way to go. But there isn't.

While we may go on and off about a product's benefits, the fact is, every different thing has them. As long as we have a niche to fill (and brand loyalty), somebody will fill it.

I'm not making much sense, am I?