7 reasons Apple should open-source Swift -- and 7 reasons it won't

Faster innovation, better security, new markets -- the case for opening Swift might be more compelling than Apple will admit

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Why Apple should open-source Swift: The future labor pool is coming of age on open source

One computer science professor told me he loves Swift but can't require his students to buy the most expensive hardware around merely to use it. This is a significant reason why so many computer science courses embrace free IDEs like Eclipse running on commodity hardware, and it's the same reason many beginner courses focus on HTML5, JavaScript, and their simple worlds like Firefox OS. Self-educated hackers follow the same route: Open source or die trying.

If Apple wants to gain traction in programming courses and among the self-taught, it needs to get Swift running on cheaper hardware. Once kids learn Java on Eclipse, installing the Android Development Kit takes a few minutes. Saving enough money to buy a Mac to install Xcode takes a bit longer. A generation hooked young on Android development could spell rough times ahead for Apple.

Why Apple won't open-source Swift: Markets define what programmers code

While there may be truth to the simplicity and economy of cutting one's programming teeth by developing for Android, at the end of the day the students want jobs. iOS continues to generate the most revenue for app developers, and revenue is directly proportional to jobs. Students will always want to learn the platform that supports paying customers, and right now, there aren't as many of those in the world of low-end Android phones. As long as Apple leads, learners will follow -- even if they have to buy expensive hardware to gain entrance to the walled garden.

Why Apple should open-source Swift: With open source, "every bug is shallow"

A central tenet of open source is that many eyeballs means all bugs are shallow. Because of this, well-maintained open source code is frequently free of many of the problems that can bedevil new code. The breadth of the community working on the code is great for debugging. Someone makes the mistake, and a person they may never meet fixes it. If Swift wants to move quickly, add functionality, and ensure optimal performance and security, it needs to make it easy for programmers to pore over the code and share their tweaks with everyone.

Why Apple won't open-source Swift: Walled gardens have advantages

The open source world may crow about its record, but there's no way to measure the efficiency of bug fixing. Declaring all bugs fixed is equivalent to proving a negative. Ask the folks who trusted OpenSSL all of these years.

A walled garden may ask us to trust a black box that may be riven with bugs and hidden backdoors, but this has an advantage: The bad guys are as confused as we are. Ignorance isn't an advantage to celebrate, but it can be an advantage. Plus, one of Apple's most embarrassing bugs, the "goto fail" travesty, was in the code it open-sourced long ago. How many years did it take the many eyes of the open source community to find it?

Why Apple should open-source Swift: Openness means proliferation and new markets

Once upon a time, Apple owned the smartphone world. Then Google open-sourced Android and won over an astounding percentage of the marketplace -- 85 percent of new smartphones by one recent estimate. That's a tempting number for developers. Open source offers a stealthy way to infiltrate markets, nurture new devices, and attract plenty of new partners. There are Android televisions, cameras, laptops, and even refrigerators. The biggest news from the iOS world is that the iPhones now come in different colors.

Why Apple won't open-source Swift: Sharing leads to fragmentation

Sharing may attract greater interest and new ideas, but often this leads to fragmentation and confusion -- or in Android fanboy speak, "device diversity." Why would Apple want to encourage more versions of Swift to confuse people? It's hard enough to support the iPhone 4 and the iPhone 5 at the same time. Android developers curse the endless varieties.

Plus, what if some wonderful new code for Swift runs only on Linux but not Mac? How does that help Apple and its customers? Apple is in the business of delivering smoothly running solutions to everyone, not nurturing a hack fest for programmers.

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