Here in the Linux community, it’s no secret that there are more flavors of our favorite operating system than most of us can keep track of.
That doesn’t mean, however, that one can just up and disappear without anyone noticing.
Case in point: Pear OS. One day it’s freely available for download, offering a remarkably Mac-like experience that’s nevertheless based on Linux. The next day — specifically, last Monday — it’s gone.
‘A Very Large Company’
“Pear OS is no longer available for download,” wrote Pear creator David Tavares on the project page. “Its future is now in the hands of a company who wants to remain anonymous for the moment. The concept has pleased them, and [they] now want to continue and improve the system for their own products.
“I can not give a name, but it is a very large company — well-known,” Tavares added.
Now, a disappearing OS is mysterious enough all by itself, but add in a potential Cupertino connection and a whole lot of snowbound FOSS fans with cabin fever, and what have you got? That’s right: a veritable speculation-fest down at the Linux blogosphere’s rowdy Punchy Penguin Saloon.
‘It Could Well Be Apple’
“In general, if a company is going to purchase a linux distro to use in their own products, they aren’t going to pull it from the market,” Travers explained. “It makes no sense to do that, since it removes a source of self-promotion and brand awareness.
“This leads me to conclude that whoever did this is no friend of the linux distro,” he concluded. “It could well be Apple, since the distro set out largely to clone Apple’s UI.”
‘Could Be Apple, Yes’
Similarly, “oh, poor Pear OS,” lamented Google+ blogger Alessandro Ebersol. “When something gets really good, there’s always a corporation that comes and spoils it.
“Could be Apple, yes,” Ebersol opined. “It’s easier to buy the project than to fight it in court, and with the already-bad press they get about the litigation with Samsung. Could be Microsoft too, since they badly need a new look for their doomed Metro UI — I find this rather impossible, but…”
The key question now on Ebersol’s mind is how a company can “‘buy’ a GPL-based project and shut it down,” he told Linux Girl. “Tavares was not creating something from scratch. He was building something on top of a GPL-based operating system. So, how is that even possible?
“FSF should watch that closely,” he concluded.
‘Pear Was Not an Open Distro’
On the other hand, “Pear OS was not an open, community-based Linux distro, which is why another company could buy it and kill it,” countered Google+ blogger Kevin O’Brien.
“I have no idea if Apple was involved, nor is it even important,” O’Brien asserted. “That is the real lesson here: Either the software you use is free or it isn’t, and that matters. Use free software, people!”
Meanwhile, “I can’t imagine it is worth speculating about who did what and what comes next, so it is probably best to wait for the inevitable announcement,” suggested consultant and Slashdot blogger Gerhard Mack.
‘I’ve Been Racking My Brain’
Still, the speculation continues fast and furious.
“I have a lot of doubt that Apple is behind this particular announcement,” offered Linux Rants blogger Mike Stone, for instance.
“Tavares made his announcement vague enough that not a lot can be derived for certain, but it had the air of being a positive announcement,” Stone explained. “It doesn’t sound like a lawsuit was incoming or anything like that.”
In addition, “since Pear already attempted to mimic the existing Apple interface, it doesn’t seem like Apple would have a lot of motivation to purchase them, and it doesn’t sound like Apple was/is suing them out of existence,” he added. “It sounds more likely that it’s someone else.
“Who that someone else could be, I’ve been racking my brain to think of, but I’ve been coming up with nothing,” Stone said. “I just hope that it’s someone that will put Pear’s Linux to good use.”
‘They Have Lawyers for That’
Google+ blogger Gonzalo Velasco C. didn’t think Apple a likely culprit, either.
“I don’t think so,” he told Linux Girl. “Any distribution below the ‘top 20’ is doubtfully a threat to Apple or Microsoft,” he suggested. “Who knows if a Chinese company wants to sell laptops with their own distribution and are planning to make it copying Apple.”
Google+ blogger Brett Legree saw it similarly.
“I do not believe that Apple is responsible here,” Legree said. “If they simply wanted to take Pear OS down due to it being a ‘copycat,’ well, they have lawyers for that — just ask Samsung.
“If they wanted a Linux distro that looked like OS X for whatever reason, they could just build their own, easily and cleanly — after all, they do know a thing or two about writing operating systems,” he added.
‘Yeah, Not Buying It’
Slashdot blogger hairyfeet had an even stronger viewpoint.
“Uhhh… paranoid much?” hairyfeet began. “Apple doesn’t even sell its OS software — it gives it away for the most part because it knows its customers are buying the whole package, the software AND the hardware AND the design AND the AppleCare AND the genius bars, etc.
“What value would Pear give Apple?” he asked. “An OS that frankly nobody outside of the Linux community has heard of? Yeah, not buying it.”
In short, “not gonna believe Apple would spend money just to kill some little project that its customers are likely to have never even known existed,” hairyfeet concluded. “Heck, I am interested in new and different OSes and I had no clue it existed.”
‘The Start of Something Big’
Last but not least, blogger Robert Pogson remained undecided.
“I just don’t know about this,” Pogson told Linux Girl. “If Apple did buy Pear out, we may never know unless it was a big enough transaction to get to the SEC. I doubt that.”
A far brighter scenario, however, could be that Pear was “bought out by a sincere company that really wants to invest in FLOSS for its own use,” Pogson suggested. “They could have just used any distro; buying one out suggests they wanted to own the ideas involved in the distro to the extent possible in case something big comes of it.”
Pogson’s hope? “It’s some OEM wanting to escape the Wintel treadmill,” he said. “Today’s SEC 10-Q from M$ shows consumer profit dropped nearly $1b while commercial profit grew as much. M$ took $billions from the global consumer budget for IT with ‘Surface’ and didn’t have to pay its own licensing fees. I would bet OEMs would like to ship GNU/Linux in bulk to have that kind of growth.”
Microsoft has long been “taking the cream and now wants to eat the whole cow by getting into hardware,” he concluded. “The OEMs should move to GNU/Linux, and acquiring a distro might just be the start of something big.”
Of course, “it’s also possible some retailer is tired of M$’s stuff gathering dust on the shelves and wants to sell a ‘house brand’ GNU/Linux,” Pogson added. “Anything that moves the world further from M$ is good with me.”