John Gruber writes that “X11 is only of interest to Unix nerds. It has no relevance whatsoever to regular Mac users”:
[Mac OS X] not only runs Macintosh software, but it runs Unix software as well. But that X11 applications consist of standard GUI elements such as windows, menus, and buttons does not change the fact that they are Unix programs: tricky to install and remove, poorly designed, and utterly lacking in Mac-ness. That X11 is a graphical environment doesn’t mean it’s any more interesting to most Mac users than the text-based programs accessible via Terminal.
I totally agree that X11 applications aren’t real Mac applications, and that’s exactly why Apple’s X11 server is relevant. Not only does it make it easier to bring X11 apps to the Mac without rewriting them in Carbon or Cocoa, but the fact that it’s an Apple product means that Apple is implicitly saying that this is an OK thing to do.
Consider the case of MATLAB. It used to be a real Macintosh application, not unlike Gruber’s example of MacPerl. It could copy and paste graphs in EPS, which I thought was cool. The MathWorks stopped developing MATLAB for the Mac, but now they’ve brought it to Mac OS X. The only problem is that MATLAB 6.5 is an X11 port, and thus is probably less Mac-like than MATLAB running in Virtual PC. (This is speculation: I’ve used the old Mac version of MATLAB, as well as X11 versions on Linux and Solaris; I’ve not used 6.5 on Mac OS X.)
I worry that Apple’s X11 server will encourage more ports of this type, and that regular Mac users will be forced to use them. Of course, maybe these companies would never consider doing real Mac ports, in which case an Apple X11 server is preferable to Fink or paying Tenon a lot of money.
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