I understand Mac and Linux both have a similar architecture, so what are the differences that prevent for example, mac applications being compatible with linux?

  • This has been answered here.
    – JanC
    Nov 4, 2010 at 18:29
  • I can't answer your question completely, but I like to say that Mac OS and GNU/Linux are cousins. (Not brothers)
    – DrKenobi
    Nov 4, 2010 at 19:09
  • 2
    One similarity between them that hasn't been mentioned here is that they are both POSIX compatible. This is why people think they are related but they aren't. Nov 4, 2010 at 20:08

3 Answers 3


Mac OS is based on a BSD code base, while Linux is an independent development of a unix-like system. This means that these systems are similar, but not binary compatible.

Furthermore, Mac OS has lots of applications that are not open source and are build on libraries that are not open source. Because of this reason, it is not possible to port those applications to run on Linux without being the copyright owner of those applications and libraries.


From using all 3 major Operating Systems (considering Ubuntu as the third, as the representative of Linux,) I can tell you that Ubuntu is very similar to Mac OS X in simplicity, also I have noticed window dialogs tend to be remarkably similar to that of which we see in Ubuntu. While Ubuntu maintains certain factors that are similar to Windows, such as the default taskbar (that is typically replaced anyhow.)

From a usability respect, both Operating Systems are nearly equal.

As twxwikinger said, the major difference between Mac OS X and Ubuntu would have to be that Mac OS X is closed source, as he explained. Essentially, Ubuntu is free due to it's Open Source licensing, Mac OS X; due to being closed source, isn't.

Beyond that, Mac OS X and Ubuntu are cousins, Mac OS X being based off of FreeBSD/BSD, and Ubuntu being Linux based, which are two separate branches off of UNIX.


Mac OS X is just basically just a special kernel (because Apple can lock down what hardware gets used so effectively, they can optimize without having to cater to myriad hardware) and a GUI pasted on top of UNIX. It's also incredibly close to completely compatible with Linux technically except for the steps Apple has taken to keep open source away. It's quite possible to drop a linux packaging system like apt-get into an OSX installation and have it work fine.

VLC actually sued them to remove the VLC Player from the App Store because they didn't want to see them benefit financially by their "1-way" street of taking open code, changing it, and then locking it down.

Really I guess I'm trying to say that OSX and Linux are more alike than either community would probably lead you to believe. And like Grayson was saying, both of them are incredibly close to their grandfather UNIX - you can effectively learn 90% of both OSX and Linux systems by just studying UNIX.

  • 1
    Do you have links to the VLC articles, and the point about "keeping open source away" sounds intresting, but I would like to see something to back it up.
    – Mateo
    May 3, 2013 at 1:25
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    It's not just VLC either, many/most people publishing under the GPL don't want Apple using or publishing their software. zdnet.com/blog/open-source/no-gpl-apps-for-apples-app-store/…
    – user89599
    May 4, 2013 at 6:25
  • I think you have it backwards, it is the Gpl that is restricting the free use on a closed platform. Now instead of having free access to an open source program ( where the source code could easily be accessed/modified/redristributed, if a link to orgnial code was provided), you would need to become a developer yourself and pay Apple $99 to do it.
    – Mateo
    May 4, 2013 at 16:46
  • Closed platforms shouldn't have the benefit of using open-source code. If Apple wants to stay expensive and proprietary, they can't and shouldn't be able to leverage the power of open-source software. The users do suffer, but that's no one's fault but Apple's and the users that will happily pay others for what they should do themselves.
    – user89599
    May 6, 2013 at 7:10
  • @user89599 Well as long as open-source software are used within terms of the license I don't see the issue. Many commercial solutions are based on open-source ones and the open-source maintainers are probably happy with that because the code gets major contributions pretty fast. Saying if Apple wants to earn some money then it shouldn't use any open-source software doesn't really make sense.
    – xji
    Sep 12, 2015 at 18:50

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