So… Rod posted about the Google Phone and David Preece commented and said;

To me the great marvel of the iPhone/iPod touch duo (and to a lesser extent OSX from about 10.3 onwards) is that it has shown that commercial software development /can/ produce much higher quality outputs than the OSS process purely because it’s OK for someone (i.e. Steve Jobs) to say “No, not good enough, come back when it’s perfect” without fear of offending someone or losing critical mindshare in the developer community. I’m finding it surprising that more vendors, particularly those that are clearly not short a bob or two, don’t also take this route.

Anyway. If it sucks, it won’t fly. If it doesn’t, it will. In this case I really do think that’s all there is to it.

David got me thinking about things (as I sometimes do). Is it as simple as this? I think no – if it was FOSS would not exist.

It’s all about strengths and weaknesses, FOSS’ strength is collaboration and community innovation, its weaknesses the unavoidable (or is it) hassles involved in getting volunteers to actually keep on task and get something complete. This weakness is accentuated when those volunteers are geeks who tend to have sub-optimal personal completion paradigms!

Commercial software has some huge strengths in terms of accountabilities and transparencies but its weakness is centred around the potential lack of innovation that siloed development teams sometimes suffer from.

I can’t help but wonder if there isn’t another way of doing things that leverages the creativity of the community but has a degree of time expectation more akin to the commercial model.

I guess entities such as the Mozilla foundation are a perfect example of setting up a professional and expective framework around a FOSS product. David’s comment where particularly targeted at the Nokia N800 which has an open source OS and in David’s words;

On paper this is vastly superior piece of kit to either an iPhone or an iPod touch. It has wireless, proper bluetooth (can use your phone as a gateway), a much higher resolution display and is the most extensible and generally hackable platform ever placed in one’s pocket. But it kinda sucks. It’s built on a reasonably generic Linux/OSS stack, including GTK, and as a result looks and performs much like desktop Linux from about three years ago. Lots of irritating usability problems. Lots of irritating performance problems. Lots of stuff that’s 95% there, but almost none of it 100% done.

Anybody out there got some groundbreaking ideas about this?

Ben Kepes

Ben Kepes is a technology evangelist, an investor, a commentator and a business adviser. Ben covers the convergence of technology, mobile, ubiquity and agility, all enabled by the Cloud. His areas of interest extend to enterprise software, software integration, financial/accounting software, platforms and infrastructure as well as articulating technology simply for everyday users.

3 Comments
  • No goundbreaking ideas (sorry) – just an observation that Apple are making the smart moves in this space. Much of OSX’s stability and power is founded on BSD UNIX, which is of course free software. Oh, then there’s Postfix. Apache. Oh, PHP. Mailman. Um. The list goes on and on. But try and get your grandma to deploy Apache from the CLI. In OS X, it’s as simple as clicking a box, and therein lies the value – taking quality technologies that are usually lacking in polish (often a GUI) and ease of configuration, and rolling them into the Apple experience. Apple also makes contributions to the OSS community, so it’s not all one-way. Indeed, the whole Apple experience for OSS – egos aside – is a huge boon in terms of getting the code out there and used.

  • So maybe that’s the model Robin. Allow volunteers to create the core and then commercialise it in a commercial environment. It’d be nice to think that there’s a more equitable methodology but the examples are few and far between

    Thanks for he comment

  • I know some OSS people, and their motivation is – on that front – entirely based on making good-quality solid products that can improve everybody’s lot, big business included if they choose to use it. Note that this doesn’t mean that they are not commercially-minded people (they are).

    I think we will see more of this in the future:
    http://radar.oreilly.com/archives/2007/10/best_press_rele.html

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