Open barbarians poised to storm Apple's gate
Steve Jobs in denial?
Open...and Shut Open source has a tendency to cannibalize and commoditize – and not just surrounding proprietary projects. As described by researcher Dirk Riehle, open source involves a process of continuous innovation and commoditization as communities form to wring inefficiencies from software markets. Interestingly, this same phenomenon happens all the time in the wider software world, and it forecasts diminished importance of closed platforms like Apple's iOS in favor of more open platforms like Android.
Riehle's research plays off the excellent analysis of The 451 Group's Matt Aslett on the rise of permissive licensing in open-source communities. As Aslett points out, GPL licensing has been in relative decline compared to Apache- and MIT-licensed projects.
The reason, as Riehle writes, is clear: "Projects that don't choose a permissive license are at a Darwinian disadvantage over those that do because the later can receive contributions from a broader set of enterprises than the former." Not so surprisingly, this holds true even for source code repositories: GitHub has been beating SourceForge, Google Code, and other source code repositories by being even more open.
Openness matters. Even in the land of open-source software, where openness is the default.
What this means, as Riehle further elaborates, is that even single-vendor open-source projects, which have open licensing but comparatively closed development processes, will give way to community-led projects over time. "Ultimately, all single-vendor innovation will be commoditized through a community-owned project." Not a good prognosis if you're in the business of selling support or "enterprise" versions of open-source software.
But this isn't just an open source phenomenon.
Google Android is a (somewhat) open, open-source project. It doesn't come with all the accoutrements of Apple's iOS success (a huge number of apps, fantastic developer tools, an uber-polished user experience, etc.), but it comes with something ultimately even more appealing to developers: deep API access and an open app-approval process among them.
And so it is kicking Apple's shins in the smartphone market, and almost certainly will do the same in tablets. Despite all its flaws. Because it's more open for developers.
Apple must recognize this. Or perhaps it's in denial. The company continues to build a beautiful end-to-end platform experience, intent on controlling every aspect of the user's experience. Sure, Apple has cracked open the door on some things, like finally welcoming back web apps as first-class citizens on the home screen in iOS 5, but its overall platform approach is hugely dismissive of the web. So much so, in fact, that O'Reilly's Alasdair Allan calls iCloud the "web-free cloud."
Cloud computing without the web? Only at Apple.
But, just like in open-source communities, while Apple's closed platform approach may win over developers in the short term, over the long haul openness wins. Every time.
Plenty of open barbarians are preparing to storm the gate. There's already Google knocking at the door with Android, but apparently also Facebook with Project Spartan , designed to use Apple's own Safari browser against it, by using it to seed Apple devices with sophisticated HTML5 apps. According to TechCrunch, Apple isn't worried by an HTML5 threat, considering the web app experience to be inferior to the iOS experience.
Just as all markets eventually do. ®
Matt Asay is senior vice president of business development at Strobe, a startup that offers an open source framework for building mobile apps. He was formerly chief operating officer of Ubuntu commercial operation Canonical. With more than a decade spent in open source, Asay served as Alfreso's general manager for the Americas and vice president of business development, and he helped put Novell on its open source track. Asay is an emeritus board member of the Open Source Initiative (OSI). His column, Open...and Shut, appears three times a week on The Register.
There you go again Matt
The truth is there is much more of a balance between commercial and open source. Your using the one way street metaphor that has been consistently missaplied for years. You've conveniently forgotten it can equally be said it was iOS and mobile in general that kicked the shins of Open Source, totally turning around the misguided perception in the Open Source community the whole world would inevitably turn Ubuntu (I love Ubuntu BTW, but also realistic about adoption), while the Open Source world stayed fixated with PC's the commercial world nimbly revolutionized where computing was at. Even sticking with PC's wind back five years and the Open Source community were still talking about the inevitable demise of commercial software. But today last I checked, most people still think Gimp is a some form of sexual perversion and Adobe still charges a small fortune for Photoshop.
These are the factors you are not taking into account when pushing with the one-way street metaphore (despite all the evidence to the contrary). Bear in mind I'm not arguing the supremacy of commercial over open here, but that there remains a balance. The "one way street" metaphor you push is simply wrong:
1) OS Contributors contribute to solve their use cases. They are by nature technical, so don't produce consumer focussed solutions
2) Google who you cite as evidence for the enevitability of the trend ARE NOT OPEN SOURCE. They are a closed centralized database. They are footing the bill for android on the back of a resolutely closed commercial operation and that is the reason it has a reasonable consumer focused UI. Ie it isn't the Open Source dynamic you allude that supports the production of Android. It hhas a dependency on a closed tech business. Indeed Google are now realizing there is so much money in what they have done, and getting so desperate for diversified revenue streams, they are rapidly backpedaling and making it as near as dammit closed to bump up licensing revenue (the levels of which are direct function of how closed they can make it). Some of the more blinkered worker bees pierced by cupids arrow don't want to see the truth of this, but true it is.
3) Even where there is what is much closer to a pure wiki based Open Source community dynamic; Ubuntu; we find it has a good UI because it has been bankrolled by a billionaire space tourist, (other open source Linux solutions of course also have very good UI's - but they are naturally for *for the tech users they serve and who put time into their development* not the far larger general market).
4) Much commercial software is being delivered joined to cloud solutions. The cloud doesn't run for free. Google take advertising (the cost is hidden from the end user but that should ring alarm bells for this who value freedom and privacy "here eat lot's of cake for free at my table, party all you like, there 's no cost" he says while rubbing his hands together.) Open source will make slow progress in the cloud due to the need for commercial business to foot the infrastructure bill.
I think you are right about there being a never ending trend to subsume established software designs but this is what makes the "one way street" metaphor so beguiling. It ignores how the OS ecosystem either has large dependencies on commercial sponsorship or remains focussed on a technical clique. It definitely works best with back end systems and in that area does have the most impact in terms of providing an alternative to commercial software. It remains in balance because the world is always moving on.
"writing at the register you sir are supposed to be more impartial."
You're new here, aren't you?
A totally unbiased viewpoint!
Hmm... We get the same story from the Strobe folk every time - Open Source will win! And what is it that Strobe do...?
Surely the reality is that just because something is Open Source, it doesn't mean that it's "better". Linux isn't better than Win7 or OS X for most people. Android hasn't been successful because it's Open Source - it's because Google has put billions of dollars behind its development - and then given it away...