Thursday, 16 October 2008

The perfect jewel

Reading Christian's blog entry about what the Free Desktop needs to grow in market share made me smile a bit because I have been thinking about this exact thing a couple of times.

I agree with Christian that we have the technological base to rise and shine today.

I do think however that Free Desktop Software bits alone will have hard time taking over this market. I Think we need more than that, even if our software can flip cubes around and do fancy things when you snap your fingers.

You need a device which the software will be integrated with. And tightly. You need disitribution channels for that device and for the software bits that run on it. You need to build an ecosystem of applications that integrate well on the device. You need to assure people that things keep working when they upgrade the hardware and the software. You probably won't be able to do that alone, so you need partners. Lots of them. Partners who can make a living by writting and distributing apps for the ecosystem.

I believe there is an opportunity for an organization to focus on these tasks today instead of focusing on cost saving shortcuts that make our Free Software Desktop just look as a cheap alternative to today's established monopoly and thus eroding our image capital a little bit more everyday.

The funny thing is that even once you have all those hard things done, end users don't see it. They don't see the hard work. They might only see a nice device on which applications do work. Assuming the device is so cute that even my little sister will be wanting one in her bag, some users might see it as a jewel. Just a perfect jewel.

That shall be time for all of us Free Software Lovers to rejoice. But until then, until such organization(s) emerge I believe hard work is due.


Aaron Strontsman said...

I had a similar idea, too -- you'd need something like a better Apple. A company that focuses on only a few well-integrated, well-developed, open products. Like that OGG / MP3 player that I would instantly buy or that laptop that I would buy once I have the money to.
I'd probably want them to choose a distro that's already popular like Fedora or Ubuntu -- but with modifications to iron out the bugs on the machine.

On the original post: well, is a hindrance. It's not well integrated into any desktop, it's dialogues are complicated, it has tons of weird bugs and many important features are missing (for me these are OTF font and SVG support). Needless to say, it's start-up time is negatively impressive.

Anonymous said...

Examples I can think of are OpenMoko, Dell+Ubuntu and Debian+HP.

Roshan George said...

Examples of tight integration in consumer devices using Free Software (in part atleast) are the GP2X and the Chumby.

Is it even possible for Linux to actually work the way you describe while still being everything everyone wants? The fact of the matter is that the very word, 'Linux' evokes quite a few feelings in most people. Many people that should know better (Computer Applications students when I was in college) said with great conviction that "Linux is only for servers."

Meanwhile, many members of the Linux community attack users of Ubuntu for 'forgetting that Ubuntu is just another distribution for Linux'. The success of Ubuntu seems to have spawned a wave of attacks against what is deemed to be an insufficient degree of giving credit to the rest of the Linux community.

In the end, slashdot does not determine the average user, digg does. And the average person has a pathological fear of anything that someone has previously told him is complicated, or bad, or slow. Microsoft's Mojave (admittedly flawed) experiment demonstrates what I'm talking about.

Anonymous said...

I could hardly agree more. We have the technology we need (more or less). We just need to make all the bits play nice with each other. For example, when a user opens a KDE application under GNOME, it shouldn't look fugly or out of place. QGTKStyle helps in that regard, but it's not perfect. Also, default keyboard shortcuts for KDE applications are different from GTK/GNOME applications. It's the little things like that (which aren't very glamorous to work on) that drag us down. I really agree with Aaron (about us needing a better Apple). We really need to look at what Apple has done and take those lessons to heart.

digital signature FAQ said...

Great ! I love it, I love it so much that the greedy gnome in me wants more.