A blog for the enterprise open source community
Open one way or anotherJay Lyman, March 12, 2010 @ 2:31 pm ET
Recent developments regarding Apple and the exposure of its iPhone OS non-disclosure agreements by the Electronic Frontier Foundation highlight a new reality for technology companies today: you may be able to keep you code private (though that is ill-advised), but your practices will be open – one way or another.
This is about more than open source software. It also has to do with global collaboration, integration, distributed and cloud computing and more. But open source software sure has a lot to do with it. In addition, open source software also has a lot to gain from it. For every developer, chipmaker, handset vendor, wireless carrier or other player alienated by Apple’s antiquated, zero-sum approach, there are now typically open source alternatives that allow them to quickly and efficiently fight back.
We’ve covered our concerns about Apple’s control issues, and we’ve also highlighted how the company is creating opportunity for more open alternatives to capture developers, mindshare and yes, believe it or not, consumers. This is the picture we foresaw in our 2008 report, Mobility Matters, where we described the first Android phone, the G1, not as an Apple iPhone killer, but an impressive first step and a sign of an oncoming onslaught of iPhone alternatives, all with openness advantages for hardware manufacturers and wireless carriers that can maintain or create their own brands, and also openness advantages for developers and users in the software available for the devices.
Sure, we’re seeing the some of the same old concerns of fragmentation with Android, but similar to how I tend to view forking — as a positive check on quality, vitality and future direction — I agree with some of the sentiment that fragmentation isn’t so bad and is simply part of the market evolution. Matt also covered this recently on the CAOS Theory blog with his post on the Eclipse Mylyn project, which is actually hoping for and relying on fragmentation to grow. I believe there is resonance in the idea of Android, or an army of Androids well armed by a myriad of hardware companies, software companies, wireless carriers and perhaps most importantly, developers. So what if they’re a little fragmented and wearing different uniforms? What really unites these disparate forces? Sure some of it is Linux and open source software, but more of it centers on competing with Apple and paying it back for getting closed out of its elegant, walled garden.
So now there are some cracks in the high walls and we are getting some perspective on how far Apple is going to keep people from talking about what it’s doing, what it’s asking and what it’s developing. It’s an amazing contrast to what’s going on throughout the rest of IT and even — thanks not only to Android but also to embedded Linux, popular social networking sites and games — among consumers.
We often warn open source software vendors not to ‘undo’ the benefits of open source software, particularly its transparency and flexibility. We believe the inevitable exposure of such Draconian measures is a big reason and as recently demonstrated by Apple, everyone has to open up, one way or another.
Comments (2) Categories: Software