Open Source and the Future of Network Applications

There’s a lot to see at OSCON, so it should come as no surprise that you won’t be able to personally see everything you’d like to. I seem to have missed one of the most talked about events though.

“Tim has a television show under production where we get told in advance what we are going to say and how it will reflect Tim’s underlying idea,” Moglen told us. “I decided not to go with the program.”

Moglen’s performance turned into the stuff of legend.

Regrettably, we missed the assault. Stories needed to go out, and we assumed the chat would follow familiar, boring lines. After about ten people later asked if we caught the spectacular show, The Register contacted the OSCON audio staff to obtain a recording of the session. “No problem,” they said, “It will just take a couple of minutes, but you need to get O’Reilly’s permission first.” O’Reilly corporate refused to release the audio, saying it would cause a slippery slope. (We’re still trying to understand that one.) They, however, did add that Moglen appeared to be “off his meds.”

So what exactly happened?

Moglen attacked O’Reilly for wasting his time promoting Web 2.0 darlings, when he should be focusing on the core issues crucial to free software.

“I decided to say that we’ve reached a stage where we ought to be able to tell the difference between daily business news – X is up, Y is down – and the stuff that really matters, which from day-to-day is not racehorse X is running faster than racehorse Y.

“I think what time has done with this forum in general is to emphasize the trivial at the expense of the significant.”

According to published reports, Moglen described O’Reilly’s current approach to open source software as “frivolous.” He also chastised O’Reilly for chasing money, billionaire chums and “thermal noise” like Facebook.

“We still have serious problems to correct in public policies made by people propping up business models that were dying and wasting time promoting commercial products,” Moglen said, during the session.

As Stephen O’grady points out, you may not agree with the tactics Eben used (I also don’t), but the conversation is an extremely important one.

First and most obviously, this is a call to arms. Join us, pleads Joyent, before we trade one dictatorship for another. Underlying the recruiting attempt, however, are a set of implicit assumptions worth extracting.

1. Microsoft’s desktop dominance is threatened
2. The primary source of the threat is free but non-open source SaaS offerings from Google, MSN, Yahoo
3. The predicted outcome will see users forced to trade one dominant provider for another
4. Open source is the last, best defense against that future

Speculative and reactionary though these comments may be, they are reasonable enough in my opinion to be warrant further debate. But not here, and not now.

Suffice it to say, for time being, that the Joyent folks are not the only ones concerned by the prospect of future technology landscape dominated by the likes of Amazon, Google, eBay, Yahoo, et al. As evidenced by developments like Joyent’s decision and the GNOME Online Desktop efforts, it’s increasingly apparent that open source and Web 2.0 are on a collision course.

While these two dominant technical trends or directions have much to learn from each other, the convergence is likely to have its painful moments if OSCON is any indication. Indeed the talk of the conference was the somewhat shocking public swipe at Tim O’Reilly by one of the GPLv3’s chief architects, Eben Moglen. As documented elsewhere, Moglen absolutely dropped the hammer on Mr. Web 2.0, arguing that “that the FSF has ‘done the heavy lifting’ and ‘carried your water’ for the last decade, and that the era of Web 2.0 distraction (buzz about who is making money, who will get acquired, etc) will need to be replaced by a serious conversation about freedom.”

We’re still in the early stages of this discussion, but it’s encouraging to see that the right people are paying attention and the issues are slowly being iterated through. The right questions are starting to be asked. There’s still a lot to decide and much debate will surely follow, so if this is a topic that interests you (and it should be), make sure to join the conversation.


Clayton Christensen's Innovator's Dilemma says iPhone will fail

The iPhone has to be one of the most hyped devices I’ve seen in a long time. Many of the reviews so far seem to indicate that the device actually lives up to the hype, which is no small feat. It’s interesting to see that Clayton Christensen’s Innovator’s Dilemma predicts that the iPhone should fail:

Who or what do you think will disrupt Google (GOOG) or Apple (AAPL)?

It’s hard for me to see what will disrupt Google. I think they’ve got a pretty good run ahead of them. Chapters five and six of The Innovator’s Solution describe how at the beginning phases of the industry, in order to play that game successfully you really need to have a proprietary, optimized, end-to-end architecture to your product.

Apple sure has that.

That’s why they’ve been successful. But just watch the [competitors’] advertisements that you hear for the ability to download music onto your mobile phone. Music on the mobile phone has to be downloaded in an open architecture way from Yahoo! Music or someplace else [other than iTunes]. Which means it’s clunkier, not as good. Mobile phones don’t have as much storage capacity, nor are their interfaces as intuitive [as iPods]. But for some folks, they’re good enough, and the trajectories [of people using their phone as a medium for listening to music] just keep getting better and better.

So music on the mobile phone is going to disrupt the iPod? But Apple’s just about to launch the iPhone.
The iPhone is a sustaining technology relative to Nokia. In other words, Apple is leaping ahead on the sustaining curve [by building a better phone]. But the prediction of the theory would be that Apple won’t succeed with the iPhone. They’ve launched an innovation that the existing players in the industry are heavily motivated to beat: It’s not [truly] disruptive. History speaks pretty loudly on that, that the probability of success is going to be limited.

I’ll be heading over to the Apple store at about 6PM tomorrow to see if I can get my hands on ones of these. If I do, I’ll be sure to post a review here with my thoughts.


Google Desktop is now available for Linux

At the Linux Foundation Collaboration Summit, it was alluded to by a few Googlers that more Google Linux apps were coming “real soon now”. Making good on that quickly, Google just released the Google Desktop for Linux. While it is a native app, it’s not Open Source. It would be interesting to see a side-by-side comparison of this and Beagle (which I admit to not using). It’s good to see that, unlike in many cases, the Linux version looks to be an exact feature match with the Windows and OS X versions. At this point I think SketchUp and Notifier are the only two Google apps left without some kind of Linux version available.


Linux Foundation Collaboration Summit Update

It’s lunchtime at the summit and I have enough time for a quick update. First, a big thanks should go to Google. They are treating us extremely well and it’s fantastic that they do things like this. The last time I was at the GOOG campus was just pre-IPO, and a lot has changed to say the least. The SGI sign is even gone now :)

The conversation so far has been both interesting and very real. To me, those are key components of collaboration, which is what this summit is supposed to be about. Mark had it right when he said that the people in this room agree on far more than they disagree on. In the middle of a flame war, that’s sometime easy to forget.

A couple highlights from the discussion (kudos to the Linux Foundation for explicitly stating that the first day here is 100% bloggable):

* The crowd here is extremely varied with almost all major groups including vendors, coders, hackers, community, users, ISV’s and more represented.
* A data point I wasn’t aware of: somewhere around 1/4-1/3 of the actual Linux kernel code is in fact licensed as “GPLv2 or later”. This has some interesting implications.
* Some day, a dual GPLv2/GPLv3 Linux kernel may be theoretically possible. A GPLv3-only version will not happen.
* Both the GPLv3 discussion and the ATI/nVidia discussion is wearing a bit thin on many people…
* One reason companies like Motorola are so interested in mobile Linux (which is going to be absolutely huge from the looks of things) is that they have some measure of control over the platform. When you get a tome from the carriers stating what you must conform to if you want to run hardware on their network, having access to the code on your phone isn’t a luxury… it’s a business differentiator.
* For mobile Linux to really gain traction, it needs to be a consistent platform. If it’s not, content partners won’t be able to make the business case to support it. (ie. They want to support “mobile Linux” for their apps and content, not have to support each and every phone/carrier combo which run slightly different Linux variants individually)
* It would be a boon if bug reporting was easier, especially with regard to better communication and process flow between distros and upstream (confederation was mentioned).

A lot more was discussed, but alas…lunch it over. Should have another update at some point.


Linux Foundation Collaboration Summit

I take off for the Linux Foundation Collaboration Summit in about an hour. Really looking forward to the event. If you’re staying at the Wild Palms and would like to meet for a drink/chat tonight, I should be at the hotel by about 9PM. Feel free to send me an email while I’m in the air.


Linux Foundation Collaboration Summit

I’ve finally booked the trip to Mountain View for the Linux Foundation Collaboration Summit. I’ll be getting in on Tuesday night and will be staying at the Wild Palms Hotel, if anyone wants to meet for a drink/chat. It looks like quite a few attendees are staying at the Wild Palms, so it should be interesting. Really looking forward to the summit.


Linux Foundation Collaboration Summit

I’m happy to announce that I’ll be attending the Linux Foundation Collaboration Summit at Google’s Mountain View Campus. It looks to be a great event to discuss the future direction of Linux and Open Source. If you’ll be attending, I’ll see you there. Trying to work out a decent flight schedule now, but it looks like it’ll be challenging. BTW, I’ll also be in the Bay Area next week for OSBC. If you’ll be attending (or in the area) and would like to connect, drop me a line.