Tag: Open Source

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Open Source: Constructive or Harmful to Competition?

When we look at the success of businesses and projects – both from the standpoint of those with interest in a business and the consumers that buy and use their products – competition is one of the most important components in any market.  Working in retail, competition is what forces me to offer my prospective customers fair prices because I know that if I don’t I’ll lose business to my competitor down the street.  But competition between businesses in the same industry doesn’t stop there.  Competition is what allowed the small business I work for to get off the ground instead of fall victim to monopolies within the industry.  And perhaps most importantly competition is what drives innovation, forcing engineers and product developers to not only produce more feature-rich goods, but products that are priced reasonably for consumers as well.

Even as much as I like competition, though, I realize that there are always going to be situations where working together produces better end results for everyone involved because if people are willing to work together instead of against one another the combined resources and efforts can go so much further.  It’s for this reason that I have always liked the concept of open source software.  After all, when people with different skill sets and experiences make their work available for others to use and improve upon their work becomes exponentially more valuable.  Not only do others get to make use of the work of others, but through sub-projects, branches, and development groups what would have otherwise been nothing can become something invaluable to millions of users.

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Will WebOS Pick Up Where Android Falls Short?

For what seems like forever now, we have seen an ongoing war between rival technology companies Apple and Google, both of whom have managed to tap into the constantly growing mobile industry with their feature-rich operating systems; iOS and Android.  With both companies being huge in the public eye, many have taken up one platform or the other, often times citing features or traits that they claim makes their platform superior to the others.  While many iOS users are quick to cite the large selection of mobile applications available for Apple’s mobile operating system, many Android users are just as quick to point out that Google’s flagship operating system is open source and can be used on a wide array of devices.

While these are fair points, the fact of the matter is that in more recent months Google has taken a number of steps to lock down how end-users and hardware manufactures are able to go about using the operating system.  In all honesty, the changes that Google has imposed – inclusive of delaying the release of source code to the general public and only allowing pre-release versions of the OS to be run on emulators instead of on actual devices – don’t affect that many consumers.  However, even though run of the mill end users likely have little care about this change, Google’s decision to impose stricter restrictions has caused them to step on the toes of one very important group; hardware manufactures.

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What Direction Is Android Heading?

Recently I have been reading quite a few articles online that have questioned the openness of Google’s “Android” mobile operating system; a platform that has grown significantly since it went mainstream in 2009 and appears to be taking a long-term grasp upon the smartphone market.  You see, Google has recently implemented a few restrictions with the Android operating system that they say will help the platform to remain competitive and one step ahead of the competition.

While this actually means very little for day-to-day Android users, it does limit the level of customization that device manufacturers can make to the OS itself.  Moreover, while Android’s source code will be readily available to the public, the public code will not be made available until a time after it has been formally released.  And at that, only the core of Android – not the standard “applications” shipped with the device are or will be open source.  Last but not least, those testing pre-release versions of Android will only be able to do so on emulators; not on the device itself.

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Why Linux Distributions Will Never Be Mainstream

Throughout the history of software there has always been people who prefer customization over simplicity. In the more modern era of computer software the most evident example of this phenomenon is Linux distributions. A distribution of software cobbled together into one massive bundle that seems to be held together by an elastic band. Normally these operating systems are outdated and are almost always neglected by mainstream software developers. For example, Adobe Flash on Linux seems to only work if you pray to the Adobe gods before loading any flash content.

I’ll admit over the years this cobbled bundle has become more refined and in rare cases Linux distributions like Ubuntu can actually be useful. However, many issues still exist that make it impossible for a mainstream user to ever become familiar with the complexities inherit in all open source applications. This is caused simply by the unorganized method in which open source software is created. Imagine writing a letter, then giving that letter to your neighbor and allowing him or her to edit the letter along with adding their own letter to the same paper. The person who eventually reads this letter might end up being somewhat confused. Now imagine allowing thousands of people to edit the letter and add their own. By the time someone finally reads the finish product it would be total chaos.

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