I’m a firm believer that non-profit organizations need to have a strategy, too. Maybe even more than for-profit ones, because of the constant lack of resources. I’ve been watching without commenting the development of the five-year strategic plan for Wikimedia Foundation: fascinating. The process has entered the last phase, synthesis. There is lots to learn from it. I hope I’ll find time to blog about this later.
Google’s power is making more people concerned that their motto ‘do no evil’ is not reassuring enough. Fabrizio Capobianco’s blog post summarizes the concerns of the Winston Smith Project. Google is scary because it controls the access point to the internet for 90% of users and because it’s expanding its reach to the mobile network. But G is not the only one trying to blend the separation between your desktop computer and your cell phone: it just happen to be a very visible one. Look at the chart on Funambol’s white paper on mobile sync opportunities and strategies: everybody is doing the same.
Microsoft is not less scary, because with its monopoly on the desktop computers it controls the users’ applications and data. Extending their power from the desktop to the mobile environment is within their reach: after all, they succeeded expanding from the desktop to the server. They can do it again, if they play it right. Apple controls and has access to data for millions of desktop+mobile users: maybe MobileMe is not yet widely used but nonetheless the closed and proprietary nature of all Apple things and the quantity of iTunes+iPod users makes them scary enough.
Nokia is peculiar: it has a huge market share on mobile phones, but its Ovi services don’t have a strong companion on the desktop. With all the other operating systems controlled by competitors, Nokia could start collaborating more with the free software community to better integrate Ovi with Gnome or KDE for example. I think it would be a wise move since there are many GNU/Linux desktops out there, and more will come during 2009.’ Will Nokia become the next Free Software community Best Friend Forever, now that Google has become scary?
The good news today is that Nokia relicensed the Qt (pr: cute) libraries under the GNU Lesser General Public License, demonstrating that the mobile ecosystem is where things happen. The GNU Lesser GPL is a license that allows non-free and free software to co-exist. Yes, with the LGPL the FSF admits that non-free software exists. Confused/surprised? You shouldn’t be: the FSF and Stallman are much less of a fundamentalist than they are painted by the FUD-drones. The LGPL is a strategic tool to allow free software developers to help each other: when a free library doesn’t offer any particular advantages over alternative non-free libraries, then it makes sense to use the Lesser GPL for it, instead of the GPL. Using the LGPL library will give a cost saving opportunity to proprietary software developers, while free software developers will get code contributions and a wider user base.’ The L stands for “smart freedom”.
Interesting to notice that this is the second license change for the project: from the Q Public License to the GNU GPL. Now they’re under the Lesser GPL, with a more transparent development model, a git repository and, wow, contributors will keep the copyright of their code (no contributors agreement to sign). Nokia seems very aggressive, and they’re right. With Android in town they need to fight with all the weapons they have.
I expect now a tougher competition between the two major toolkits, Qt and GTK+, with a polarization of the battle field. On the Qt side there is Nokia, on the GTK+ side there is Sun, Novell, RedHat, HP and all mobile’ Linux platforms. Nokia is also supporting GTK+ for its Maemo Internet Tablets, but I guess they’ll pull the plug and switch to Qt in a few months.
Does it still make sense to push the development of the somewhat inferior LGPL GTK+ when you can switch to LGPL Qt? We’ll have to wait and see. What is sure is that free software is definitely here to stay and play a major role in the mobile arena (and I’m betting that Capo wins his bet –Microsoft will offer Windows Mobile as free software).
My architecture professors repeated ad infinitum that an image is worth a thousand words. Following is a pictures that clearly shows how Apple will dramatically increase its revenues in the next year:
It’s not (only) the cool design or the (un)cool software: it’s mainly the reduced (~60%) bill of material you see in the picture (compare it to an older iBook internals). And the 30% reduction in the packaging volume. The latter reduces complexity in costs of acquisition and management of the parts, plus the servicing costs after the sales. The former means 30% saving in the shipping costs.’ Brilliant.’ This is the kind of sustainable competitive advantage that MBA classes teach managers to aim for.’ I’m ready to bet will make Apple’s revenues skyrocket, even without increasing marketshare or total units shipped.
Lots of talking about Microsoft lately.’ As I expected, Ray Ozzie’s public appearances are increasing with declarations of love for the magic word interoperability and with a new, more open, attitude.’ I believe it’s true that “Microsoft fundamentally, as a whole, has changed dramatically as a result of open source,” as Ozzie said.
Roberto wrote a long post about Microsoft Open Source strategy. Having talked to him long enough, I know he sees the big potential for new Open Source firms to prosper on Microsoft ecosystem.’ I suspect he is right, given the fact that the *nix competitors have lost 15 years of evolution fighting each other instead of building a common (superior) platform. Only with GNU/Linux such common platform arrived, but it probably came a day late and a dollar short.
Contrary to Roberto, I think that Microsoft change is not sufficient yet for Free Software advocates like me to merrily lift the precautions. I can still hear Ballmer shouting threats and see him trying to twist the arms of the EU Commission (as Carlo remembers very well). I’m not confident yet that these moves represent a new strategy and they’re not merely tactics to penetrate the FLOSS market and break it from the inside (patent lawsuit?).’ If I were a developer I wouldn’t trust any promise not to sue by Microsoft, even if that promise uses the same (murky) words of IBM’s promises. I don’t care: Microsoft track records on Free Software is bad, bad, bad and worse. Microsoft must do better than IBM, it must be perfect (they can, if they want to).