Subject: Re: Why Open Source Sucks for the Consumer
From: Arthur Smith <apsmith@aps.org>
Date: Wed, 30 Aug 2000 20:13:44 -0400

Ben_Tilly@trepp.com wrote:
> 
> I think that Bob's email hit on a critical point.
> 
> Linux will try, and have fun trying, but won't win on the desktop.  And
> it really doesn't matter because Linux will win in the big picture.
> 
> That holds for open source in general as well.
> 
> Let me label four basic opportunity areas to make my point.
> 
> 1. Desktop clients.
> 2. Servers aimed to be used by desktop clients.
> 3. Portable devices.
> 4. Servers aimed to be used by portable devices.

both OS and application programs, presumably...

Portable devices and the embedded market are fine, but there's a reason
the desktop market is big: most of the world doesn't walk around while
it works... and when people work they're never happy with the restricted
environment a portable/embedded device gives you. But in the modern
business scene, whatever environment your users have - Microsoft, Linux,
X terminals, web browsers, even Macs, you run into exactly the same
fundamental problem. Which is a ubiquitous inconsistency of user
interface. The computers never do quite what your users (logically
enough) expect. Sometimes not even close. And Open Source software with
its lack of central control tends to be much worse about it.

Every few months people come up with wonderful new standards that new
software is supposedly written to, but old software is seldom ported to
the new, system maintenance software often being the most archaic (or
else written in the absolute latest style and therefore buggy and
nonfunctional). Our recent experience imposing Solaris's CDE on about
120 users has not been exactly happy - to cite one minor complaint among
many, is there a version of Netscape out there that understands CDE/KDE
workspaces? Gnome vs. KDE vs. traditional X apps on Linux seem to have
similar annoying inconsistencies.

I'm not saying this ferment and competitive atmosphere isn't healthy by
the way, but it sure "sucks for the consumer" as the subject says, when
they have to put in support calls every couple of hours just to get
their work done.

We always look forward to some bright future day when everything will be
well-written to all the most up-to-date standards, but that day seems to
be getting further and further away with every bright new idea... How
many of the people on this list actually use a web browser as their
primary text editor? Programming tool? Debugger? System maintenance
tool? Spreadsheet? Graphic design tool/image editor? And you can
honestly say the web browser is the only user interface people will
need? Not to mention the user interface inconsistencies between every
web site with CSS, XML, javascript, java, or requiring one or another
plugin that completely changes the way your screen looks...

The desktop is critically important to the kinds of work people really
want to use computers for (as opposed to toy applications we'll either
soon tire of or will ignore as completely as we do most embedded systems
now). Open Source can win on the desktop if it gains momentum from
Windows on the application side - there seem to be a couple of signs
that might happen. But that still doesn't mean our users will be
happy...

			Arthur Smith (apsmith@aps.org)