Open source has gone from pariah to messiah in the past decade, but it has yet to find a place at the mobile table, and risks being rendered obsolete. Sure, it's not hard to find examples of open-source apps for iOS or Android, but the very premise of open source is under siege in the mobile world. Don't expect that to change …
Unsupported, orphaned and clunky. Nuff said indeed. Friends no longer let friends buy n00kia.
When offered something for free or something for small cost, psychology says to you 'Why is that one free and this one 99p? I have to pay for that so it must be better'.
I agree that this is a problem for FOSS on mobile - it's so easy to produce apps and make a few quid from them, that why would people bother writing FOSS, and not get anything for it?
Does it have a place at all?
The average mobile phone cycle is 2 years or so. One can wonder if relatively slow moving Open Source has a place there at all.
I suppose the intention is that once you finish with your current Droid / iPhone / whatever then you will buy a new version of the same thing and re-use your old apps. In fact if you buy enough apps you may very well use that as a factor in your next choice of mobile phone.
Anyway, where is your evidence that FOSS moves so slowly that a 2 year cycle would mean it couldn't fit in?
app stores cheaper than open source?
> Open source has gone from pariah to messiah in the past decade
It was never a "pariah", if only in parts of Redmond ..
> It's about mobile app stores making app discovery and adoption cheaper and easier than open source did ..
Interesting if even true ..
Let me tell you the problem
Nokia acquired qt, they made very neat terms for open source software on their app store down to signing some software for free.
They aren't even mentioned on this article and not a single qt app developer was insterested anyway.
Just remember this post when Windows phone with even worse terms makes a market share because of Nokia switch.
Multiple reasons for multiple types of open source software
I have no problem paying $0.99 (or even $1.99 & $2.99 for that matter, if its more complex software). The thing is the developer has to live and fund their life. If my money helps them support the software with updates, then even better. Money is after all a proxy for a barter system. They give me something, I give them something, we both gain from what we get.
Its not greedy to want to live and to want to have the money to buy food etc.. That's just life. The developer has to live. The reason I said that, is that the discussion on open source so often descends into an argument that it must be given away utterly for free. Well that’s fine if you want to give it away for free, but everyone still has to live, so some people want their day job to be producing software as well and they cannot *always* also give that day job software away for free, as they then wouldn't have anything to live on! ... the *always* is the key point.
In the case of the day job earning money, there appears to be (so far) two successful business models for Open Source software. The first is the Support Provider, which is a business model that only works for some large software projects like an operating system e.g. Linux. In this case, they give the software away for free and earn their living by providing support services for the complex software to help large companies use that software. So in effect, their business is really a service industry company.
The second business model is the collaboration of professionals to solve a common problem. This saves all of them time and so also money, as they all gain from solving the problems, so its in their mutual best interests to make the software better. Its like all members gain from having a virtual larger workforce where they all each helping each other all solve common problems.
The misconception (often pushed by close source companies) is that Open Source is just amateurs collaborating in their spare time. That isn't a business, its a hobby. That does obviously happen and it does sometimes even help some of the collaborators (and many on lookers) then also end up using their collaborative work to then start up their own self-employed businesses. (Games engines are a very good example of this e.g. www.ogre3d.org).
The bottom line is even in the case of all amateurs (which is rare as often some are professionals in their day jobs) but even a case of all amateurs collaborating on an open source project, there is very often still a return on investment from the time put into creating that software. That return may not always be money, it could just be for fun and the interest & entertainment of creating it or it could even be for the respect and adulation from fans of your software, but the point is there is still some return on investment being sought.
So there are different reasons why people do open source, but I have no problem paying $0.99 or even $2.99 for some useful software and thanks for the effort of creating it! (Which brings up another interesting point, which is that the pricing on mobile apps are now so low, its now at the point where people can't use cost as an excuse for piracy when it costs so little. People can't argue with getting months of developers efforts for just $0.99 or even $2.99. It is a very fair price to pay).
@"if an app is close enough to free and immediately available, with the added benefit of potentially being higher quality than open-source alternatives"
That is utterly wrong. The closed source companies often push the idea its a question of quality, but its most definitely not a question of quality. Open source apps can often be as good (and in some cases a lot better) than paid for apps.
FSS and GPL seemed to pull a big fail IMHO when they tried to open the iPhone platform by hitting Apple over the head with the software license. To me "open" always meant code and what I could do with it as a developer. It never promised free hardware, free development software, or free licence to access the SDK. And on the iPhone, it never guaranteed access to the App Store, root access to the OS, or a code-signing certificate from Apple. Those are completely separate issues.
In that vein, if I write an OSS app and put the code project on my Web site, that should satisfy the license. If I go through the process of creating a binary and getting it posted to the app store, I have not violated any license -- the source is available for any developer to do the same.
FSS hitting Apple with software license?
> FSS and GPL seemed to pull a big fail IMHO when they tried to open the iPhone platform by hitting Apple over the head with the software license, ArkhamNative
"Even if the original developers distributed the software to Apple in full compliance with the GPL's terms, Apple would still violate the license when it distributed the software through the App Store and subjected the program to their terms of service's usage rules,"
That would be true for pure OSS
but not for F(ree)OSS. With a GPL licensed application, it is not enough to make available the source code on some web site (remember TiVO ?). If I offer you a GPL application free or at a certain cost you agree to pay, I am not allowed to impose any restrictions on how you use that application with one notable exception: I may not impose any additional restrictions when you redistribute this application to others. In plain old English, if I offer you freedom I forbid you from taking away other people's freedom. As you can see, it has nothing to do with cost here.
It's not a failure here, GPL has been designed specifically for that, to prevent some software vendor from using his product to impose restrictions on how you use it.
On the other hand, Apple has a different attitude towards end-user freedoms however they are not to blame for rejecting GPL apps and everything they did was according to both the letter and the spirit of the FOSS: if you can't comply with GPL, don't distribute it. In my opinion, the developer of the rejected GPL software should have been aware of the incompatibility and refrain from attempting to distribute it via Apple AppStore. In conclusion, Apple was right, the developer was wrong. As for FOSS or GPL, they worked as designed here.
The title is required, and must contain letters and/or digits.
Because Free Software isn't about developer right, but about user rights? Just a thought.
@Martin Owens : You are correct
Very few people are noticing this.but this is actually the case. Just read a GPL EULA and Microsoft EULA and compare the way the two are being formulated. Although it may seem weird, there's a community of developers who decided to care about user rights in a way that may seem insane to the rest of the developers
Your usage of the Fail icon is wrong here.
Not about the money
Casting back one's mind to the first days of the Linux kernel (I know, it's not the only open source project, and not even the first one - but I suppose it can be considered the most iconic) - you will find that it wasn't a question of money. I believe Linus had to re-invent the wheel because he wasn't allowed to tinker with the existing one and to change it the way he wanted to.
I think there is a good chance that one day, when people will have had enough of fondling their various iDevices (and non-iDevices) - they will realise how much control there is from the manufacturer. Then, specially the more technical users, will want more alternatives. I think that's when open source will start again making inroads on mobile platforms.
When people will get fed-up with the manufacturer deciding if their older phone/tablet/device will get an update to newer version of OS or not, or when they will be fed-up with the manufacturer forcing them to have an update for the OS which they don't want - that's when they will start to seek the advantages of open source and community developed software and more open options. But that might be a long way in the future.
Important reason to choose free mobile apps
(not necessarily open source) over those that cost $.99 is to withhold your credit card number (and your spending pattern that comes with it) from the owner of the app store. I am not buying anything from Android market because I refuse to use Google checkout. Google knows enough about me already, I am not telling it how I spend my money.
This article doesn't mention Android --- an ecosystem that will probably surpass iOS in the near future. As long as GPL software is available on the regular Android Marketplace, I don't think proclamations of the "death of open source on mobile" are warranted.
I bought an Android phone --- not an iPhone --- specifically because I didn't want Steve Jobs to arbitrarily decided what I can and cannot do with my phone.
Last time I looked, Richard Stallman and his GNU Party did not have a monopoly on either "open source" or "free software" licensing. The GPL series of licenses is just one of *many*. There's also the Apache license, the BSD license—hell, there's even a Microsoft one!
And that's without even looking at Public Domain, which is a far older distribution medium for software, easily predating GPL. (I can't be the only one who remembers the massive "Fred Fish" PD collection for the Commodore Amiga, surely?)
So, just because the Apple App Store's Terms and Conditions may (or may not; it hasn't been formally tested in court) be "compatible", it does not mean ALL "Open Source" or "Free Software" is thus incompatible. The problem—such as it is—applies *solely* to GPL. And, from the looks of things, specifically to GPL v3.
After all, iOS is *built* on BSD foundations, and Apple's own developers have contributed to both Darwin and WebKit (among others), so Apple clearly have no problem with the underlying philosophies.
If there's a "problem", it's not "Open Source" or "Software Libre" (or whatever that's being called this week). It's with a very specific flavour of it: GPL.
GPL is generating all this controversy
because it is the only free (as in freedom) software that has teeth and claws preventing anyone from pilfering the work of developers. Apple contributed back to Darwin ? Yeah, such a rich ecosystem almost nobody is using. What's the point of contributing to this OS besides reducing Apple's development costs ? Many of you are pointing here to the fact that Apple OS is based on BSD but please tell how many Apple applications can you run on it ?
If we are bitching here today about Linux instead of any other OS it surely is because of GPL. This proves to me beyond all doubt that Stallman was brilliant. GPL is definitely not a problem, it is a solution.
I wonder when Canonical is going to get into the hardware end of the business? Getting into the hardware business is not nearly so daunting a prospect as it once was. Or, might they be looking at Motorola's Xoom? Herr Jobs has a fifteen-to-twenty year head start with the iPad, but then so should M$FT. The difference between them is that Unka Steve Jobs "gets it" and Unka Steve Balmer don't. Taste matters, and Unka Mark seems to understand that. I think he scares the other geeks spitless for that very reason. I think what Unka Mark must be asking hisself is whether or not he wants to maintain control over the hardware or not. Probably not. Doubtlessly, he has very good contacts in the Orient.
@Free Open Source does not have to be given away
Missing the point, if I use an open source package and give it to you then you have the same rights to give it to someone else.
Apple is saying that the user cannot share what they have downloaded.
>> Missing the point, if I use an open source package and give it to you then you have the same rights to give it to someone else.
>> Apple is saying that the user cannot share what they have downloaded.
The idea of free software is that the USER has the freedom to run whatever software they want to, the freedom to modify that software (or ask someone else to modify it for them) if they'd like it to do something differently, and the freedom to redistribute the software to others. Ie the USER can decide what they use their device for, and how they use it.
This is fundamentally incompatible with Apple's approach where Apple decide what programs you may use, Apple decide how the program may work, and Apple prevent you from taking the source fo a program (even if the vendor gives it to you) and modifying it (it won't run as it won't be signed by Apple). Even free apps cannot be shared as Apple want to be able to control who runs what on Apple's devices - you may think you've bought it, but in reality Apple still control how it works, when it works, and what you can do with it. Apple controls the device, and the device controls the user - thus Apple control the user.
The user cannot download apps from elsewhere, so it's pointless developers offering free software via other distribution channels. For users to run those programs on an Apple device, they'd have to jailbreak their device which is technically harder than many users will be prepared to try, has risks (get it wrong and you've bricked your expensive device), and is actually illegal (criminal offence in both the USA and Europe).
The only way to get a GPL3 app onto an unmodified IMoan or iBad without breaking licence terms would be for Apple to also distribute the signing key to allow the user to sign and install their own versions. That's just not going to happen, pigs will evolve wings first.
Android is only a little better. AFAIK there is no handset on the market that allows you (without similarly jailbreaking it with all the risks involved) to run a version of the OS of your choice - they all have digital handcuffs that limit you to the version supplied by the vendor, with all that implies (including the presence of what would in any other situation be classed as malware). With the manufacturers version of the OS, what you can do varies and some of them are fairly restrictive.
So even with Android, the USER does not control their device, the vendor does.
Would you buy a car where the manufacturer reserves the right to turn up unannounced and remove parts from it whenever they like ? I doubt it, but that is exactly what people seem prepared to accept in the computing world.
Inherently restricted device
> So, just because the Apple App Store's Terms and Conditions
> may (or may not; it hasn't been formally tested in court) be
> "compatible", it does not mean ALL "Open Source" or "Free
> Software" is thus incompatible.
Yes it does. Part of the definition of "Free Software" includes being able to do things with the source and binaries that Apple doesn't allow. THAT is one of the reasons that the VLC developer in question threw the hissy fit that he did.
"Free Software" is a term invented by RMS and the GNU tools are actually quite old. They predate Linux by a good long while and were even available on the ST and the Amiga.
Problem is more GPL than open source
The implication of GPL is that the end user has the right to build and deploy his own copy of the app from source. Building is not so much a problem, but deploying is. With Apple, users do not get to deploy there own, PERIOD, because Apple's ease of use, reliability and stability is based on complete control of all the hardware and software, and they ain't gonna give that up, since it is a significant competitive feature. It is in fact, what makes Apple Apple, and not a Microsoft wannabe. That's pretty incompatible with the spirit of the GPL, if not the letter. I like open as much as the next guy, but I also see the value of consistency and reliability, and the challenge to deliver it in an open environment is real-- just see the recent news about malware infestations on Android...
Wrong way round
GPL (specifically GPLv3) isn't the problem, Apple (and the other vendors with similar ideas about control) is the problem.
First debunking: Having a consistent user experience does **NOT** require a closed ecosystem like the iWhatsits. When the Mac came out, Apple published 3 volumes of developer information. One volume was dedicated entirely to the user interface. There was no licensing terms or digital handcuffs to enforce that, but because almost all programs abided by these guidelines, there was a consistent look and feel - and users voted with their wallets and (or modem time) and shunned programs that didn't work like that. Mac users got a consistent user experience, across a very diverse set of applications, with absolutely no control by Apple other than publishing the guidelines.
So all these stories that the closed system is required for the user experience a necessity are a complete and utter lie.
Next debunking: The closed system is required for security. Who's security ? Don't lose sight of the fact that these iWhatsits come with spyware and other malware built in - by Apple (or the device vendor for Android devices). Yes, they come with free malware designed to allow the vendor to do things that are illegal in many countries. They can spy on you. They can remotely alter your device. They can remotely remove software (or other materials) you have paid for. The only reason the vendors claim it is legal is because you agreed to it when you first used the device - it's in those pages and pages of legal stuff called the EULA. Trouble is, much of that is almost certainly not legal - at least in the UK and Europe. But so far no-one has the wherewithall to challenge it in court which would be an expensive business as the vendors would drag it out all the way as they have so much to lose.
Even if you allowed the platform to be totally open, you could still set the defaults to use just the vendors repository for applications. Users that don't care would see no difference, those that do could take some responsibility for what they install.
Matt Asay misses the point - again.
Free Software is plainly and obviously better for a number of reasons than any proprietary setup can ever be. That will never change. The fact that commercial interests also have an existence and manage to survive in the short term doesn't mean that they are better!
how I feel about paying for apps
I am shocked and disappointed I am the first to post this
That dog don't hunt
"That's fine for developers, but it's less useful for consumers. They're finding apps in the various app stores, or they're hearing about them from friends, media and other sources. They're unlikely to jump through many hoops to get their apps, however, and this is perhaps the most pernicious effect mobile app stores will have on open source."
No disrespect Matt but
Is jumping through hoops giving a friend a URL?
Gee whiz, how do some people ever get to a bathroom?
Anybody seen the "ten open source" lists showing up from almost any reputable software web/mag source for every device that uses it?
Alas, nobody gets away from advertising dollars and product placement.
It's one of those things where, if somebody could, would almost make you believe there was only one operating system in existence.
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