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Re: GNUstep theming (was Re: Objective-C 2.0 and other new features in L

From: Dr Tomaž Slivnik
Subject: Re: GNUstep theming (was Re: Objective-C 2.0 and other new features in Leopard)
Date: Mon, 12 Nov 2007 19:32:56 +0000

What is the perceived need GnuStep wants to satisfy? What is GnuStep's goal / target audience/market?

Other than saying "as many users as possible" I'm not sure what else to say.

No system/API/environment should ever specifically target a group of people. People should find us useful and decide to use our stuff, if they want to. But I will not say "we're only for group X or group Y".

Let me say it as clearly as possible ... GNUstep's goal is to have as many users as we can. I suppose this means becoming "mainstream" but I also believe that updating GNUstep's look to be more modern can't be a bad thing.

Please do not take this note as criticism - I know I am in no position to criticize, since I have not contributed to GnuStep, although I wish I had the time to, both technically and financially, as I think it is a very worthwhile project. However, this is what I think:

1) The strategy described above is too vague and do not think it will get you success:

a) Having as many users as possible seems to be more of a wish than a strategy.

b) Having *more* users is a good idea, but having as many as possible, I think, is not. Do you really want as many users as possible, even if it means lowering your standards? Does the world need another OS/GUI/development platform for the masses? Does it have room for one?

2) You can't be all things to all men.

Forget - to start with - *everyone* wanting to use GnuStep, if they want to. You need a niche that you cater for - to which you offer something nobody else can, or, at least, to offer it 10x better than anyone else.

Here is a key question you need to be able to answer: why would anyone want develop on GnuStep, rather than Mac OS X? Where is your competitive advantage?

When NeXT came out, it had a definite target niche: the education market. Then it refocussed itself to the "mission critical" market - financial institutions etc.

NeXT may not have been a commercial success overall, but I know for a fact it was a great success, if nowhere else, among maths academics.

NeXT and NeXTStep were way ahead of their time - their advantages were numerous; but here are just some of them:

- bullet-proof and extremely reliable - none, and I mean none, of the other mainstream alternatives came close in terms of reliability, consistency, simplicity of use and "just working".

- a completely new development paradigm, resulting in faster development cycle, greater application reliability, code reuse etc.

- an unsurpassed platform for software development and technical computing.

You do not have the same advantages as NeXTStep had - if for no other reason, because there is Apple.

But GnuStep does have all advantages of Objective C / OpenStep; the only platform except Apple to offer these; but potentially offering also:

   a) ability to run on non-Apple hardware;
b) open source (could be important to users not wanting to be tied to a proprietary solution); c) not burdened with having to support legacy technologies (Carbon, HFS+, resource forks etc.); d) potentially cleaner design and less cluttered, nicer, more consistent NeXT-style GUI; e) potential to develop cleaner design of support for new technologies; f) not constrained to include marketing hacks with no technical benefit (like integrated access to the Apple Store in iTunes etc.)

Niches you could potentially appeal to:

1) former NeXT users
2) technical / mathematical users (as NeXTStep)
3) Apple is not terribly solid and reliable. If you can be more solid/ reliable, you could potentially target users from the "mission critical" market - like financial institutions. Those guys have a lot of money and don't mind - often prefer - to develop their entire platform in-house. To them, quality is paramount and money is no object, so if you can convince them you're the best, you're in.

My guess would be that your core group of users are ex-NeXTStep/ OpenStep developers. What about Cocoa/Mac OS X developers? I'm not so sure you appeal to them as much - why would one of them want to switch to/develop for GnuStep? Outside of those two groups of developers, I believe you will find it hard to get any people to switch to GnuStep at all. Am I correct - is the current makeup of this mailing list consistent with this view?

I believe the substance of what you have to offer is much more important than having a good web site (which, however, is also important), or your slogan (of no consequence in my opinion), or your default theme (which I not only think is not important and will not win you new users; but potentially puts you at risk of losing appeal to your core NeXT group of supporters).

Here are some suggestions:

#1: you need a simple way of installing GnuStep. I've only ever used GnuStep off a live CD; not because I am not capable of compiling it from source, but because I have not (yet) had the time. I make small steps from time to time, only to have to stop and get back to some other priority. You have dependency on several libraries which have to be built - and I, for my own reasons, want those manually built, not installed by Fink/DarwinPorts. Provide a .dmg containing a .pkg (for Mac OS X), and an equivalent thing for Linux/FreeBSD/etc., and overnight your fame will spread.

#2: (i) more development frameworks. (ii) Reliable/bullet-proof/ debugged frameworks. (iii) Faster/optimized frameworks.

#3: applications. How about:
    - to appeal to mathematical/technical market:
- a GnuStep clone of Mathematica notebook interface / do a deal with Wolfram to develop one for GnuStep;
      - GnuStepTeX
      - ? etc. ?
    - to appeal to the mission critical / finance market:
      - an Objective C framework for derivatives pricing
      - a Lotus Improv/Quantrix clone
      - ? etc. ?
    - educational software - to target schools

#4: how about producing an install DVD which formats a PC's disk and automatically installs a GnuStep/Linux distribution? Or doing a deal with a PC manufacturer to sell - or for you to sell - cheap PCs with GnuStep/Linux preinstalled? Or doing a package deal to sell PCs with GnuStep/Linux pre- installed cheaply to schools? Can you get a computer company to donate equipment to schools and the GnuStep team installs the OS and the GUI?


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