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

From: Gregory John Casamento
Subject: Re: GNUstep theming (was Re: Objective-C 2.0 and other new features in Leopard)
Date: Mon, 12 Nov 2007 14:14:05 -0800 (PST)


I'm not taking it as a criticism at all.   But, as project maintainer, I'm sure 
you can appreciate my position.  I can't say unilaterally that I want to appeal 
to one group over the other.

GNUstep currently most appeals to former NeXT people who are into Mac OS X.   
However, a lot of these people also say that it's time for GNUstep to move 
forward with it's GUI look.  A friend of mine owns a software company that was 
once fairly well known in the NeXT world and he's said the same thing.

I don't believe that changing the look will affect the people who are currently 
interested in GNUstep, especially since many of them currently feel the same 
way I do: That GNUstep needs a facelift.

Later, GJC
Gregory Casamento -- OLC, Inc 
# GNUstep Chief Maintainer

----- Original Message ----
From: Dr Tomaž Slivnik <address@hidden>
To: Gregory John Casamento <address@hidden>
Cc: address@hidden
Sent: Monday, November 12, 2007 2:32:56 PM
Subject: Re: GNUstep theming (was Re: Objective-C 2.0 and other new features in 

>> 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  

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  

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  

    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  
    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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