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Re: OT: threats to Free Software (was: AW: Fwd: CEDET sync)

From: David Reitter
Subject: Re: OT: threats to Free Software (was: AW: Fwd: CEDET sync)
Date: Tue, 2 Mar 2010 17:07:55 -0500

On Mar 2, 2010, at 1:40 PM, Stefan Monnier wrote:
> I think the real threat the FSF's ideals is that computers are being
> split into two camps:
> - cell-phones
> - web-services
> there are still some things in the middle (laptops/desktops) where users
> can run Free Software, but the tendency is pretty clear.

One may dislike the lack of freedom on a platform like the iPhone, but it is 
worthwhile to consider why the platform is successful (as in: popular).  
Potential reasons: 

1. The applications are highly usable, reliable, polished and cheap.  The 
marketplace allows customers to read and publish reviews, and a ranking system 
to endorse interesting useful apps.  The review system put in place by Apple 
ensures that apps are relatively free of bugs, standards-compliant (UI and API 
standards) and usable.  When developers have their apps reviewed, theory even 
get free feedback.  Also, the middleware (Apple's CocoaTouch/iPhoneOS 
frameworks) are tested, reliable, well-documented, easy-to-use and there are 
easy-to-learn development/debug tools.

The middleware provided by the iPhone OS (and also by OS X) is so extensive and 
reliable that it competes well with the "bazaar" of free libraries and and 
other code.  Think NSSpellChecker vs. ispell/aspell, or CoreImage vs. 

2. There is a working revenue model in place that gives application developers 
their deserved financial rewards.  Per-hour wages are around US$150 as far as I 
know.  Even developers who appreciate the ethical considerations of writing 
free and non-free software have to pay the mortgage, feed their kids, get a 
health plan (or they even want to enjoy life in their own Tesla sports car or 
their own aircraft).

There are further hardware-related and business-strategy related reasons, which 
may be less relevant for our agenda.  Perhaps there is something to be learned 
for free software from the above two points.  See also Lennart's point w.r.t 

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