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Posted by Jeffrey Hammond on May 20, 2010
One of my favorite research coverage areas is the evolving world of open source software. I like it because innovation is the watchword for the space – evolving technology, evolving business models, and evolving developer culture are fascinating to watch (if you don’t have the opportunity to write code yourself, watching other bright people figure out the best ways to do it is the next best thing). One of my favorite descriptions of the space from the early days of free software is Eric Raymond’s The Cathedral and the Bazaar. If you’ve never read it, I highly recommend doing so.
For the past year or so, I’ve been thinking more and more about the evolution of the Cathedral/Bazaar model, and its eventual end state. If we stick with the commercial analogies through time, we move past guilds and exchanges, and we find ourselves at today’s commercial masterpiece – the shopping mall. In the shopping mall, the landlords provides common conveniences like plumbing, heating, and free parking, and tenets hawk their wares. Small startups might rent pushcarts in the center atriums, while anchor stores like Macy’s and Sears get big hunks of display space at the ends of the mall.
I think we’re beginning to see the development of the Mall as an alternative to the Cathedral/Bazaar model. The Eclipse Foundation is a good example of mixed source development, with anchor stores like IBM and Oracle. Now after spending time at Google I/O this week I think it’s pretty clear we have another mall forming – “The Mall of Google.”
Google made a whole slew of announcements over the last two days, and I won’t spend a lot of space recapping the details. You can find that information here and here. What I do want to do is spend some time on what this means for developers in enterprise IT shops, and why you need to pay attention.
Many of the announcements on day 1 were related to the development of HTML 5, and its support in Google’s Chrome browser. I’ve written a bit about the subject recently, and my main take away from the show is that we’re a few steps closer to HTML 5 being a viable client-side application development alternative:
I’m sure that a lot of developers in the audience were surprised to see VMware CEO Paul Maritz walk on stage yesterday (I confess I was). And I’m sure that his presence stirred conversations in Armonk, Redmond and Redwood City (if not, it should). Here’s why:
There’s a common thread to Google’s day 1 announcements, and some prepped for day 2, which will be mostly around Android. The thread is one of support for truly open standards, sometimes to the tune of contributing millions in purchased IP, as in the case of On2, but also of encouraging choice, and coexistence with, commercial code. VMware is certainly a Cathedral, as is Adobe’s Creative Studio. But here’s a key difference in the Google approach to the Web – it’s embracing both Cathedral and Bazaar, and letting developers sort out the differences and relative benefits of both.
For another example of this mixed-source approach, look no further than today’s announced support for Flash 10.1 on the Froyo version of Android. I’ve been testing a Froyo-based Nexus One for the last week side-by-side with my iPhone, and I think it’s great to not have to deal with “little blue cubes” on the sites I visit every day. The Froyo Nexus is fast, the multitasking is excellent, and contrary to assertion, I have not noticed a significant difference in battery life when I view Flash-enabled content (I barely get through a full day with my iPhone 3G even with a Mophie juice pack at full charge).
When it comes to Flash apps running on Froyo itself, it’s also pretty clear to me that they can deliver an engaging mobile experience. I have to confess; I spent way more time with the South Park Avatar Creator than I should have, but I guess that’s the goal of engagement, right? And even with hardware acceleration turned off in the beta, video and audio works just fine for me on site likes the BBC.
Is Flash on Froyo ready for full-scale enterprise app development? No, not yet. We’ll need to wait for Slider before we can truly size up the Mobile app dev experience unless you’re ready to drop to ActionScript. But the point being made is an important one. A Cathedral-oriented strategy is all about control; developers must be satisfied with what they are allowed to do. A bazaar-oriented strategy is about organic innovation, and developers are free to come up with ideas using the technologies that they know and reap the full benefit of what they create. The mall-oriented strategy combines the “right to innovate” with common infrastructure that encourages that innovation. This is where Google’s heading, and development professionals should take notice.
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