Doc Searls asks Can Apple clear the way for the Linux desktop? Along the way, he refers to two other articles that should be read as well, RoughDrafted’s Can Apple Take Microsoft in the Battle for the Desktop and Glyn Moody’s A Modest GNU/Linux Proposal for Michael Dell.
I don’t think it’s about Apple versus Microsoft versus Linux (choose your distro) any more, although Apple and Microsoft may prefer it was. Made life simpler for them, but not for us.
The A versus B versus C battles were still vendor battles. Battles about vendor platforms. Platforms defined by the particular breeds of software that were attracted to a given operating system, platforms that provided us with closed choices. Any colour you like as long as it’s theirs.
In the name of customer choice (Hobson must be turning in his grave hearing that barefaced lie) we had to choose. Vendors forced us into an A or B choice, leaving them happy and us not.
Now, the games are different. Especially since Apple went Intel, itself riding on the iPod effect. Now vendors can’t force us into an OR choice with mutual exclusivity. Now we have ANDs.
Why ANDs? Because the platform went and died in front of us. The platforms no longer seem to attract software on an exclusive basis. Much of what we see as software today gets released for Windows and OSX and Linux in parallel or near-parallel, so the operating system cannot define the platform any more. The bonding effect that was felt at platform level is now felt at platform-independent ecosystem level, making the community much more powerful. Mozilla is a community. Firefox is a community. Even StumbleUpon is a community. So is Netvibes. So for that matter is YouTube. Or Facebook. Or Skype. Or eBay. All communities.
The desktop was a platform. It’s disaggregated now, and the lock-ins of the past have shifted to freer ecosystems. The communities reflecting today’s realities aren’t like yesterday’s, which were non-overlapping mutually-exclusive walled-garden whatevers.
Snake oil doesn’t scale. Nature abhors a vacuum.
Today’s communities are open. They overlap, they nest, they merge and they split. They adapt, they mutate. They evolve. They are alive. Today it’s not about the desktop any more, it’s about the desktop and the laptop and the palmtop and the fingertip and the TV screen and the cinema and the phone and the PDA and the whatchamacallit.
Today’s ecosystems are open. Products and services migrate to where the action is, wherever there are conversations. The cost of migration is low, so low that you can see Say’s Law operate reasonably often. The dynamic of supply creating its own demand is something that gets quite exciting, when you couple it with democratised innovation and open feedback loops.
I think this is all good. When customer choice moves from OR to AND, when the customer has to sacrifice nothing to make this move, then good it is. [Well actually the customer has sacrificed a lot, it’s just been a different generation of customer doing the sacrificing…]
Which brings me back to Doc Searls. And VRM. Which is what will make lock-in disappear, and, not surprisingly, something that will really take off only when lock-in starts disappearing.
I’m going to enjoy watching that dam burst.