02 January 2013

Why we need another smartphone OS


I'm going to step a little out of character in this post and respond to what might be nothing more than trolling. And in so doing I will probably engage in some myself. I am referring to a piece run on CNET today that asserts, "No, we don't really need another smartphone OS."

The work reads not unlike a piece of corporate protectionist propaganda, serving up the familiar, "It will be impossible for any newcomer to the mobile OS space to gain critical mass so they just better not try," stuff we've heard before. So, there's really nothing new in the content. What is new, or at least noteworthy, is the claim to address whether we need another smartphone OS--rather than how difficult a task it would be to build one--something that it pretty much fails to do. It entirely avoids the megaton gorilla that is the reason why we do need another OS: we currently lack a credible, open mobile platform. iOS is nowhere close to having any semblance of open; Android is effectively open only for vendors (not users)--and even then the OHA limits what you can do; and to the best of my knowledge Microsoft's and RIM's efforts are completely closed.

The rebuttal to the above is that, "Users don't actually care about open/free/libre/whateverness." And indeed this might be true. But it doesn't diminish the need for it. Honestly, I wonder if the titans of tech journalism are functionally concerned with the requirements of a healthy computing sociology or whether they are content acting merely as industrial spokespeople.

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