I have become increasingly interested in what can only be described as the Windows XP effect.
My previous two posts focussed on the idea that XP is, in the user's mind, the end of the upgrade journey and that even mighty Microsoft is struggling to budge them away from XP onto bigger and 'better' things.
I assert, and would expect little dissention, that change away from XP (voluntary change that is) wherein most users reside deep in their comfort zone, would need a really powerful driver. For arch conservative schools and public sector workplaces it will have to be a very good reason indeed.
This driving force will come from the Open Source community for one simple reason and that is here we find diversity. The winning strategy is lurking in the open source primordial soup waiting to reproduce rapidly and burst onto the scene we just don't know which it is yet. Corporate proprietary software programs, despite having access to huge talents and huge budgets, have 'strategic visions' and 'road-maps'. In short they plan and they fund accordingly; for them diversity is expensive, wasteful and often futile.
The Open Source community by virtue of its very core being has no plan!
Individual projects within the pantheon of Open Source software do of course have a plan. The OpenOffice project knows where it is going (for a while at least) as does, I presume, MySQL and even Java (is it Open Source now or not? I lose track). I have admittedly been a little disingenuous with my choices as all three above have one rather vast corporation in the background. Enterprise-level Open Source operating systems also have a plan just like any large corporate product, Novell's Suse and Red Hat Enterprise being obvious examples.
However, non-enterprise Open Source projects number in their thousands and reflect the interests and passions of their developer or group of developers. Projects start in one direction and may fork in another. Some die out others flourish. Taken in the round though no statement can be made about their 'direction'.
The above brings me to the point of this article, and that point the great corporation known as Google. Google has, as is well known, always fished in the Open Source pond. They have it seems followed a natural selection model assiduously. They feed the fish randomly it seems using their vast wealth and then select promising and sometimes unexpected products. As a result they now have a suite of very impressive online and offline applications the latest is the Open Source application, the browser called Chrome.