Why Open Source needs Apple – and so does the rest of the industry…

Steve Jobs and Bill Gates at D5.
Image via Wikipedia

I know. The new shinys are out.

iPhone 4 first hands-on! (update: FaceTime video demo)

iPhone 4 vs. iPhone 3GS: the tale of the tape
iPhone OS 4 unveiled, adds multitasking, shipping this summer

I love the iPhone 4, but still love my 3Gs, am in no hurry to upgrade, no need:) The software upgrade to 4.0 OS will be snazzy and spiffy, but I am a tad disappointed that the iPhone OS 4 not coming to the iPad until the fall. (I am trying to figure out when that actually is).

Yet we all know what a closed wall system Apple is. How on earth can that be good for FLOSS – Free / Libre Open Source Software? Well, it is just the kick that developers need. Hardware and software. Apple really sets a benchmark in how beautiful their hardware and software can be, they make objects that are actually amazing to use – and they set the level. Android is a case in point. Google is doing amazing things with Android, but I don’t think anyone actually thinks they are not following what Apple does, and striving to better it, do even more amazing things.

Hardware manufacturers are all now falling over themselves to make amazing tablet devices, similar to the iPad – tablets were dead in the water, despite Microsoft making many attempts – including the much under rated and (when I had one, utterly admired) HPT1100. People do not want a tablet with a stylus. Apple has totally made developers rethinks how people interact – the tactile experience of moving apps around a screen – the notion of an onscreen keyboard you could actually touch as preferred input was anathema until Apple did it, and did it so well.

Smart phones generally follow the Apple path now. (Except that noted hold out, Blackberry, which s a class unto itself, and good luck to them). Phone manufacturers have looked to Android as a saviour, as their in house attempts (I am looking at you, PalmOS) were going nowhere, fast.

OSX Snow Leopard, the current version of the Apple Operating System is clearly the inspiration behind Gnome, the main interface behind the Ubuntu project – the inspiration, but they have done even more amazing things. They lack the polish of the Mac version at times, but there are features I honestly wish Apple would notice and incorporate too. I am certain that while Apple leads the way, they also watch – and learn. When they release, they may release a similar product to existing ones – but it t will take the idea and make it seem as if unrealised before, half imagined, and now a complete vision.

Apple, once a flailing company, bailed out by Bill Gates (one has to wonder how he feels now?), upon Steve Jobs‘ return, has transformed into a maker of technology as almost art.

Steve Jobs will always be Willy Wonka to me – the Gene Wilder version, that menacing, magical dreamer of dreams, harsh with fools, but generous to those who get it.

That is why the hype. Deride us as fanboys (ahem, and girls thank you) all you like, Apple users do not just buy for the shiny name aspect (though one imagines there are always some that buy for brand alone). There are those of us who use their products and fall, like Alice, done the rabbit hole into Wonderland. Or perhaps, even more aptly, we choose to walk through the Looking Glass. (Much more apt – as everyone else is running the Red Queen’s race to catch up…)

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7 thoughts on “Why Open Source needs Apple – and so does the rest of the industry…

  1. Dan

    “Google is doing amazing things with Android, but I don’t think anyone actually thinks they are not following what Apple does, and striving to better it, do even more amazing things.”

    I’m not sure what you mean by this. The only idea I can think of Google picking up from Apple is the idea of the App Store, though organized collections of applications for phones have existed for years. Honestly, I’ve seen Apple adopt more of Android’s features via updates than the other way around.

    “People do not want a tablet with a stylus.”

    Funny, I know a lot of artists, myself included, that refuse to buy an iPad for that very reason. Ever tried drawing with your finger? It sucks, bad. The iPad would be perfect as a digital sketchbook, so much easier to carry around than a tablet PC. However Jobs knows best. For a guy that’s all about being artistic, you’d think he’d throw actual artists a bone.

  2. Andrew

    “People do not want a tablet with a stylus.”

    I do.
    I want a tablet for art & graphic design. I just bought a Lenovo X200 Tablet for that purpose. The ipad is a pretty snazzy piece of kit, but for the one job that form-factor is important to me, it’s basically useless.

    If they don’t include an active digitiser, they blew it.

  3. timelady Post author

    I should have been more specific, the AVERAGE user doesn’t want a stylus. My artist daughters (2 out of the 5 are really devoted, and imho, very talented anime artists), have Wacom tablets for their art. That is a very different thing – a specialist tool.

  4. timelady Post author

    I do notice, btw, there styluses (stylii? no, too silly) coming out for the iPad. Would that make a difference? That makes it an option for specialist work as you desire, still not a mainstream requirement. Accessory rather than standard. That still holds with my argument:)

  5. Andrew

    I certainly won’t deny that you *can* produce some impressive art on an iPad. I’ve seen some of the stuff people have done with Brushes on the iPhone.

    Then again, I’ve seen people produce impressive art using MS Paint.

    The ability to create art on a device like the iPad comes down to the persistence of the artist to work in a constrained medium, and some clever tricks in the software to overcome the hardware limitations.

    A capacitive stylus gives you a more controllable point to draw with, but you won’t get any pressure response. Given the same software, you could produce equivalent art on an old style resistive tablet.

    I recognise graphic artists are a niche market, and I don’t begrudge Apple for going for the broader audience. But it is a little disappointing to me that Apple’s primary demographic *was* graphic designers not that long ago…

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