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On Slashdot's Lost Taco and Apple's Big Turnover

On Slashdot's Lost Taco and Apple's Big Turnover

"One valid criticism [of FOSS] is that too many projects are 'me-too,'" suggested Slashdot blogger Barbara Hudson. "'Me-too' means you're playing in their home field, and conceding that they are the reference by which you will be measured. FOSS should not be competing by being 'just as good.' 'Think different' worked for Jobs and Apple; maybe it can work for FOSS."

By Katherine Noyes LinuxInsider ECT News Network
08/29/11 5:00 AM PT

There may not be enough tequila in this world to see the tech community all the way through to the end of August 2011.

We've had Googlerola; we've had the ever-escalating software patent storm. We've had HP's lily-livered maneuvers regarding webOS and PCs.

Did we need more than that? No, we did not. Yet more is just what we got last week in the form of a one-two punch: First Steve Jobs's resignation as Apple CEO, then similar news from Slashdot's Rob Malda, or CmdrTaco.

'Please Help Me'

Now, longtime readers of the Linux Blog Safari column may remember that Malda contributed more than a few insightful comments over the years.

Linux Girl, in fact, still considers him a good personal friend, and understands completely that he's been too busy to comment for the past (*cough*) three years.

She'll never forget, though, a few of his wittier gems. When asked if Linux geeks tend to need help with the romantic side of life, for instance, Malda replied, "I hate to make broad generalizations about hundreds of thousands of people, but yes. Yes we do. Please help me."

Of the compatibility between Linux and women? "I'd ask my wife if she'd let me out of my box," Malda said.

Malda's farewell letter drew well more than 1,400 comments in about 24 hours on Slashdot, with plenty more dispersed across the rest of the Web.

We'll miss you, CmdrTaco!

The Ripple Effect

The departure of Apple's icon, of course, made a similarly big splash in the rest of the computing world, where the retrospectives and analyses are still coming fast and furious.

Linux Girl has never been a big iGadget fan, but the news will clearly have a profound effect on the industry in general.

The big question down at the blogosphere's Punchy Penguin was, will it affect Linux? Bloggers, as per their wont, had no shortage of reactions.

'A Terrible Business Plan'

"Good riddance!" was the opinion of blogger Robert Pogson. "Maybe Apple will quit suing the world and making enemies with a new guy in charge."

Apple has already "ticked off Samsung, one of its suppliers, all the users of Android/Linux products who number in the millions, all the developers of software for Android/Linux, all the suppliers of parts for Android/Linux systems, Google, and me for unleashing software patents on the world," Pogson explained.

"That is a terrible business plan and suppresses initiative," he added. "Carried to its logical conclusion, all smartphones and tablets will be excluded from USA/Europe because everyone will violate everyone else's patents. Is that what Apple wants? They are insane."

'It Will All Be on Cook'

For Slashdot blogger hairyfeet, the real question is, "Can Cook come up with new products like Jobs could?

"Like his style or hate it, the man had a vision and a way of finding new markets," hairyfeet opined. "There are probably three to four more iDevices left in the pipe. After that? It will all be on Cook."

Indeed, "no matter how you cut it this is a blow for Apple," consultant and Slashdot blogger Gerhard Mack agreed, "but they should be able to coast on their current lineup for at least a decade."

No Friend to FOSS

Chris Travers, a Slashdot blogger who works on the LedgerSMB project, didn't see any big implications for Linux.

"While Apple is involved in the FOSS community, I really don't see a major impact there," Travers told Linux Girl. "I have never really seen Steve Jobs as a friend to Free/Open Source Software. I don't see Apple becoming more or less of a friend after his departure."

Barbara Hudson, however, drew out some lessons for FOSS.

'We're Just as Good'

"Think of it -- if Steve Jobs hadn't asked John Sculley, 'Do you want to sell sugar water for the rest of your life or come with me and change the world?' Apple's board of directors wouldn't have replaced Jobs with Sculley less than 2 years later," began Hudson, a blogger on Slashdot who goes by "Tom" on the site.

In competing with commodity PCs, Sculley "basically undermined Apple's premium value, saying, 'We're just as good,'" she pointed out.

"It's true that during Sculley's tenure, sales rose by a factor of 10 before the crunch and Apple's near-death experience, but those were boom years for anyone who could assemble anything resembling a computer," Hudson asserted. "His handling of Apple brands, by creating too many different products with too much overlap, created confusion."

That, in turn, "made it much easier for Jobs, when he came back, to say, 'No, we're going to have only a few products, and they're going to be GREAT!'" Hudson explained.

'Think Different'

So, "in a way, Jobs' biggest mistake set the stage for his biggest success," she opined. "What sets Jobs above other leaders is that he was able to embrace it and reshape the company, which will forever be identified with him."

What lessons are there here for FOSS projects?

"One valid criticism is that too many projects are 'me-too,'" Hudson suggested. "'Me-too' means you're playing in their home field, and conceding that they are the reference by which you will be measured.

"FOSS should not be competing by being 'just as good,'" she concluded. "'Think different' worked for Jobs and Apple; maybe it can work for FOSS."


Katherine Noyes has been writing from behind Linux Girl's cape since late 2007, but she knows how to be a reporter in real life, too. She's particularly interested in space, science, open source software and geeky things in general. You can also find her on Twitter.


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