Who's leading anyway?

The LinuxHater linked off to Christopher Blizzard’s (from OLPC fame and now at Mozilla) blog on the current state of affairs with the GNOME project. He gives some very eye opening insight into what’s happening there and the potential future directions for GNOME, GTK, and friends. It’s not pretty, literally.

GNOME is getting big in the mobile space, or at least the number of contributors from that space is starting to dominate the GNOME project. And as we all know in the open source world, the contributors are the leaders and get to make the decisions. What this likely means and what blizzard is afraid of is that the GNOME desktop is not going to get the attention it needs to compete with the modern interfaces it competes with. The commercial interest just isn’t there to make it happen like it is with GNOME mobile.

He explicitly spells out Qt and Apple as leaders in making good user experiences and developer friendly APIs. My favorite quote of his: “If in a platform-driven market and a platform-driven world you’re not the #1 or #2 player it’s going to be very difficult to make a dent in the market. (This is especially true if Nokia decides to fix the Qt licensing.)” I agree on both fronts. I can’t see how GNOME is going to grow without serious innovation. And I hope that Nokia fixes the Qt licensing (wink, wink, nudge, nudge).

Being CDTDoug and focused on embedded and mobile at Wind River and on the success of CDT for Windows development with Wascana, why do I care so much about the Linux desktop? Well I think it’s the missing piece in the open source success story. We have Linux as an overwhelming favorite in the server market and it’s growing in great strides in the embedded space. But without success on the desktop, my Mom isn’t going to care. Which means Microsoft and Apple and closed source technologies as still seen as the right path to innovation by the general public. And until “I am a Mac” dukes it out with “I am a Linux PC”, there will always be doubts on whether open source can compete with the big boys.