Recently I’ve been pondering about the role of Linux and free software and whether we should be concentrating on making proprietary stuff work seamlessly with it (or just concentrating on making great free software for us).
I’ve come to the conclusion that we should be making everything “just work.”
Most things are proprietary, my video card is proprietary, my BIOS is proprietary. Linux already works with all these proprietary things, and we should make sure that everything else does too.
Users should be able to seamlessly sync their hardware with Linux, like an iPhone. They should be able to install any Windows application they want to. They should be able to purchase any piece of hardware and have it just work plug ‘n play style.
If users want to use proprietary data formats like H.264 and MP3, they should be able to.
Linux does already do a great job at a lot of these things and we should continue to support as much as we can.
Consumers will buy what they want to buy – things that are nice and shiny and inevitably proprietary. If they can’t use these on Linux, then they will continue to use other operating systems. This vendor lock-in model is not going away any time soon, so unless they work with Linux, these people are tied down elsewhere.
I’m not saying that we should be out there fighting Microsoft for market share, we should just be scratching itches. If it’s an itch to get an iPhone to sync, then it should be scratched and everyone benefits. If the barrier stopping someone from moving to Linux as their primary operating system is because their iPhone won’t sync, then that should be changed.
Sure, Microsoft and Apple are out to destroy us, but who cares? We should just ignore them and keep plodding along making great software for us and scratching itches.