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

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.

1 Comment

  • As far as the "me too" problem of FOSS, but I’d go one further…You want to take over the world? then stop trying to be Windows or OSX! Whether it flops or not at least Canonical is attempting something new, even though frankly it looks like a cell phone ripoff to me, but to change the world you gotta take risks.

    I think instead of a desktop metaphor we need to be looking at an office BUILDING metaphor. instead of files into folder, folder onto desktop, instead think of an interactive UI that mimics things we already understand. Like for audio you have a radio, with an EQ and volume and tone knobs. office tasks would be whiteboards for various tasks, video could be edited in a storyboard or picture frame format, things we all understand from real life and which would be intuitive.

    And LOSE THE CLI along with files/folder. let the OS handle that and base everything on metadata and search. That is one thing win 7 got right, have search in everything and let people forget the whole file/folder design for libraries. take that to the next level, have the OS automatically organize everything FOR the user, and have the files ready to go in the appropriate apps using metadata.

    Time is short Linux guys, the clock is ticking. me and millions of other retailers are gonna have hundreds of millions of XP boxes and laptops that have been EOLed. I’ve already started getting them trickling in as SOHOs and SMBs upgrade to Win 7, such as the 4 laptops I’m looking at now. i’m keeping one for myself and trying Vector linux, but it is too fiddly for my customers.

    in short Linux guys…thrill me. knock my socks clean off. Give me a linux OS that is all GUI, intuitive, and will run on these hundreds of millions of Pentium and AMD single core laptops and desktops that are about to be EOL. Make it so simple my grandma could understand it without a manual. And like I said CLI has to DIAF because that simply is NOT intuitive and is about the worst design you could possibly have for home users! I know you CLIHeads like it but keep it on the server, okay? nobody expects windows users to do everything with start-run now do they?

    You have until Apr 2014 to change the world, if it is the same old BS that we have seen for the last 5 years, with a little eye candy on top of a nasty CLI cake? guys like me will be sending lots of machines to the dump. But give us something new, something wow, something easy to use and solid and fun? Suddenly you’ll have hundreds of millions of Linux desktops and laptops on shelves in shops just like mine. Think grass roots. And with those swelling ranks comes better hardware support, more OEMs providing drivers, more software companies making versions of popular programs for Linux.

    It is up to you guys. Jobs took a pile of circuits in a garage and changed the world, and now here is your chance. Windows licenses make it simply not worth the cost to upgrade these hundreds of millions so if you provide something BOTH easy to use AND support? they are yours. you can change the world, you just have to "think different" like Steve did all those years ago.

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