Monday, October 02, 2006

Release by aging

After a good seven months as a beta, Funambol v3 finally last week became General Availability. It is a nice milestone for Funambol and we are all very proud of it. Now the question: isn't that too long? Why did it take seven months?
That's a good question, thanks for asking ;-) The answer lies with the open source nature of our core code.
If you are a proprietary old boring company, you would have a product in beta, give it to a few customers who will give you a very limited feedback (close to zero), then a month later your marketing folks will force you to slap a GA tag on it and you will be shipping and praying your real customers will not find too many bugs. Inevitably - if you ever get customers - they will find a ton of bugs, you will scramble to build version x.z.1 and .2 and .3 and so on, until every customer will be happy (or gone for good). That will take you months and months, while you will not be able to build your next release and your product roadmap will keep slipping.
Open source is different. You throw the code out and you wait for feedback. You get a ton of feedback, sometimes beyond your ability to handle it. Thankfully, many of your beta testers fix the bugs they find themselves (that would be nice, Mr. Proprietary Company, uh?). You are able to release only when the community will stop finding and fixing bugs. There is no marketing GA tag in open source. It is community driven.
I call it release by aging: you leave the product out until it is mature. You cannot force it. It happens by itself. One day you discover that the amount of P1 bugs is dying off, because your community and your internal QA are not finding any. They are all gone, for good. And your customers are still there because they were part of the process.
For Funambol v3, we had over 300,000 downloads between the beta and the GA. That's a heck of a beta testing group. Maybe Microsoft can compete (maybe). Nobody else get close. Nobody else will ever have a product with the same quality that open source can provide. Period. It is the people factor. We are all working together and, as a community, we represent more QA people than any proprietary company can ever dream of. In mobile, that means we can test every phone on the planet (one billion today, going for two billion fast). That we can really address the mass market everybody is talking about. Nobody else can (sorry).
Release by aging. The key for high quality products, happier customers and healthier balance sheets.