Thursday, March 29, 2007

GPLv3: the FSF dropped the ball(s)

Last night, I read the last draft of GPLv3 on my cell phone during dinner in Orlando. I went looking for the provision they had in the last draft, the one that closes the GPLv2 ASP loophole that forced me to create HPL. In a nutshell, it is the ability of running GPLv2 software as a service (SaaS) without returning any changes to the community, because distribution of software as a service might not technically be considered distribution of software (therefore circumventing the copyleft clause that made open source what it is today). That is what Google does, making gazillions of dollars thanks to Linux and open source but keeping its secret sauce concealed from the rest of the world (but contributing in many other ways, therefore cleaning its conscience, I guess).

The provision is not there. Gone. They dropped the ball. Actually, it has been made very clear that the ASP loophole is not a loophole anymore. It is perfectly fine to change GPLv3 software and offer it to the public as a service, without returning the changes to the community. Bryan Richard on Linux Magazine, wrote an interesting article on it titled "The GPL has no (networked) future". I agree...

That means 75% of the future software (which is going to be SaaS) could be offered by leeches, that suck the soul of open source for their pure benefit. They make money, while others work for them for free, to make them rich. Rich without returning anything that could benefit the community of whom they are parasites. As you can read in this interview, Google is really happy about the GPLv3 draft. Of course they are!!

I am honestly upset. My feeling is that the Free Software Foundation (FSF) did not have the balls to push this forward. I can understand it, because the special interests involved are big and you need to pick your fight. But they picked the wrong ones. Covering the use of open source in SaaS was the one to fight. You cannot go after TiVo because puts Linux in a box, but not after Google because it puts it behind a firewall. Just because it is Google. The vast majority of software will be run as a service, not in appliances. The world is not going there. The world is going SaaS.

Again, I understand the political reasoning behind the decision (GPLv3 has enough problems to be accepted, adding the SaaS provision would probably have killed it) but I am questioning the merit. The FSF writes:
We have made this decision in the face of irreconcilable views from different parts of our community. While we had known that many commercial users of free software were opposed to the inclusion of a mandatory Afferolike requirement in the body of GPLv3 itself, we were surprised at their opposition to its availability through section 7.
I bet they were ;-) That does not mean you give up. You fight. It is a fight on principles. You cannot be a sucker in open source. You have to give back. It is true for TiVo and for Google. There should not be exceptions. Copyleft is the soul of open source. The soul of the FSF. Without it, we would not be were we are now.

In an attempt to give something to the people that agree with me, they added a backward compatibility clause of GPLv3 with Affero (which is a license with an insane requirement to close the ASP loophole and with a vanity name of a company behind it) and claimed they will work with the community to create Affero v2. That means we'll have GPLv3 and GPLv3_with_SaaS, Affero branded. One in favor of the proliferation of licenses, which is the major issue this movement is facing already... A
ffero is not even OSI approved, but it is the only license backward compatible with GPLv3... Double-insane (and I would be offended being on the OSI board...).

OK, I am really upset. I'll give myself a few days to think about it. I could just hope the FSF will reconsider and add the provision in the last draft, which will never happen... A first step could be to bring HPLv1 in front of OSI. GPLv2 is a good license after all, with just one problem that is fixed by HPL. And we could always create HPLv2 later and merge it with the FSF effort. I really would like that license to be compatible with GPLv3 and work with the FSF on it. License incompatibility is killing us...

The issue with licensing is at the center of open source, and it should not be. We just need to get one license that works in 90% of cases and get over with it. GPLv2 is the closest thing to this goal, and used by the vast majority of the projects out there. GPLv3 simply does not cut it. I am really really sorry about it. But I am not going just to sit and watch the disaster unfold. I am ready to fight.

Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Second day at CTIA

The second day of CTIA is usually the busy one. The day nobody misses (some come late, most leave early). However, it was still slow, like yesterday... When the door opened this morning, there were few dozen people waiting, not the hundreds of 3GSM. Being CTIA, I would rethink having the show here again in 2009...

The other buzz of the show, together with mobile advertising, is mobile payments. Visa said that it would become an investor in dotMobi and that it was working with Qualcomm to create phones that allow you to swipe the phone, instead of your credit card. They added that Kyocera agreed to support the Visa mobile payments platform on its phones. Yesterday, at&t announced that its customers will be allowed to manage bills and bank accounts through their service.

Mobile payments have been a success in Japan, as many other technologies that never saw the light outside Tokyo. This one, though, has the numbers to be a great success also in the US. Fast food chains are trying to find a way to move out of cash transactions. Not everybody has a credit card, but everybody has a phone. Link it to your phone bill (postpaid or prepaid) and you have millions walking around with a debit card in their pocket.

The issue: you can put the chip in the phone but you also need a reader in the shop... Apart of some original but bizarre ideas (like using the infrared chip on the device to simulate the swiping of the card on the reader), I have not seen anything practical that would not require all the shops on the planet to change their card readers (or add a wireless one). That will require time. We are talking years, not months. But it is going to happen and it will be a huge market.

Another trend (but not really a buzz) is that device manufacturers are adding Yahoo or Google in their phones. LG announced they will have some phones with the Google apps (search, maps, email) pre-installed. Nothing crazy, but it would not require you to download anything, which is great for consumers.

Few problems here (sorry to turn everything down):
1. At least in the US, the carrier will took the apps off. Sorry, they control the market here, not the device manufacturer (unless you are Apple, of course). They want their brand to be visible to the consumer, not Google or Yahoo.
2. You still have to configure the application on the device. I know it is easy on a PC, but typing an email address (the @ symbol in particular) is an unsurmountable obstacle for many.
3. If you are not a Google user, or if you have more than one email address (for example, if you have a job...), you will need something else. Luckily, I am seeing the device manufacturers adding support for open standards as well. That is the way to go. We just need to force Google to provide open standard support for devices. That will happen, let's just keep pushing. We have enough proprietary email standards in mobile and they are not what the world is needing and asking for (nor the carriers...)

That's it for me at CTIA. I am flying out tomorrow at dawn. Unfortunately, I am going to miss the Clinton/Bush keynote, which is probably the only reason for many to stay. Too bad. I'll check it on YouTube tomorrow on my PC. But not on my cell phone: yep, the buzz for mobile TV is dramatically diminishing, the mobiTV booth was in the furthest corner of the show and always deserted. Apparently, it is uncool to talk about something that works but nobody uses. That's what happens after the buzz is gone.

Tuesday, March 27, 2007

First day at CTIA

CTIA is in Orlando this year. Weather is nice, a bit on the humid side. The show is in one enormous hall. It reminds me of New Orleans a couple of years ago. You just keep walking and walking and walking... I am not sure about the attendance numbers but it seems slow to me. Inside the hall and outside (since the attendees are dispersed in the city). Orlando is not the best place to have a show like this one, in my opinion. Lots of people probably remained home.

Anyway, the tone is still upbeat. The buzz is around mobile advertising. I am not sure why we need a different buzz every show, but welcome to the mobile world ;-) Many believe mobile advertising could be the key to start delivering compelling data applications to phone, for cheap. It makes sense, until you realize you still have to pay for data (e.g. the carrier). Once and if the carriers become a dumb pipe, the model will make sense. For now, it does not. But it is interesting to play around with the concept and, if the data plans become a commodity, this could really be the right train to catch. We'll see, I am optimistic.

I saw a lot of cool devices, just launched today. Man, I should count the number of different devices on display at the show. It is unbelievable. Works for me and Funambol (and sustain my segmentation argument) but it is quasi schizophrenic... Anyway, the Samsung Upstage looks like the closest thing to the iPhone mini (the one I was expecting from Apple and never came). It is thin like an iPod mini. Unfortunately, one side looks great, the other side looks ugly... Apparently, you need Steve Jobs to make both sides nice.

The other device that competes in the iPhone mini category is the Sony Ericsson W580. Very nice device. Cool music phone. With everything you need, including sync and push email. Also, it sports a pedometer, that is very useful to check how many miles you walked down the aisles of CTIA... The more I look at Sony Ericsson phones, the more I am getting convinced they are on the right track. And they seem to be supporting open standards and SyncML on every single device. Which is quite smart.

Lastly, a new startup came to the spotlight. Mostly because it was launched by Microsoft and it looks like an attempt to answer the iPhone usability challenge (BTW, the iPhone was at the show in the hands of AT&T CEO and it disappeared three seconds after...). ZenZui will promote a new "Zooming User Interface" that is designed to streamline and enhance the mobile Web-surfing experience. It does not look like anything out of the ordinary, but as a usability guy I am always supportive of initiative targeted to enhance the user experience. We still have a long way to go on this, and it is THE key factor.

End of day one. Thankfully, the show runs only from 11 am to 5 pm... Just to recall the good days at 3GSM in Barcelona, I am going out and have some tapas. I have to admit it, Orlando does not cut it for me. I am looking forward to go back to Vegas next year (I am sure there is good Spanish food there as well ;-)

Saturday, March 24, 2007

Consumer mobile email is ready to boom

First of all, let me thank all the people that participated in our survey. If you know me and you already received the ten bucks, please keep them because you clearly owe me a beer :-)) A good opportunity to pay back is CTIA in Orlando, starting next week. We'll be there. Stop by our Funambol booth #1177 and BYOB...

At CTIA, we'll have the cool phone holder but also the results of the survey. The latter are quite interesting, for example:
Previous studies have reported that consumers want mobile email but are not willing to pay much for it. Funambol's survey found that consumers indeed want mobile email, and that the majority is willing to pay for it, on average about $5 per month. Furthermore, many will be making the move to adopt it within the year. Consumers also indicated that they are looking for mobile email that is easy-to-use and that seamlessly interoperates with their web and PC email systems.
Consumers are willing to move fast (thank you so much!) and pay $5/month (that is even nicer, but since you pay over $5/m for SMS today, I was kinda expecting it...).

Other key findings:
-- There will be hundreds of millions of new mobile email users in the coming years and they are more likely to be consumers than business users. Almost half of the survey respondents who do not use mobile email said they expect to start using it within a year.

-- People use a wide range of mobile devices all over the world and a mobile email solution aimed at the mass market needs to support a broad set of devices. Of the mobile brands used by survey respondents, the second most popular choice was "Other," meaning other than Nokia, Sony Ericsson, Motorola or BlackBerry (RIM).

-- Non-users of mobile email want mobile email that is easy to navigate and read, easy to use and that allows them to reuse email addresses from their web/PC-based email.

-- For existing users of mobile email, the main inhibitors to increased usage are functional and technical limitations, and cost. The top reason to consider switching to a different mobile email service was better interoperability with web and PC email.

-- There are significant differences between users and non-users of mobile email. These include brand of mobile device, how much they paid for it, how many emails they get or expect to get, how much they are willing tospend on mobile email and their attitude toward technology adoption.
Very interesting stuff, in my opinion. And it is quite fun to go through the report and see all the graphs with the differences between prosumers (already hooked on email) and consumers (still wandering, but interested). Obviously, the report is free (and open ;-)

See you at CTIA, do not miss the report!

Thursday, March 22, 2007

Apple TV sucks

I had lunch in Palo Alto today and I did not resist the urge to check the new Apple TV. I was shocked.

The usability is great, the picture slideshow and the music are perfect but the quality of the video SUCKS. The pixels are so visible, it seems impossible to believe Apple is shipping the device, when people are used to High Definition now... Man, the stuff is meant to be used on a TV!! And for it to work, you need the latest and coolest TV screens!!!

God I hope the iPhone is much better because there must be something going horribly wrong at Apple these days...

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Forever sync

Today, I had a deja-vu. I was having lunch with a friend from HP and he asked me "do you still believe there is a need for synchronization in mobile? Network are fast now, you know, and reliable". My mind went back to 2003, to the very first presentation I gave about Sync4j (two years in the making, at the time). Someone asked me the same question, albeit more generic: "do you still believe there is a need for synchronization? Network are fast now, you know".

To both, I gave the same answer: "You bet! It is not about the network, it is about usability".

Then I checked the announcement that Apple TV finally hit the stores today. They have one page on the web site where the word sync is used 12 times... Wow, sync is still here today... And there is no network more reliable and faster than the one you have at home... Why is that? Apple could have created Apple TV just streaming info from your devices, taking content from the web. Instead, they went for a sync solution (as they did for the iPod). Why?

Think about your Apple TV. It shows your video and pictures and music on your TV. Where do you have them? On your PC. On your iPod. On your mobile phone. They are spread out. Every device captures the information and you have to sync it back somewhere. The devices are many, the data could be just one, but it is distributed. Each device has a piece of the puzzle. Again, why?

Because on your iPod you want music to start instantaneously. Five seconds wait and it is unusable. Because the experience of listening to your music on your iPod in the subway could not be replicated if you needed a wireless signal (yes, I know, some subway now have wireless signal). Or when you fly (yes, I know, some airplanes now have wi-fi, but did you notice Connexion by Boeing died?).

On your Apple TV your data is stored. You flip through it in an instant. It works even if your laptop is off, your iPod is in your bag, the batteries of your cell phone are toasted. You can use it. And the experience is great (Apple is the master of usability, after all). You get that only if your data is already on your device. And it gets there through synchronization. Usable synchronized data. Even in a fast and reliable network, imagine on a cellular network...

Forget killing synchronization. It is here to stay. Long life to sync.

Monday, March 19, 2007

Why Google needs a phone (now)

Boring as it was, the rumor about the Apple iPhone turned out to be right. Recent estimates quantify at 400 millions the marketing saving by Apple, after the announcement (not a small deal...). Now the rumors filling the blogs is that Google is working on the Goophone or whatever they will call it (but I like Goophone... I should trademark it then sue them later ;-)

There are pictures on the web from Endgadget and Gizmodo (two smartphones, again, please...), rumors from a VC that Google has 100 people working on it (hey, they have 100 people working on pretty much everything, where's the surprise?), a recruiting site that says "Google is experimenting with a few wireless communications systems including some completely novel concepts" (surprise!, as before) and the head of Google operations in Spain and Portugal, Isabel Aguilera, who said it is pretty much all true. Actually, she started all the rumors. A lady of latin blood that could not keep a secret? Wow. It makes the story even more interesting...

Jokes apart, Google is certainly putting a lot of effort in mobile. The holy grail of advertising is here. You are in front of a computer a few hours, but you wear your phone all the time. How can they ignore it?

They don't. So you have Google Mobile with search, maps, Gmail and stuff. All pretty nice.

The problem? The mobile operators... They do not like Google. They made a mistake, some time ago, to embrace RIM and the Blackberries. Their brand is totally diluted with high end email users. If you ask a Blackberry user "who's your carrier?", it will take them a few seconds to answer. The loyalty is with the device, not the mobile operator. On the contrary, if you ask anybody on the street "who gives you SMS?", the answer is "my carrier, xyz!". That's gold in marketing.

The carriers cannot afford to make that mistake again, or they will turn themselves into a "dumb pipe". Give room to Google (or Yahoo) and you are dead. They will take your device and make it theirs. Gone. You are history, you are just a provider of an IP address fighting in a commodity market with crashing prices (sounds like Web 1.0 and the ISP market, right?).

For Google to be relevant, they either have to wait until the carriers lose their grip (good luck with that) or jump and build a phone with its own network. Possibly, NOT a smartphone. A mass market device, to maximize their ad market. We already have the iPhone for niches. And it is cool enough.

Would Google do it or go the carrier way, praying to get some room on their phones and wait for the better? With all that cash, it would be tempting to change the world... They need to conquer the mobile market. They can do it if they have a phone.

Would they make it? I doubt it, but I sure hope they will, because it will be fun (and it would give my segmentation argument more legs ;-)

Monday, March 12, 2007

Mobile operating systems and fashion

Yesterday, the New York Times published an article about mobile operating systems. They called me and asked what I thought about the topic and, as usual, captured my thoughts in just one sentence ;-) However, I believe the synthesis is right: I do not believe in operating systems convergence in mobile. At least, not in the short term.

This is the same story that I heard many times about convergence. It is not happening in hardware, I do not see why it should happen in operating systems. Actually, the more devices are there to solve specific needs (or segments) the more specialized operating systems will show up.

Granted, a convergence in mobile operating systems is needed and I would be happy to see it. Carriers are obviously pushing for it, but the market is going somewhere else. The iPhone is yet-another platform, albeit closed for now (but I am ready to bet they will open it sooner or later). Then there are a bunch of different Mobile Linux implementations to be added to the list, like OpenMoko. Once the Google phone will be out, it is going to make things even more complex.

The reason, once again, is simple: the mobile market follows the fashion industry. You wear a phone. It is not a techie thingy, although we want it to be. It is fashion. You have to change it every year because it looks old and you look no-cool with it...

Think about it, the Italians are all over the mobile industry. You have the cool gold RAZR Dolce e Gabbana. And the LG Prada. Now they launched the Gucci phone. Have you ever seen convergence in Italian clothing? I don't think so... You thing you caught up with it and it is changing again... Who cares about the operating system? We'll wear a different one next year. It will match the color of your shoes.

What a difference a year makes

Last week, I spent a couple of days attending the Open Source Think Tank. Great setting (Silverado in Napa), fantastic organization by Andrew Aitken and Mark Radcliffe (great wine and weather, for starters), spectacular list of attendees (from the open source perspective).

I attended the same event last year. Pretty much the same people. Back then, we talked about what open source will be in 2010. The answer: everywhere. Open source will be the dominant way of developing and distributing software. Open source will conquer the world. I left that meeting complaining to Andrew I did not learn anything... I felt there were issues we should have discussed, instead of just talking about how good we were doing.

This year, everything changed. The useless hype is gone. The entire two days were about the issues facing open source. About licensing and GPL3 and what the OSI can do to make things simple for OSS customers. About Oracle and RedHat. About the Novell and Microsoft pact. About monetizing and sustaining the business model.

It was absolutely great and extremely useful.

At the end, the outcome was exactly the same of last year: open source will be the
dominant way of developing and distributing software in the next years. But we did not talk about it. Open source is so mainstream that CIOs are considering it by default. It is treated exactly as proprietary software. They adopt it because it is better and cheaper, only if well supported. In that case, they want to pay. OSS is treated as commercial software. They do not even care about the source code. The field is totally leveled. We made it there. Since the game is on quality, price and support, open source companies will win hands down.

As an example, SourceFire went public last Friday. Great IPO, a gem in this confused stock market. Today up 13% while I write. 400M+ of market cap. An open source software company. A dual licensing company. I remember I heard Martin Roesch talking at JavaOne few years back and explaining the model that works in open source. The one that allows you to build public companies... It was fascinating. There were three companies in the first paper I read about dual licensing: SourceFire (public), MySQL (about to go public) and SleepyCat (acquired by Oracle). It should tell you something. Dual licensing is the model of Funambol, SugarCRM, Zimbra, among others. We just started a few years later but we are catching up fast...

The Think Tank reinforced all I knew about open source: the anxiety around open source licensing and indemnification is going to stick around. Dual licensing takes it all away. It is the model forward, the one CIOs go for. And the market is just following, as usual.

The big change in the last year is that the hype is gone. Open source is mature and mainstream. Proprietary vendors are adding open source wherever they can. Dual licensing is the way. It is clearly winning. Results are solid.

Let me add
to this self-celebration a funny episode during the Think Tank, which happened when Microsoft was accused to "split Linux". The Microsoft representative stood up and shouted "that is not true!!". He later went on stage with the Novell representative (nice move by the organizers, since they were the key sponsors ;-) and explained what the deal meant. Sorry, I forgot what he said, since I had my Marketing BS filter set to on. But I recall someone from the audience asking why Steve Ballmer explained the deal saying "Linux uses our intellectual property". And the answer about Steve Ballmer being hard to control and that "he recognized his statement was counterproductive". Yeah, right... Talking about a guy who does not know what he says, while he runs the largest software company on the planet. Pleeease. Just try to be nice open source citizens: it will be the dominant way of developing and distributing software in a few years and you can clearly use dual licensing, you know?

Friday, March 09, 2007

Consumer mobile email survey

Our very creative marketing department has created a survey to analyze usage and needs by consumers on mobile email. That is, we are listening to you... And we pay you to do that!

The survey takes 5 minutes and we are offering a $10 PayPal payment to the first 500 people who complete the survey (one payment per person, must be able to accept PayPal, feel free to forward to anyone -- friends, relatives, etc.).

Ten bucks for five minutes means 120 bucks per hour, which makes a hefty $250,000 a year... We really value your time ;-)

To take the survey you can click HERE. In the first few hours we already received over 300 responses, so you better move quickly or we will just listen.

Wednesday, March 07, 2007

SMS push is the killer for JavaME email

I started using the Funambol v6 push email client for JavaME, which has been released in alpha a few days ago (it is open source, GPL, available on the ObjectWeb Forge), and it blew my expectations.

I know I am biased, but compared to Gmail Mobile the experience is totally different. I am not talking about the client being better (although I like it more because it is simpler). The big difference is that I am really using it, while I used the Gmail Mobile client just five times after I downloaded it...


Because I have SMS push...

What does it mean? It means that every time there is a new email on my Yahoo account (yep, we are not locked to Gmail ;-) a message appears on my RAZR and the phone beeps. From the cover, I can see it is a Funambol message. I open the phone and it says "do you want to open Funambol?". I say yes and I get my email downloaded from the server.

With our portal (now in pre-alpha, we showed it at 3GSM, come and see it at CTIA at the end of the month if you are interested), you get the client pre-configured on your device. No typing necessary. Just click on a message and you are done. The app is on your device. Your email appears magically.

I count 8 clicks on my T-Mobile RAZR phone to open the Gmail Mobile client... I have to go through "Fun&Apps" (the icon looks like a movie!), then "Games & Apps" (the icon looks like a joystick!!) to get to it. What are the odds that 95% of the population would never find the client once downloaded, because to get their email they have to be willing to watch a movie with a joystick? HIGH, VERY HIGH.

Instead, you downloaded the Funambol client. You lost it somewhere in your phone (it goes where GMail Mobile goes, there is nothing we can do about it...), but then someone sends you an email. You get a message, you click on Yes and your Funambol client pops out. You are using it. And you will keep using it, because you are going to get more emails.

What about battery? No difference: SMS reception is active on your phone anyway.

What about the cost? Well, that's a different ballgame. But we are not proposing this to enterprises (although it would be nice to try a price comparison with a BlackBerry monthly fee...). We give it to mobile operators. They bundle it for you, poor consumer, in their offering. You won't see the cost per message.

Up to a few weeks ago, I thought SMS push was a cool feature for a killer app. An important one for usability purposes. I just found out not having is the killer of the app. Push is the key for JavaME email. Without it, there is no consumer email. At least, not on Java phones, which are just 1.5 billions out there... Hello consumers, email is mobile and it works for you :-)

Sunday, March 04, 2007

Who is going to buy Palm?

As you might have noticed, Palm stock is going up like crazy. That means someone is about to buy it (or the market has gone nuts, which is usually not the case).

A few months ago, I wrote a post about The Palm Opportunity, just after Motorola bought Good. My humble suggestion to Palm was: move fast, embrace open source and open standards, focus on mobile and moving data over the air. I added "
Stay the course, support Microsoft and proprietary approaches and you'll be another Symbol, bought by a silo". Honestly, I can't say I have seen any particular move by Palm since then, apart from buying back its own proprietary OS... They definitely stayed the course. They are going to be bought.

Now, how is going to buy Palm? I have no clue, but let me put some candidates in order.

1. Motorola: they bought Symbol and Good. Good's preferred platform is Palm. The Q is not enough for an enterprise play on mobile email and it is a lock-in with the devil. It is a nobrainer.
2. Nokia: they bought Intellisync (and the rumors say the acquisition is not working too well) for an enterprise play. They came out with the E61. They clearly need to be more present in the US. Palm is the best enterprise play. Another no brainer.
3. HP: they are moving actively in the enterprise. They bought Bitfone in December for that (so... HP is powered by Funambol now, like Computer Associates ;-) Their iPaq business is not enough and they just announced a more phone-like device. Buying Palm would be a smart move.
4. Dell: as above, if they really want to get into mobile, Palm is an easy way to do it.
5. Sony: they were behind Palm and Palm OS for a while. Why not?
6. RIM: ok, I am pushing it a bit far, but that would be a nice way to kill a competitor that has been way more successful in the consumer and prosumer market, and learn something.
7. Sony Ericsson: hey, everybody is going enterprise, a good herd mentality would push them to Palm (let me add LG and Samsung in the same category, then).
8. Apple: what? Nonsense. They have the iPhone coming out and they feel they are better than anybody on the planet. Palm is the past...
9. Some private equity fund with a lot of money, but I just do not see it happen: too many companies in this list.
10. Funambol: man, that would be cool. We would turn it around and make it a full open source company from software to hardware. If you have 2 billions to lend me, you know where to find me :-)

In any case, they are about to go. It is sad because Palm has been made history in this space. They lost it recently and this is not a market where you can miss one big and recover. It moves too fast. Long life to Palm.

Thursday, March 01, 2007

Saving lives with open source

Open Source is not just a way of developing software. It is a philosophy. Innovation through sharing. A community effort. A way to make software affordable, while increasing its quality.

The concept is expanding beyond software. My brother sent me an email from Dar Es Salaam yesterday, highlighting a very interesting project (not on SourceForge, yet...): ASAQ, a revolutionary pharmaceutical product to treat malaria, launched today.

Revolutionary because it is built OSS-style by the Drugs for Neglected Diseases initiative (DNDi) with Sanofi. DNDi is attacking markets neglected by the Big Pharma because they are considered not profitable (Africa, for example). The "code" of the new pill is shared, anybody can take it, improve it and give it back to the community. The license might not have copyleft (although it would be a smart idea...), but the net result is a sub-$1 drug to treat kids in Africa. It will save a lot of lives. That is big news.

Behind this: Bill Gates and its foundation... It is a strange world... but let's hope we can get more of the same.