December 9, 2008
I’ve held back on commenting about the G1 from T-Mobile. Mostly for technical reasons and time-wise reasons. But also because I’ve been uncertain about how it will turn out and how to talk about it (mostly to non-techie people). Also, I’ve had high hopes for it and the Andriod platform. And to say my hopes have been met is not an easy thing.
First, for the non-techies, the G1 is the phone, T-Mobile the carrier and Andriod is the OS (Operating System). Yes, a phone has an operating system. :-) You just don’t hear it called such often. Andriod can be said to be competing on the same level as Windows Mobile, as well as iPhone and Blackberry. The last two are more a single entity, but the OS is how people use them (well more then that, but for simplicity sake).
Now, what is cool about Andriod? Its basically that it can be put in the same bucket as other Open Source projects (FOSS). I say bucket, because what is “true FOSS” is sometimes debated. And a lot of FOSS people are extremely intelligent and extremely opinionated (like I’m not!). In short, Open Source software is built for a purpose, but its building blocks are freely available and freely modifiable. To clarify the last part, it is often but not always the case that the modified software also has to be FOSS.
Okay, what does all that mean to end-users or consumers? To some it means that there is finally a phone that regular people can play around with (more on that later). To the general public, I don’t think they understand what is means. It means that can truly control your phone (or certain aspects of it), or convince/pay someone to do something with it. It means that you can make your own special program to calculate a tip, track expenses or that is a game. It also means that you can load that same software to a new Android phone if you want, or give to a friend to load on their Android phone. All without costing you anything but your own time (or if you paid for a developer, that cost as well).
It shows how FOSS is important to main stream consumers. The general idea helps release us from control by other individuals. FOSS in general supports the idea of freedoms. It is built on principles that people should retain the freedom to do live their lives as they see fit. It is not always free as in no cost. But for the consumer, it brings freedom back to the consumer. So that is why any consumer can write an application for the G1 phone. That they can then share it with anybody is a beauty. The realm of possibilities opens up for so many people to do so many things.
So now, why did I state that it was hard to say if my hopes were met? My hopes are a complex thing. I want to see FOSS brought to the main stream. I want others to see why I see FOSS as so important for society, our economy, our philosophy, and dare I say our survival. So any step in that direction is a huge step, and in that sense I am happy. But I guess I might have disappointment in that I know how much more potential there is in the idea. Even though this is naive thing, there is still the child in me that wants the things I want now. And I want to do more then have a toolkit to build FOSS software. I want the whole OS to be able to play with….