Thursday, September 06, 2012

It's a bazaar

I never really agreed with Eric Raymond's seminal work "The Cathedral and the Bazaar".  He was making the point that closed source software development takes place in a cathedral-like environment, i.e. hierarchical, whereas open source development was more like a bazaar where everyone is equal.  I can name quite a few open source projects that are hierarchical, complete with cult figures and religious fervour.   The mobile market though, now I can see Raymond's point.

Fear, Uncertainty, and Doubt (FUD) was a phrase I first heard relating to a certain purveyor of large blue mainframes.  It could equally apply to any large corporate player.  "No one ever got fired for choosing IBM" was a familiar phrase in the 1970s, replace IBM with Microsoft and that brings it up to date. 

But not in the mobile market.  Whereas corporates buy their IT systems based on measured evaluations and empirical evidence (and if you believe that you should not be in sales).  Mobile devices are as much bling as work-a-day tools.   The market has many more players, and lacks the religious loyalty familiar elsewhere.  Windows dominates the desktop; will Windows 8 penetrate the mobile market?   Microsoft is now selling in the bazaar.

Nokia's recent launch of their Lumia 920 has had reasonable reviews, it is early days and I'm not sure why Nokia's shares plummeted by 11% after the launch – what did the City expect?  Microsoft's shares were virtually unchanged.  Despite Nokia being closely familiar with Microsoft, several other manufacturers will offer Windows 8 telephones, including those also offering Android.  Microsoft cannot afford to turn away players like Samsung, but where does that leave Nokia?  Their new telephone has some interesting technical innovations, but I would love to see it running Android.  It won't take long for the competition to catch-up, but I don't find the idea of an electronic wallet appealing, with opportunities for NFC pick-pockets.

Windows has yet to get that critical mass required to make a Windows phone cool.  Meanwhile it has to shout against all the other traders in the bazaar.

All eyes now on Apple – with the attributes of the cathedral – and the iPhone 5.