At the crossroads ...

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The BeOS community is certainly undergoing a change at the present time and I’m not really sure where it will lead or if it’s for the better or worse in the long term. What I am reasonably sure is that it’s going to lead to pain in the short term for a lot of people. What is this change? Money. The community has suddenly started to get a smell of it again and many within it are positioning themselves to try and obtain some.

Why do I think this is a problem? The problem isn’t the money itself – we could all do with mroe than we have and a healthy bank balance makes life easier to live. The problem is taking something that is a hobby and transforming it into a business. I realise that people have done it succesfully, but more people have also failed at doing just this. Rules and attitudes that serve well for hobbies rarely serve well in a business environment and people often fail to make the required cultural shifts. Only time will tell how well the community handles it but from the attitudes being displayed and the conversations I’ve been seeing it looks as if a significant number of people are thinking about it.

This will of course be music to the ears of yT, but they have a totally different problem looming (the crossroads from the title) and the signs are that the approach is speeding up rather than slowing down. What is this big problem? Choice.

From a consumers point of view choice is rarely a bad thing, but from a suppliers point of view it can be deadly. yT’s problem is related more to history than anything it has or hasn’t done. Put simply applications that are developed for Zeta will be able to be run on the other BeOS platforms out there – Zeta is basically just a tidied up and slightly improved version of BeOS after all.

Additionally there is the other lingering question, when Haiku reaches the point of being useful why will people buy Zeta? Certainly for some the prospect of having a CD or DVD with all the software in one place will be irresistable, but Haiku will be offering that as well (and likely at a far lower cost) so the question remains. Haiku finally appear to be making some progress and the open source basis will be attractive to many. yT may counter that they will offer support, but as various Linux providers have discovered that isn’t a model that pays enough to sustain a business when dealing with individuals. Selling large volumes into business and then supporting those businesses is a model that works, but Zeta isn’t going to be attractive for any business I can think of that would fall into that category.

All of which leads me to conclude that there is a crossroads approaching for yT and the BeOS community in general. If people can develop apps that are sufficiently useful that people will pay for them they will likely see multiple avenues of sales opening up, which has to be a good thing. The challenge for those developing will be to write their apps such that they support all the minor platforms differences that will inevitably exist – a problem that the Unix world has been grappling with for many years now with a high degree of success.

I’ve repeatedly stated that I’m not willing to buy another OS. When I bought my new laptop it came bundled with Win XP. I’d have preferred it didn’t, but that is an inevitable part of the bundle with the laptop I purchased. If the option had been there to have it delivered with FreeBSD I’d have taken that, but I don’t see that happening anytime soon 🙂 I’m not going to buy Zeta but when Haiku gets to a release it just might represent a sensible upgrade (or will it be a downgrade (just kidding)) from my current BeOS R5 setup.

I can, however, look forward to having a wider range of software to choose from to run on my setup that has been available up to now and that has to be a victory for the end-user!