No Messages app for Android users?
Apple's WWDC keynote happened yesterday, and there was quite a bit of information on the next version of its popular Messages app. But one thing was missing: Messages for Android. While Messages might still be released for Android eventually, the lack of an announcement came as a disappointment to some Android users.
David Pierce reports for Wired:
Apple's big messaging moves were among the biggest and most unexpected announcements of Tim Cook's WWDC keynote Monday. iMessage gained a host of features, from “invisible ink” that hides a message until it's swiped, to in-line Apple Music links that play seamlessly in-app, to “digital touch,” which lets you send images you draw, or even your heartbeat. It's also, like Facebook Messenger, now open to third-party developers.
All of this is big. It's good news for Apple, since it'll undoubtedly convince a few holdouts to get iPhones so they can use all the cool new features with their friends. If Apple wants to be more than an iPhone company, though, if it wants to be a software and services company the way it claims, there's one other thing it needed to do: make iMessage for Android.
Not that long ago, it was impossible that Apple would ever make apps for other platforms. Not only has iMessage not existed on Android before, it's been actively hostile toward it. If you want to know what true frustration looks like, just ask anyone who's ever switched from iOS to Android how many texts got lost in Apple's servers. Then there was Apple Music. The company is, it seems, slowly coming to grips with the fact that not everyone is going to use an iPhone, and that Apple actually stands to gain in the long run by getting people hooked on Apple software before Apple hardware. But then there's iMessage.
I can shout and scream until I'm blue in the face about all the reasons Apple should have brought iMessage to Android, about the messaging-first future that Apple's going to miss without a platform that works for everybody everywhere. I will, in fact, shout and scream about those things right now. But here's the rub: Apple's the same company it's always been. And Apple really, really wants you to buy an iPhone.
The cost of free software
Open source software has provided enormous value to the lives of billions of people. But nothing in life is really free, there's always a cost to creating and maintaining open source software (though the cost may be hidden from most users). A writer at DistroWatch examined this issue and noted the real cost of free software.
Jesse Smith reports for DistroWatch:
The unfortunate truth is, most software developers need to work other jobs in order to develop software they give away for free. Donations and volunteers can help reduce the cost of an open source project, but it is rare to find an open source project that actually makes more money in donations or sales than it costs to maintain the software.
Some people will, perhaps correctly, point out that open source software projects that cannot raise funds are simply being rejected by the market. Projects that are worthwhile and valuable will gain funding while projects people do not value will not receive donations due to a digital form of natural selection. I believe there is some truth to that. Many Linux distributions ask for donations, but chances are only the more popular ones will be able to attract enough users to support their infrastructure. However, I also think relying on popularity for funding means critical, behind-the-scenes software will never be funded. While many of us directly use our web browser or media player, most of us do not work directly with OpenSSL, the network time protocol or our operating system's C library. Yet these are critical pieces of our operating system and we need them to work properly, ideally even securely. Someone, perhaps several someones, are needed to maintain these projects, patch their security flaws and keep them up to date with changing dependencies. Those people need support if we, the community, are going to reap the benefits of their hard work.
Luckily, the open source community seems to be waking up to the fact that critical pieces of infrastructure need to be actively maintained and funded. The Core Infrastructure Initiative was created by many organizations which rely on and recognize the importance of a healthy open source ecosystem. This is a step in the right direction, but it is still rare to find open source projects and distributions which are successfully supported by their users. At the same time, it is all too common to see project's like Slax get scaled back due to expenses.
I think it is wonderful we live in a world in which people tinker with software they find interesting and I think it is even better that people are so willing to give away their creations for free. Open source software, given away freely, is a gift. Unfortunately, I think it is a gift that we, as a community, are taking for granted. I hope, in the future, we see fewer projects being shut down due to a lack of funds and more projects thriving with the support of their users.
What does Microsoft's purchase of LinkedIn mean for Linux users?
The news of Microsoft's acquisition of LinkedIn for $26 billion has been making the rounds. But one writer at FOSS Force wondered what it means for those who don't use Microsoft's proprietary software products.
Christine Hall reports for FOSS Force:
Indeed, Redmond seems to have grand plans for its new property, most of them revolving around using the platform as a sales tool for its proprietary products and services. It's touting an “Intelligent News Feed” that will evidently be tailored to the user's LinkedIn network, incorporating Cortana which will “know your entire professional network to connect dots on your behalf” (how will that work for GNU/Linux users, I wonder) and a host of other plans that include the ability to integrate Microsoft's Dynamics CRM (“and other CRM systems”) to the LinkedIn Sales Navigator, as well as tight integration with Office.
All of these planned new features seem useful enough, but will require users to connect with Microsoft's proprietary stack. Cortina integration, for example, will most likely require the use of Windows (with some effort probably being made for Mac users), and nowhere is there any indication that LibreOffice or OpenOffice will be able to take advantage of any of the features earmarked for being incorporated into Office 365.
...I expect that many free tech advocates will begin abandoning LinkedIn as much as possible as soon as the site begins to push users to take advantage of features requiring the use of Microsoft products, if not before. As one member of an email list I'm on commented upon hearing the news, “Anybody recommend a good alternative to LinkedIn?”
For many of us, that might be easier said than done. Just as we can't leave Facebook because our personal friends won't follow us to an alternative, our business contacts aren't likely to follow us to a new networking site just because we have problems with Microsoft.
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