The OS Mess

The primary reason ye Editor is NOT an admirer of Apple and Steve Jobs is his relentless drive to establish a monopoly equal to or greater than Bill Gates’ Microsoft. Steve is out to prove that 30 years ago, he was the real deal, the real innovator in personal computing – and Bill …. Bill was a copycat. No matter that Steve got a bushel full of great GUI ideas from Xerox Palo Alto.

“Pssst….Steve. You have bested Bill and Microsoft by huge margins. So now you can call off the rabidly  proprietary streak in your iOS smartphone and tablet operating system. You can allow Flash and Java and other cross platform software on iPods, iPads, iPhones, and iClouds”. And the benefts to your customers and the broader IT community will be huge.

This is the root cause behind the current OS Mess. The July 11th issue of Information Week describes The Mess as follows:

The help desk must be a very miserable place to work these days.  According to our Information Week Analytics  Survey nearly every company supports Windows, half of those polled officially support Apple devices and 3 in 10 support Linux or Android operating systems. Two thirds of companies let employees connect their personal gadgets to the network with little or no guidance as to what devices and operating systems they can use or whether IT [staff] is supposed to help them. If anything goes wrong, you know who gets the call. Welcome to The OS Mess.

But even Information Week’s analysis is too benign -as it focuses on the security and administrative problems/inefficiencies on client OS. The real danger is an outbreak of divisiveness in proprietary software on a huge scale not seen since the days of IBM and the Seven Dwarfs when IBM dominated computing with its proprietary mainframe operating systems MVS for batch OS and VM for timesharing against 7 competing systems from Burroughs to Univac.

And The Mess is worse than Information Week describes because they have omitted all of the proliferating OS stacks associated with the rapidly expanding Cloud Operating Systems. For some examples from the Cloud, Microsoft Azure is much different from Microsoft Windows 7,  Windows Phone 7, Mac OS/x, any of the Flavors of Linux/Unix, Amazon E-Cloud, etc, etc. Yet Web developers have to choose among these very different OS stacks for Enterprise applications while also delivering onto webOS, iOS, Android, Windows Phone 7, Mac OS/X, Windows, …..

The forever problem confronting both consumers and corporate IT shops is the great costs of proprietary. Proprietary promises immediate features at an apparently great price. But making all of the systems interoperate is the leftover Unfinished Business. Look at the persistent problem of great stranded Silos of Information confronting business and government all the time. Look at the Equal Mess that is the ANSI SQL Standard. ANSI SQL was supposed to provide a strong measure of data independence. Using ANSI SQL would provide a common data manipulation language across databases and even OS. Now ask any database administrator worth her/his salt on how easy it is to do cross database joins on identically the same OS let alone different OS.  You won’t even have to ask them to be honest.

Okay Open Source, Web Standards, Java, Ruby , HTML5  and other cross platform languages and tools are supposed to solve these problems. But Apple has decreed that Flash, Java and other cross platform tools are VERBOTEN on iOS. HTML5  is held out Steve Jobs and many others  as the great cross platform savior. But, after much progress, HTML5 has become stuck in huge proprietary ruts as multi-touch+gestures, web databases, working offline, metadata handling and other critical standards get “debated”. HTML5 was to emerge as a recommended candidate in 2011 but has been delayed until 2014. And Ian Hickson, leader of key HTML5 standards working groups says 2019-2020 are  better target dates. So goes cross platform.

Just across the way, in the debate on economic policy and budgets, the business camp is saying leave the free markets alone, don’t burden us with regulations, markets are swift, self-correcting and very efficient. Is the recurring OS Messes in IT the great counter example?