It is no longer about the Killer Application

by David Lane

Over the past few weeks, I have been busy. My regular job, my hobby and working with the folks at Linux Journal. Along the way, I have been thinking about the Open Source world more than I have in the past. And as I have been talking about it with people, I have been getting the standard responses you might expect. An email from my friend Karl, in response to an email I sent, seemed to sum it all up:

I have an Ubuntu disk around here somewhere but I don't have any compelling reason to make the change. Some years ago I set up a computer with Linux and played around with it just long enough to lose the ability to open the desktop. It lasted maybe half an hour before it was broken. Never had that problem with Windows so I promptly reinstalled Win XP. There is probably no doubt that Linux is better than Windows but unless there is some killer app that requires Linux there won't be any mass migration to it.

At least, I thought it summed it all up. And then I started to think and I have a problem with this view point.

It has been a long time since there has been a killer app and it could be quite sometime before there is one, but the thing that gets me is not the killer app, but the frustration that an application will run on one platform and not on another.

If we take a look at a successful application, Twitter. Ignore the banality of it for the moment. It is a successful application because it runs on literally everything. There are twitter clients for all the major operating systems from Android to iPhone to Blackberry to Linux to Windows to Mac. Twitter is there. How about Facebook? Find a platform that does not have some sort of Facebook interface. In the modern world, the issue is no longer about the killer application but about the application killer. The more open and accessible your application is, the better chance you have of it being successful, especially if you do not have a large company bankrolling your operation. Would the Internet have been as successful as it has been if it was tied to one platform? I would argue that not only would it not be successful, we would not even be having this discussion.

The issue that compels me to switch is not about the application, but the choice. I run Ubuntu on my netbook because it is the best operating system for the job. I run Windows on my Gateway because I have neither the time nor the inclination to complete the move to Linux and fussing with the proprietary hardware as I have documented. But, I find that my Windows machine is getting less and less use because the applications I use, like word processing, and email can be done from any platform, whether that is my laptop, my netbook or my PDA. For me, it is an issue of convenience, specifically, what is more convenient for me. I fully expect that my next laptop will be a Linux-based system with some form of Windows emulation for those applications that are Windows-only. The key here is I have a choice. And so do you.

Moving to Linux is not about the killer application, it is about the choice of operating platforms to do what you need it to do. Linux is ready. Are you?