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Back to the Golden Age: OSS Ecosystem Fueled by the Internet, New and Better Development Tools

What happened to the Talking Moose?

Lately, I've been feeling a little nostalgic about what I call the "golden age" of consumer software innovation in the late '80s and early '90s. Back then I was cutting my teeth at a medium-sized Mac software publisher called Silicon Beach Software that had a few early successes and that also saw a fair number of applications plied by smaller developers wanting Silicon Beach to publish their software.

As a product manager, I recall my excitement at the number of cool software applications that were hitting the scene, be they commercial, shareware, or freeware. Innovation was happening everywhere around us as both big companies and one-man shops were looking at their crystal balls trying to figure out what the next "killer app" would be. Anyone remember PageMaker, SuperPaint, MORE, QuickKeys, HyperCard, Morph, or Printshop? And who could forget that adorable sage, the Talking Moose?

Just when I'm lamenting that the "good ol' days" are gone, I look around and realize that, if anything, the pace of software innovation has gone stratospheric. The open source community - fueled by online collaboration, advancements in development tools, and open standards - is out-innovating and surely outproducing even that beloved golden age, driving desktop Linux adoption forward.

You can't read a tech magazine or RSS feed today without seeing a discussion of the strides that the open source software (OSS) movement is making or its potential to reshape the computing landscape. Much of the OSS buzz comes from highly visible projects like Firefox (www.getfirefox.com), GIMP (http://gimp.org), and SugarCRM (http://sugarcrm.com), which have done so much more than provide great alternative software choices; they've opened people's eyes to the kinds of quality software that can be developed communally.

A glance at SourceForge (http://sourceforge.net), a large repository of open source software projects, recently showed more than 100,000 collaborative projects underway. That's an incredible number, and a testament to the Internet's power to support sustained communication between a like-minded community of people.

Besides the OSS ecosystem fueled by the Internet, innovation is being stoked by new and better development tools arriving on the scene. Tools like Kdevelop (http://kdevelop.org) are popular, as are commercial environments like Sun's Java Studio (http://sun.com/javastudio), Real Software's REALbasic (http://realsoftware.com), and Revelation's OpenInsight for Linux (http://revelation.com).

Innovation is also sped along by a communal vibe that application data types really should be based on open standards because it's the right thing to do. Despite differences in GUI or feature sets, data can and should be shared effortlessly between platforms.

Who gains from all this innovation? At the end of the day, we as computer users gain the most. We get more choices and a larger stable of innovative, nicely polished software applications that ultimately are critical to the widespread adoption of desktop Linux. In fact, after more than three years of running desktop Linux, I can say I'm totally satisfied except for one thing: I miss my old buddy the Talking Moose.

More Stories By Kevin La Rue

Kevin La Rue is vice president of marketing for Linspire, a desktop Linux company. A self-styled start-up junkie and veteran of the consumer software industry for nearly two decades, Kevin has finally found a place that feels just right. This new column seeks
to provide insights and observations on the evolving world of Linux on the desktop.

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Most Recent Comments
LinuxWorld News Desk 11/30/05 09:32:20 PM EST

Back to the Golden Age: OSS Ecosystem Fueled by the Internet, New and Better Development Tools. Lately, I've been feeling a little nostalgic about what I call the 'golden age' of consumer software innovation in the late '80s and early '90s. Back then I was cutting my teeth at a medium-sized Mac software publisher called Silicon Beach Software that had a few early successes and that also saw a fair number of applications plied by smaller developers wanting Silicon Beach to publish their software.

Nicholas De Jesus 11/30/05 09:05:52 PM EST

I never forget the "Talking Moose" on my Mac 15 years ago. When I clicked on "Save" he would come up and answer to me with a hallelujah! :- ))

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