So every so often I like to take a look at what our siblings over at GNOME are up to by reading Planet GNOME. I do it manually because I removed that feed from Akregator quite awhile ago, and a couple of the stories there seem to confirm my choice (although it’s at least much better than when I had to finally give up and stop reading it).

Specifically you may find the following entries by Miguel de Icaza relevant:

I guess the iPad support for MonoTouch is OK if you’re into that sort of thing. It’s not as if I’d expect them to forego it given the past track record ;) But it does seem to me that as AMAZING as the iPad might be, that it would be better for consumers to have an open platform that anyone can extend instead of a closed platform that requires being part of a developer program to make your own additions. It would really pain me to think that in the future it might actually be required for people to get the permission of some mega-corp just to install a new program on hardware they’ve purchased.

What’s even funnier (in my opinion) is how Miguel goes on and on about how cool the iPad is because it will force people into one particular input mechanism (multi-touch) and how neat it is to coerce developers into developing for multi-touch. I mean shit, multi-touch is cool, I get it, I like it even, but we’re happy about removing other perfectly good input options?

Look at Nintendo, even when they added motion control to Wii and started hyping it up, they still allowed for other standard input controls (such as in Super Smash Bros. Brawl, which can be controlled using Wii remote, Gamecube controller, or even a Classic Controller). Of course Apple does allow for a physical hardware keyboard with the iPad I guess, not that it changes the crux of Miguel’s point.

However, if you read the article critically a couple of times and apply a couple of blur filters to the hyperbole (“tyranny of the mouse and keyboard”? seriously?) then the rest of his points do make sense. It really is easier to develop for a single platform, and there really is research to be done in this space. (Perhaps ironically, a hacker displayed initial multi-touch support in Eye of Gnome in the article just below Miguel’s squee-fest).

What concerns me is that the kinds of applications that do perform better with a keyboard or mouse might get left by the wayside. I’ve played Bejeweled with a mouse and on the iPhone, and it was much easier with a mouse (and a similar game called Tetris Attack was much easier still with a controller). And that’s just one example. The point should be that the universe is expanding, but it seems to me that Miguel is simply moving wholesale to the next cool “One More Thing…”.

In all fairness it does seem that I’m not the only one interested in the ramifications to Free Software and software freedom (which sounds kind of Three Musketeer-ish in retrospect).

While I’m trolling, it just feels weird to me to have a Windows 7 screenshot as the major feature addition to a new presumably-GNOME-related software release. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t personally think there’s any reason not to port software to Windows platforms (and indeed, there’s a nice KDE platform on Windows now), but it does seem… disconcerting, I guess? I do agree that the idea of Jump Lists is nice though, probably wouldn’t require much more than some additions to the Desktop File Entry spec to make happen in XDG-ish Free desktops either, no?

As my final act of trolling (this post is already 624 words long by now!) I’d like to point out that if you act quickly, you can catch Stormy Peters’s GNOME Foundation goals for 2010 before it scrolls off the Planet GNOME frontpage. The summary seems very manager-speakish to me. I find the “thought leader” term immensely amusing, as it is one of the few MBA kind of terms that have not been co-opted by Naval leadership (I’ve seen a full O-6 Captain refer to sailors as “his customers” and about puked… but that’s a different story). I had in fact not heard of thought leader (except for 1984) until this post.

Beyond that there’s a lot of goals relating to ensuring corporate participation is acceptable, ensuring there is a marketing plan that involves “the community in close cooperation with our partners”, a goal to measure the benefit to the bottom line, ensure the GNOME Foundation is the place where GNOME-related companies collaborate, etc. On the other hand, one of the last sub-goals is to “Promote free software by being a model example of a free software project” (capitalization is hers, not mine).

Now again, at first glance it seems weird to me to see a document on the front page of a major Free Software project’s blog aggregator pasted with so many terms relating to working with companies for this and that. I mean, sure KDE works with companies, but not like this (my humble opinion, not necessarily shared by anyone else in KDE). But if you think about it critically then it’s apparent that at the end Free Software is not going to “save the day” just working from the great untamed wild of the uncorporate. Servers need paid for, the most motivated hackers will still need to eat and pay for Internet/computers, and the vast majority of people buy systems and software (if only the support package), so if Free Software is going to make massive inroads, it will be with the help of quite a few companies.

I’m still not sure I like the specific set of goals (and specifically the awful MBA jargon) but you can’t blame the GNOME Foundation for putting down in words what they’re going to be doing one way or another anyways.