Wednesday, July 4, 2007

Bazar boys, GOOPPLE men and Selfish Me

Apple and Google are the coolest corporations in our life time and it is an irony that neither of them seems to be thrilled at the idea of open source development, which is the new religion of the coolest. It make me wonder why they don't develop their products in the 'bazar with ample eye balls to make the bugs shallow'. The reason might be simpler than you think. You don't wonder why religions prefer to cross swords than cross their paths to make friends.

It is religion at Apple. It is another religion at Google. They don't think that the bazar has any eye ball worthy of zeroing on the iPods and AdWords before rolling out to millions of people in near perfection. It is not easy to get a job with Jobs (Steve). It is not easy to keep that job with Jobs. They believe in the superiority of their team among two legged Homosapiens roaming the larger earth without any purpose other than to eat, mate and procreate. Same is with Google. They post math puzzles in billboards to challenge passers-by to solve complicated math problem that leads them to a website which eventually leads to Google web page asking to submit resume of the brainy ones who solved many complex puzzles in the process to get there. They don't believe that John Smith from the bazar is any good to make their perfect software or hardware. They are the chosen ones.

If you don't have a computer science degree from Stanford to work for Google, or don't have the iVision to work for Apple, then you have two choices.

The first one is obvious. To work for other companies who do not provide gourmet dinner and washing machine in the campus along with other services to let you live at work. Work for a company who does not make sexy products like iPod and iPhone.

The second option is tricky. With this option, you will not get free hair cut at work. You will not get free car wash and oil change while you are coding. You have to do your laundry at home. But you will be able to feel the emotional energy of the Apple employees working on the coolest products. But you will have to make the mortgage payments on PayPal donations. I am talking about open source developer if you have not guessed it already.

By no means I am downplaying the smartness of the open source programmers. In fact, they are probably the only ones who can challenge, and probably succeed, the infallibility of the GOOPPLE boys. But they are like the romantic communists of the bygone era. Remember Che? The smartest, youngest and brightest young man fought in Cuba and killed in Bolivia to bring justice and equality among mankind. Little did he know that his sweat and blood would later be used by Castro to amass power and wealth enough to be named among the world's richest heads of state by Forbes. Thousands of programmers spent sleep less nights to program Linux and now Red Hat is making money on it today. Sure they dreamed of a better software system and better world where every poor child in the world can run a computer without paying for Windows. Noble cause indeed; just like the cause to make a better world by spreading world's wealth among the starving poor and laboring men and woman. The world had seen cold war and walls crumbling. The world hasn't changed a bit since communist manifesto. The gap between the rich and poor is exponentially growing. Today, an average CEO makes 500 times more than his/her average worker. That is going up north with private investors luring the best of them with many fold higher compensation. So why do you think a bunch of bright bazar programmers can change the world this time around?

Meanwhile, mere mortals like me will forever be playing third fiddle to GOOPPLE and Bazar boys. But I get paid every other week for writing some code that is as good as the one written in sand. I rewrite the code pretty much every day to fix the bug that I created while fixing another. I swear to god that I would have never imagined something like an iPhone. My vision is limited to what I see today, not what the world will see tomorrow. I have no hopes of working for GOOPPLE. I have no smartness to build tabs in a web browser. So my only option is to work for a Non-GOOPPLE company and make a paycheck. And for that noble cause of survival, I consider the bazar boys to be threat No 1 to my existence.

If they wrote open source google, no one will use it. If they build open source iPhone, no one will buy it. But if they write open source software to compete with the software my company makes, people from France, Germany, Korea, Japan, India and host of other countries will use them instead of my company software. Software sales will plummet and my company will lay me off from the job. My mortgage payment will stop and bank will foreclose my house. My son will stop going to school. We will sell our cars and buy a cheap bike from Walmart. That is a very scary thought and my American dream will be in deep trouble.

Apart from selfish reasoning, like any other human being, I want better systems and better world. In fact, I am using Firefox to write this blog. I want to see the poor kids in Indian villages use computers and one day pull themselves out of the poverty and hopelessness. But I just don't know how open source model can be sustained in a world where millionaire investors pay few millions to hire the smartest AI brains to build web 3.0 a.k.a semantic web. People line up all day in front of Apple stores to get the first iPhones. Kids and parents sleep in front of book stores to get the first copies of Harry Potter. People are ready to pay for the stuff that originates in some one's brain. VCs are willing to invest in ideas in the hope of making manifold return of their investments. If everything is to be given away free, America as we know today as the hotbed of innovation is dead. In the US, people work for money and good life that comes with it. I just don't see how philanthropy and noble ideas can beat American's desire to make money. If only every one told the secret of mining gold to passers by on Route 66. That is what killed communism in the very early days when Engels wrote to Karl Marx that the discovery of gold was a case "not provided for in the Manifesto: the creation of large new markets out of nothing."

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