Saturday, November 17, 2012

Linux Mobile Originality is Even More Dead.

I originally wrote about Linux desktop operating system distributions that implement user interfaces that have been plagiarised or otherwise "inspired" (if that's the correct description) by either Apple's or Microsoft's designs, which are of themselves, derivatives or inspirations of other designs. I personally believe by association that Microsoft has had its design intentions (from the days of Windows 3) based on OSF/Motif, while Apple's Mac OS X, whether intended or by accident, contains splashes of AT&T's OpenLook interface, namely the round-edged buttons and overall simplistic design. But that's my observation... I'm not prepared to state this as actual fact. Both of these user interfaces may be in use in legacy technologies, but no longer have currently active licensees for the purposes of developing new products that are incompatible with the legacy systems inferred. And the only mention of design and user interface licensing I have ever seen in a product is Sun's Solaris, which states AT&T as its licensor for its OpenLook interface*, despite the fact that Sun Microsystems contributed to the work.

Microsoft's Windows user interfaces have changed markedly since Windows 95... and it keeps on changing. So maybe for once, Microsoft can be excused from making derivative designs for the first time in their endeavours in design innovation. Something which I actually applaud.

But in the world of Linux, particularly Android on mobile devices, and Ubuntu on the desktop, not much has changed. It seems that "free and open source software" means having a falsely self-attributed implicit privilege to plagiarise or otherwise accidentally or purposely reimplement designs that have been developed under commercial research and development settings under the protection of patent and copyright by other manufacturers, despite the fact that these designs are being sold as products, possibly under existing (registered) trademarks.

Repeat after me, Linux developers... there is and you have no such privilege. Your designs must be your own, whether individually or collectively.

Namely, and I'm being daring here considering recent events, Android 4 is obviously (to me) partial plagiarism of the design work of the original iPhone OS (now called iOS) in the operating system's overall look, feel, behaviour and services, and several manufacturers are contributing to the plagiarism on top of Android's makers (since Google license out Android to equipment manufacturers via the Apache Software Licence, and other corporate licences and contracts particular to the OEMs).

While I am not interested in who copied who, I am interested in why designs are being copied in the first place. Why do people have to copy others' work? You wouldn't get away with plagiarism when writing your thesis work in university—you'd be discovered and ridiculed out of your career in due course. So what makes it acceptable to plagiarise artistic design instead? Just because it is not in words, doesn't mean it isn't plagiarism to copy design language.

The evolution of Linux operating systems on desktops and mobiles are again proving that there is no such thing as innovation in free and open source software. And I am not surprised... after all, free and open source software is often a preservation effort more than it is a driver of new technology. While in circumstances where commercial developers have abandoned projects, or have opened projects for quick and reliable adoption by as many entities as possible, this may be a good and useful thing to do, but open source software has all too often been commercially abused, and plagiarism and the ensuing disputes are often the result.

There is no excuse for prejudicially selecting existing technologies for reimplementation in the name of free and open source software. Free and open source software must be a donation to the community by the inventors of the technologies and designs first and foremost before anything else matters.

* The OpenLook trademark is now owned by Novell.


—tonza

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