Why I've been throwing Open Standards under the bus

Over the past year, I've been increasingly purchasing or endorsing the use of proprietary or closed solutions rather than "Open".
Written by Jason Perlow, Senior Contributing Writer

Over the past year, I've been increasingly purchasing and endorsing the use of proprietary or closed solutions rather than "Open".

My purchasing habits as it relates to Personal Technology in the last year or so have been completely at odds with my general ideology as to how I approach the use of technology in the Enterprise. It's as if I live two different lives or that I have some sort of odd form of Multiple Personality Disorder where at home I do things one way, but at work, I do them another.

It used to be that I tried to use the same tools at home and in my personal life that I used at work. But now that's all changing. The Open Source and Open Standards platforms that I've been advocating and been advising my customers so strongly to use for the last 15 years in the Enterprise have little or no relevance in my personal life, if at all.

And it's not like I'm pushing back at this -- I'm in full acceptance mode and have actually recommended others do exactly the same.

In the last year, I've purchased two iPads, a Macintosh, and two Kindles. I've even ordered over 400 Nespresso pods, which is the ultimate in super-proprietary coffee machines.

This may not sound like such a big deal until you realize that I am a big advocate of Open Source and Open Standards. In the Enterprise, I believe that these technologies are absolutely essential to building best of breed heterogeneous computing environments. But at home? Eh, not so much.

Now please don't misinterpret what I am saying. I have my powerful 16GB RAM dual Opteron quad core Ubuntu 11.04 workstation in which I do all my personal virtualization and OS testing for both Linux and Windows.

I also have several large VMWare and Hyper-V servers which I use to run virtual instances of Red Hat, Solaris, Windows and other Open Systems on. For my business use, that isn't going anywhere.

(And yes, I do consider Microsoft's Enterprise technology stack to be "Open" in the sense it is industry standard and easily extensible and easy to develop for. Not as open as Linux, but it's not a complete Walled Garden yet, nor do I ever expect it to be.)

I also have an an original Droid which I've rooted and like my colleague David Chernicoff on his NOOK, I run nightly builds of CyanogenMOD 7.

But now I actually prefer to use the Mac as my main computing device since I've been using it more and more for photography and video editing.

I'm actually strongly considering giving the Mini I'm using to my wife (who currently has a Windows 7 box that I have to maintain) and picking up the next-generation Mac Pro for myself when it is announced, because I just want to simplify my lifestyle.

And I've started recommending Macs to friends and family members who just want to make their lives easier.

The iPad has taken over considerably for my after-hours technology use. I've written at length how much I like the product, and quite frankly, I don't believe there is any viable alternative or true competition to the iPad at this time for tablet computing in terms of what might be palatable to the majority of end-users.

The first iteration of Android Honeycomb in my opinion is a total bust. I've outlined at length what I believe to be wrong with it. That being said, I'm bringing a 3.0-based Acer Iconia A500 with me on vacation this week to spend more time with it, and I plan to run 3.1 on it as soon as Acer provides me with updated software.

Still, I'm not hopeful that Google is going to be able to make effective changes to Honeycomb in order to secure a very large share of the tablet market.

Android Tablets might be great for geeks, and once you root the things you can do some very cool stuff with them, but this is not what your average consumer wants to do or even wants to jump through various technical hoops in order to maximize their experience with their tablet.

Ice Cream Sandwich may end up solving all of Android's problems at a future date, but I'm not living in the future, I'm living in the now. And so are most human beings that want to use technology. They just want the stuff to work.

If it makes anyone feel better, I don't think RIM is doing so hot either. While I like the QNX OS and PlayBook hardware, I've already had to send my evaluation device back for service due to dead pixels and right now there isn't a single app on that platform right I'd actually be willing to pay for.

HP's TouchPad? It's currently a no-show and doesn't appear to bring any unique value to the table whatsoever, even though its rapid application development environment for WebOS has a great deal of promise and utilizes a lot of Open Standards. Unfortunately, WebOS is well over 300,000 apps behind iOS, not to mention Android.

And this gets to the crux and underlying theme of this entire post -- as a consumer, is it worth giving up "Openness" for convenience, ease-of-use, lower maintenance and access to larger application ecosystems?

I'm going to have to sadly say yes.

In the words of Michael Palin in Monty Python's Meaning of Life, "I've got no option but to sell you all for scientific experiments."

At home, when I'm not on the clock, I want to be a consumer. I don't feel like playing system integrator in my spare time, which is increasingly diminished these days as more and more demands are placed on me, both professionally and personally. The Mac and the iPad at least allow me to pretend to be a consumer.

So what happens to me next? »

So what happens to me next?

Well, my Verizon Wireless contract is up in November. In fact, the company is willing to extend early upgrades to me now.

The problem is, there isn't a single Verizon Android device on the market I'm legitimately interested in buying, be it the Thunderbolt or the Droid Charge or anything else that's in their stable right now. So I've decided to wait until the holiday season before I make any firm commitment to a new contract and a new device.

If Verizon has a 4G, Dual Core LTE device that's ready for prime time on Android come the November timeframe, I'll probably strongly consider it. But if Apple has the iPhone 5, and it looks like a really nice device, I may say to heck with it and move completely over to the Apple side, even if the new iPhone doesn't have 4G capability.

It's not a decision I'm going to take lightly -- since I like having a mix of technologies in my stable, but now that I've had a taste of the Fruit with my iPad and my Mac, I may just decide to cut my losses with Android as my main (rather than testing) smartphone.

When I announced that I was buying two Kindles last week, my colleague Jason Hiner, TechRepublic's Editor in Chief jokingly Tweeted me that it was time for me to build a new Light Saber, and that I've come over to the Dark Side.

I asked him if I could get the Light Saber in white.

While I understand the joke, and while I've been one of the most stalwart critics of the Kindle due to its locked-in nature (you can't transfer your book library to the platform that can't run Kindle software, such as the NOOK, which uses an entirely different e-Book standard) I'm starting to come around on Kindle.

The issue of non-transferability is a bit disconcerting, especially if you consider the extreme long-term viability of Amazon as a company, but it's something I can live with, especially if Kindle eventually supports EPUB, at least for user-uploaded content. And the library lending issue with Overdrive has now been addressed by Amazon, so that's also a big plus.

But even if EPUB is never supported on Kindle, I can easily read PDFs and convert DRM-free EPUBs to MOBI files for the device using 3rd-party tools. It's not optimal, but it's something I can begrudgingly live with because the Kindle ecosystem is convenient and easy to use.

And aye, there's the rub. Convenient and easy to use frequently trumps "Open". Some people will go to great lengths and suffer a great deal of inconvenience in order to stay Open.

But I'm not one of those people anymore.

Have you too been throwing Open Standards and Open Systems under the bus as it relates to your personal technology choices? Talk Back and Let Me Know.

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