Friday Nov 21, 2008

Communications Developers

I was talking this week to a company that builds communications technology. More than one, actually, and their definition of "communications" is as broad as it should be in a world of wireless, digital, social, and voice flavored bit streams. We had a great sidebar on who they believed their developers are: their in-house team? An outsourced team hired to complete a project? Customers? Integration partners? And I couldn't resist bringing up: What about open source communities?

Somewhere in this story is a moral about balancing protein and caffeine before afternoon meetings, but I missed it. I suggested that perhaps the Asterix community was a good leading indicator of how complex communications systems would be built in the future. For the reaction I got, I might have suggested the other Asterix as a source of modern technology insight.

But let's face facts: the hacker culture has thrived on being able to play with phones since day one. Taking a platform that was in-band and invisible for so long and making it a developer play is just a natural evolution -- one driven by the growth in power, performance, and real-time capabilities of general purpose operating systems, availability of general purpose hardware on which to run them, and application level communications software. Put another way: Any comment about software not being "ready" or "capable" has been proven untrue over time.

We saw it happen with Linux, MySQL, and Drupal, and now we'll see it happen in the classic embedded spaces as well. All you need to do is follow the hobbyist space to sense the edges of the market: Linux on Linksys in the hackable router market is a perfect example, and it leads to creative applications of open platforms, like turning the Internet upside down. Go ahead and laugh, but there's an entire suite of access control, identity management, and auditing applications waiting to be built in slightly less user-inhibiting ways.

For true star power not related to the star (asterisk) key on your phone (calling by name, not by value), check out Sun's own Brian Aker discussing how he builds (current tense, as in work in progress) his own PBX - his musing on Asterix are even funnier than the Francophone Asterix. [note: Four letter words, Pecha Kucha style, mash-ups, and Brian's love life. Simultaneously.]


If you aren't thinking broadly about where your developers will come from, they'll surprise you and possibly your product plans.

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Hal Stern's thoughts on software, services, cloud computing, security, privacy, and data management

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