There has been lots of talk about the future of MorphOS during the years. After what happened post-MorphOS1.4, this has increased during time. Many people (bright minds) has left, because of the situation they experence as "hopeless". There are several discussions going on about the future of OS4 at some sites, and also current discussions about the future of MorphOS. Here is a long rant about this. I have been thinking about it, and thought I should at least put it on print, to see some reactions:
Since MorphOS is a closed source proprietary operating system with commercial ambitions (right?), I think a company needs to be created. A MorphOS Inc or MorphOS GmbH or whatever (maybe even a MorphOS AB, since Sweden has some unique (I believe) rules that enables different kind of shares to be emitted, shares with different voting rights, that enables raising capital without letting all the power away). Since the development of this "commercial" OS currently is done completely on an unpaid basis AFAIK, I think it would be fair if the developers (as well as all old and new stakeholders) owns a part of the shares (and/or options) that corresponds to their created value. Everyone puts in their part of the created IP in the company, and receives an amount of shares that weights in at the same value. This way, everyone involved can feel that even if they work for free now, they will not be left out if/when a serious opportunity with lots of money involved materializes in the future, and any potential future conflicts that might arrive when a lot of money suddenly gets into the picture, is avoided. Owning a fair part of the total value (which can only rise in the future, and will do so according to how the business evolves) ensures that. If some investor could be found along the way, hey, even better; it's only a matter of emitting more shares and collecting the money. Heck, why not get a little offensive and go public?
Everyone involved today (hence shareholders of the future MorphOS Inc), as well as *future* stakeholders, will have the ultimate power, and they executes their power over the direction of the company during the annual meeting of shareholders. One share, one vote (unless you go for the Swedish model, when you can use a mix of different types of shares, ie one "B-share" can equal to 1/10th of a vote, or a "C-share" with even less power (but all with the same right to the capital of course)). The most important mission of this meeting would be to elect a board of directors, responsible of carrying out the owners wishes. The board of directors could include some of the developers, but I think it would be important to add influence from outside; like business people with experience from the industry, entrepreneurial minds, etc. One of the responsibilities the board of directors has, is to hire (or at least "engage" at this point, where money *is* an issue) a Managing Director. The MD should IMHO not be a "techie", even if a "more-than-common-knowledge" in this field would be good. No, his (or her) mission will be to make a business out of MorphOS, to find and/or create opportunities, in all thinkable areas. The point is, this guy will concentrate on current and future growth of the shareholders value, making sure that MorphOS finds new markets, penetrates new segments, etc, instead of worrying about what's causing PPaint to crash under various circumstances, how to develop a 3D driver for Radeon 9800, and things like that.
What strenghts/weaknesses does MorphOS have? What opportunities/threats are there? What is the best way of catching the opportunities, avoiding the threats, based on the strenghts and weaknesses?
A long term *business* strategy needs to be developed. Then a long term *development* strategy needs to be developed accordingly, in order to make it happen. Then do the same thing on a tactical and perhaps even an operational level. The *business goals* comes first, *they* sets the agenda, and the development goals is defined from them (not the other way around).
In a business/existential context - Where is MorphOS in one year from now? In two years? Five years? Or ten years? Today, no-one knows, but it's essential that *everyone* knows this (the *ambitions* of MorphOS development). Not only "the MorphOS team" (who probably has no idea about this themselves, or worse - completely *different* ideas), but the entire community (communities) of developers, users, investors, entrepreneurs, system integrators, etc, etc. It's a matter of *attracting* vs. *repelling* interest, efforts, investments (of time, soul and resources), etc, etc (everything that creates momentum). No-one will invest in a ticket to a train with a totally unclear destination (or if there are uncertainty whether there is a destination at all; if the train might remain at the station forever). Especially not if the train conductor, the driver or any other members of the train personell displays a clear and public *contempt* towards the only navvy's out there laying down tracks towards various possible destinations (and sending out such signals can be *nothing* but destructive).
If we don't know where we are going, then we will end up nowhere. It's time to define some long-term, mid-term and short-term business goals, and development goals accordingly. There needs to be some roads defined that leads us towards those goals. We need roadmaps, with milestones along the way. When *that is all defined* and all *crystal clear*, when everyone (MorphOS developers and community) knows the path that lies before us, then there will be no problems in releasing progress reports, ETA's, etc. The "nagging" about "when is it done" (and what will that be?) will stop in an instant. Also, there needs to be a general internal agreement on the objectives, and some carefully planned, disciplined work towards the goals. Then one can start talking about *a team* instead of a collection of individuals doing scattered ad-hoc work wherever (and whenever) they feel like it. And it's time to realize that this is not a one-man show (or "a few men show"); building a platform takes the involvement of a *community*! MorphOS is very lucky to have one (a pretty unique thing for a new OS, which perhaps can turn out to become the difference between success or failure). Make use of this fact!
A developer of some embedded application needs tools and components in order to put it all together. One business idea for MorphOS could be to center around this fact. If that developer can be offered a hardware design (open or closed), a firmware/hal, as well as OS (or components of it) and other software, in an attractive and supportive way, then it could be a way ahead?
Correct me if I'm wrong here, but in the FPGA industry, isn't it like this, that there are providers of hardware, of software development tools, and then there are providers of IP (many which are third party) consisting of a wide range of pre-made "cores" with various functions? A developer can pick what he wants and put it in his shopping cart, and then check out and get down to business. AFAIK, third party IP is offered pretty much in the same space as the rest of the tools, which is a great thing, and maybe this whole idea could be applied to MorphOS as well?
Say you would want to create a info-kiosk or in-store display/demo unit. You could start by putting a check-mark on the Efika (or an offspring, which will be essentially the same thing from a technical point of view) and the Genesi HAL/OF. And what if you then could choose from a "smörgåsbord"/buffé of MorphOS components (from a collection of the whole desktop OS) as well as third party software; you would of course start with checking-off the MorphOS core (the kernel, dos, basic libs, whatever "the core" might be), then a check-mark at AHI, perhaps some datatypes or "Krashan equalents", and end with Hollywood (the device should run a stand-alone Hollywood player). You are creating a recepie databank for use in grocery stores. Here you would likely need MUI and TurboPrint as well, but probably not AHI. A small footprint Internet terminal (like this
for instance) for use on train stations, internet cafés, etc, would need a TCP stack, a set of Internet applications (including java, flash, etc). Various options of licenses are prepared ahead, so it's just to pick and choose.
Anyway, that was just *one* idea, only brainstorming here. But no matter the way you may go with this, you will *have* to open up MorphOS for business. It's time to change focus and bring in some business developer into the game, or at least present a clear vision/ambition/strategy of doing so. Developers should be separated from the business process and focus on what they knows best - developing. Business people should be brought in to build up a business. MorphOS ownership situation (including new components, old components and their past and current stakeholders) should be established formally and communicated in a crystal clear way. This includes (but not exclusively) documenting GPL dependencies, or other licenses, also with third party developers and "investors" that has contributed in the past (no "Henes", this is not evil, and I am *not* claiming that MorphOS is illigal now). Ultimately, the full rights to all IP should be brought under full control of the umbrella company "MorphOS Inc" (which, by all means, could be owned by MorphOS developers as I said above), where it will reside from there on, completely independent of any developer. This will be the only way of ensuring waterproof safety of the project and a stable evolution; ie that we won't see another "Gerber thing" in the future (where people simply quit and takes their IP with them, leaving a hole of void), or that some "team members" decides that they don't like certain people and won't allow the use of "their" software for certain projects. One can say that this is taking a step to a higher, more professional ground, where *business* is the focus. But most of all, this will be an important step of making MorphOS "licensable". Entrepreneurs wanting to license MorphOS should only have to turn to *one entity*, who has the full ownership and full power of granting any kind of licenses that suits the progress and evolution of MorphOS the best (completely independent of individual developers). A complete infrastructure for this should also be put in place. But for any of this to happen, if MorphOS should go *anywhere*, there must also be some goals/visions established, roadmaps covering how to get there, with milestones for progress reports. Then there has to be some disciplined teamwork, focused completely on taking the OS to those goals. Of course, there has to be frequent and crystal clear communication regarding this, and *everything* above (this entire post). And yes "bigfoot", a *webpage* would be a very good way to do this.
All this needed to happen yesterday.
MorphOS is Amiga done right!
MorphOS NG will be AROS done right!