The Growing Importance of the Rapid Upgrade Cycle
Recently, Tech Republic's Jason Hiner noted that Microsoft, Apple and all CTOs could take a lesson from Canonical, particularly when it comes to rapid upgrade cycles. "What Canonical does really well is to methodically produce incremental upgrades to its OS," he said. "It is transparent about its goals and plans, and it releases its software on schedule." Indeed, the speed and transparency of upgrade cycles are becoming more important in the software arena, and open source players may command significant advantages.
While Apple's market share in the personal computer business languished at about five percent for many years, it's been on the rise, and one of the things the company has been doing a better job of than Microsoft is rapidly upgrading its operating system. During the more than five years Microsoft took developing Windows Vista, the Mac OS was upgraded many times. Apple is also reasonably vocal and transparent about planned OS upgrades.
As Hiner notes, though, Canonical has done an even better job of keeping Ubuntu on strict upgrade cycles:
"Since the first version (4.10) of Ubuntu was released in October 2004, there have been 10 OS releases of Ubuntu. During that same time period, there have been three new releases of Mac OS X and two new releases of Windows."
Also during that time, Ubuntu has become much more graphical, compatible, easy-to-use and more. Upgrades count for a lot, and that's not only true on the operating system front. Mozilla officials have been saying that they can't continue to upgrade Firefox at the rapid pace they've been able to in the past. Meanwhile, Google Chrome is being upgraded at a machine-gun rate, and, sure enough, is growing its market share faster than Firefox.
From one year to the next, it may not be obvious that open source software offerings have an advantage in the area of rapid upgrade cycles. However, in the long run open source platforms and applications may command significant advantages from them. With lots of distributed developers, open source software offerings can reach new milestones faster than proprietary competitors. It's an important point for FOSS developers to focus on.