Adhearsion creator Jay Phillips has some pointed commentary about Asterisk as a platform. It’s worth reading. The executive summary: As a platform, Asterisk isn’t sufficiently simple to program to attract the mass of developers. Yep. I agree.
Jay also references Microsoft, saying that Microsoft is starting to understand that it needs to court developers. Of course, the company has always understood this, and has experienced the threat of losing the developer community on more than one occasion — think way way back, for example, to Borland‘s OWL technology, and how that abstracted the underlying platform so that applications could be run on OS/2 or Windows. Borland had attained enormous market share by 1992 in the software developer tools market, which threatened Microsoft’s core business of Windows. The Borland threat was the genesis of the products that ultimately merged and became Visual Studio.
This is a play that has been repeated many times. Linux vs Windows, Netscape vs IE, iPhone vs BlackBerry… in the end it’s all about developers. The secret to a powerful ecosystem is in giving developers tools to build great products, a sufficiently large and accessible market that they can sell those products to, and some assistance in reaching that market.
I haven’t configured an Asterisk box in some time. The last time I did it, however, it wasn’t trivial to do, which is why there were so many projects that were about building simpler tools to configure Asterisk! Moreover, others have noticed Asterisk’s success, and competing platforms are shipping as a result.
In my opinion, though, all of this is good stuff. A competitive market place is good for the industry, good for end users, and ultimately good for my friends at Digium. A rising tide floats all boats, as they say.