Will Surface bring open-source to tablet development

The tablet market is becoming increasingly competitive at the moment, with Microsoft releasing its much anticipated Surface, Apple its hugely popular iPad mini and other competitors such as Amazon and Barnes and Noble entering the arena.

Apple has a closed ecosystem when it comes to apps, whilst Google and the Android platform is a lot more open. Up until now Microsoft and PCs have been a relatively open platform to write games and other software for, but this is something that will change with the release of Windows 8.

android vs apple.. apple wins
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The software giants have already come in for criticism from the maker of Minecraft, Markus Persson, who says that Microsoft run the risk of ruining their existing PC gaming ecosystem due to the need for code certification.

The certification scheme is designed to confirm that any code used in making apps for Windows 8 will be finished and reliable. However, Persson is not the only game developer to express his concerns that this will lead to a more closed platform and squeeze the profit margins for some developers so much that they may go out of business.

So what does this mean for tablet development? Well, according to ZDNet, it could leave the door wide open for Linux-based applications and OS to come into play. The problem with Windows 8 is that currently, it only has a limited number of apps in its ecosystem, and developers don’t seem to be beating down the door to help them improve this. In theory, this means that devs may be attracted to the thought of Ubuntu-based tablets as Linux is thoroughly immersed as an open source project.

This is in theory though, Linux has struggled along for years without showing any sign of competing with the Windows platform, which has remained the most popular OS in the world, despite a slight climb in Mac OSX sales.

When it comes to tablets though, Apple is the key player and it seems unlikely that Windows 8 or Linux will come close to knocking iOS off its perch anytime soon, especially if you consider that Android is the most popular (though less secure) mobile OS in the world and therefore presents as big a threat to Windows.

Bearing all of this in mind, Microsoft’s tablet may shake up the desktop PC world in terms of open source software, but it’s unlikely to affect the tablet world in any significant way, at least in the short term.

However, whilst it’s a risky strategy for Microsoft, as they are for once selling hardware with the software already on-board, it could work in a similar way as Apple, but then it can’t be considered an open source project.

It would be interesting to see Linux gain a foothold however, as we would then see a true open source platform become more successful with widespread use.

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