[IAEP] [Sugar-devel] [SLOBS] SLOBs Position on SoaS

Sean DALY sdaly.be at gmail.com
Wed Sep 16 11:49:46 EDT 2009

SoaS is a game-changer. In a world where approximately 93% of desktops
run a version of Windows, 5% run a version of Mac OSX, and GNU/Linux
distros make up the remaining 1-2%, SoaS offers the possibility to
boot on 90% of them and run in a VM in the other 10%. Not to mention
reader devices neither Windows nor OSX will run on!

OLPC has had a traditional weakness: because of the unavailabilty of
machines, Sugar was not easy to demonstrate to curious educators,
deciders, teachers, parents... and learners. (It could be said the
missed opportunity with the G1G1s was an online collaborative space
for trying Sugar - most G1G1 donors struggled with orphan XOs, an
experience so different from Learners collaborating - most G1G1 donors
never even experienced Sugar as it usually is used). Unfortunately,
Sugar's availability for GNU/Linux distros doesn't solve that problem,
because the installed base of distros remains too small and the
barrier to installation too high. The distros are facing great
difficulty in gaining marketshare on the desktop, for several reasons
- ineffective marketing being one of them, but the distro vs. desktop
choice being another. OEMs could tip the balance, but they are not
motivated to, probably because the potential gain in margins is not
worth upsetting Microsoft.

The web could be a fabulously effective way to demo Sugar, and indeed
I believe we should work towards that goal. It could even be possible
to do more than demo, to execute cloud code. However, that cannot be a
serious solution for schools.

SoaS is both an effective demo of Sugar (and as such, an ally of
OLPC), and the beginning of a solution for schools (the infrastructure
around it - backup, documentation, support including a template for
local IT support - needs lots of work still).

But most of all, it offers a choice to schools to rethink how to use
their hodgepodge of old and new mismatched computer hardware. The
universality of SoaS places the emphasis squarely on the pedagogical
aspects by reducing the impact of the technical barriers.

So yes, from a marketing standpoint SoaS is vital. I don't see any
other way of spreading Sugar use very widely, short of a huge OEM deal
involving a distro (and today, the only likely candidate is Ubuntu
which is standard on the Dell education netbook and is now an option
on Intel Classmates worldwide).

Now what? I think it is helpful to imagine a likely scenario in order
to to think this through: A distro other than Fedora works on and
creates a liveUSB version of Sugar.

-> Good, since it is possible more developers working on the technical
challenges will find other and perhaps better ways of doing it.
-> Good, since a major distro just might be able to sign an OEM deal,
particularly for the education market, and could market their liveUSB
version in conjunction with the OEM (as well as provide valuable
feedback through the OEM sales channel).
-> Good, because work on a new liveUSB distro could quite likely have
positive effects upstream to Sugar proper (more bug hunters...)
-> Bad, from the point of view of making SoaS ultra-simple for the
field. How will teachers and parents tell versions apart? The simplest
way in my view is for the name "Sugar on a Stick" to refer only to the
existing Fedora version.

Of course, such a scenario raises other questions. If Fedora SoaS is
the official version offered to parents and teachers, what happens if
a different distro does a better job with a liveUSB implementation?
The day a liveUSB version of Sugar contains a risk-free hard-drive
installer (if such a thing is even possible) and close integration
with the XS server, entire fleets of schools' machines can be flipped
to Sugar. Should that better version become Sugar on a Stick? My
answer is yes - because it is Sugar Labs building up the brand equity
in Sugar on a Stick, and it is Sugar Labs that should have final say
about what it is and what it means. But hold on a minute - should
Sebastian working day and night be fairly compared to an engineering
team another distro might make available? My answer to that would be,
the fairest approach to Sebastian would be to somehow allocate
resources to SoaS at least equivalent to those of a "challenger". With
that approach, perhaps SoaS would remain the best liveUSB version of
Sugar. But - that implies Sebastian share responsibility for where
SoaS is going.

OK, all that said, today there isn't another implementation happening.
And Fedora SoaS in my view is the highest-probablity-of-success vector
to gain a huge portion of the education market for young learners.
There is a fabulous potential to build connections between the worlds'
disadvantaged children running XOs, and more fortunate children with
access to a PC, netbook, Mac, whatever. No other education platform
even exists with that potential. And Sugar being open and free as in
freedom, its success will be geometric... when it happens beyond OLPC.

I would like to see the *technical* roadmaps of Sugar and SoaS - and
an OEM education offer which doesn't exist yet - all be brought
together in a *strategic* roadmap to become a clear choice for
childrens' educators worldwide.

A final note. When funding arrives (and we are well on the path to
that) the breakthrough launches of SoaS can will go much, much
further. So it's vital we be on the same page... confusion on our part
can quite possibly derail the one chance we will have in building
positive-perception awareness of Sugar.



On Wed, Sep 16, 2009 at 4:36 PM, Tomeu Vizoso <tomeu at sugarlabs.org> wrote:
> On Wed, Sep 16, 2009 at 16:24, Daniel Drake <dsd at laptop.org> wrote:
>> 2009/9/16 Sebastian Dziallas <sebastian at when.com>:
>>> Let me rephrase again, to make things clear. I'd love to hear an
>>> "official" answer on this. Soon.
>>> Is the current SoaS going to be the primary way Sugar Labs distributes a
>>> Sugar-centric GNU/Linux distribution?
>> Isn't there a wider question first? the one that asks if Sugar Labs is
>> actually interested in being a distributor rather than just an
>> upstream. I raised that question in my recent discussion and my
>> feeling is that the responses basically said "well we should really
>> just focus on being an upstream since we already are overworked there,
>> but actually Sugar Labs is just a platform where everyone interested
>> in Sugar can get together and run Sugar-related projects"
>> Based on that, I'd say that SoaS is a fine project to sit under Sugar
>> Labs but there shouldn't be a "primary way" of getting Sugar. Like
>> other upstream projects, Sugar Labs should work with multiple
>> downstreams (treating them equally) in order to achieve wide adoption
>> of the software.
> That matches quite well my personal point of view. I'm just a bit
> concerned that the marketing team might need something like SoaS as
> part of their job to make Sugar widely known. But I'm just guessing
> here...
> That said, SoaS is very important for me as an upstream Sugar
> developer because before we had it, people had to install a linux
> distro or get an XO to try or test Sugar. So I have a big interest in
> that SoaS work continue forward, in SLs if needed.
> Regards,
> Tomeu
> --
> «Sugar Labs is anyone who participates in improving and using Sugar.
> What Sugar Labs does is determined by the participants.» - David
> Farning
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