Back in the early 1950s, Gibson introduced a cheap, entry-level electric guitar called the Les Paul Junior. A study in simplicity, it had one pickup, two knobs, and not much else.
Rock guitarists loved it. The single P-90 pickup, when hooked up to a high-gain amp, added raw grit to the sound of rock and blues anthems. If you’re old enough to remember the roaring, over-amped guitar in “Mississippi Queen,” that was the Les Paul Junior.
Fast forward 54 years. Vintage LP Juniors — which originally sold for 50 bucks — now go for $6000 or more on Ebay. Why? Well, according to some people, no one, not even the wizards at Gibson, could reproduce the unique sound of the original models.
But has the rock world suffered? Hardly. There are now hundreds of electric (and electronic) guitar models out there, many of them capable of sound-bending tricks that 50s-era guitar designers could never have imagined. The original LP Junior is a thing of beauty (can you tell I’d really like one?), but modern guitar players need something more, well, modern.
The software world isn’t any different. At one time, most vendors had closed source code and closed development processes — a model that served customers perfectly well. But the market has moved on, embedded products have become more complex, and embedded software vendors need to keep pace. To do that, they can, among other things, open up their source code and allow customers to become active participants in the product development process.
Basically, vendors have a choice. They can continue to play solo, or they can work in concert with their customers and developer community to create a thing of beauty. Personally, I like door number 2.