Monday, July 26, 2004

Open Source Myths

A post in our local Linux user group pointed me to an article about Common Open Source Myths. I especially like the All Software should be Free paragraph; Software should never be treated as something that must be free. Even as in beer. Because at a very macro level, the small company is going to have problems - imagine a garage company that makes and sells something. If they need accounting software, it's free (GREAT!) but now if they have a problem, they have choices of:

a) Contact a programmer who wrote the software, which is open source, so he's funded by his full time job in organization X that makes microprocessor chips. So he doesn't have time to fix or address the problem immediately, or

b) Find a "support" company that will support this famous open source software, but they're either too expensive or don't have any good programmers who can fix the software using the source code. Because the best programmers are at company X at makes microprocessor chips.

My point: The best programmers will leave the industry if there's not enough money to be made writing software.

Extrapolate further: as support becomes the only money making opportunity, countries like India and China, who have vast resources of programmers, will be able to provide support at much cheaper rates. (No, I don't believe providing "support" is a wonderful thing to do, even if it provides revenue for my country. We'll always stay at the bottom of the value chain) And if the entire business model depends on support - why would anyone ever want to fully document software? Or even fix things that they see as potential problems, but aren't noticed by customers yet? (Hey, we can bill them for it when they find out :) )

I like open source software - I use many tools that are open source. Our internal company rule disallows the use of GPL based components in any of the work we do, but we do use MPL and other free licence based components. But I think closed and open source software should co-exist, as competition.

There's tons of free source code dished out in newsgroups, source code (even from Microsoft) and websites such as CodeProject. Anyone can use this source code today: I just hope such code doesn't become inaccessbile to us closed source application authors!


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