Re: [unrev-II]MS exec: Open-source approach is flawed - ZDNet Discussion Zaplet

From: Lee Iverson (
Date: Mon May 07 2001 - 10:47:42 PDT

  • Next message: Eric Armstrong: "Re: [unrev-II]MS exec: Open-source approach is flawed - ZDNet Discussion Zaplet"

    In message <>, Eric Armstrong writes:
    >Eric Armstrong wrote:
    >> For any organization hoping to grow and prosper as a
    >> *software* producer, however, an open source release
    >> obviates the "intellectual property" advantage which is
    >> the basis for the product's benefit.
    >I note, too, that an open source release can kill an
    >entire industry, by making a "semi-ok" version available
    >for so little, that competitors have no incentive to
    >enter the arena, with the long term result of producing
    >better and better solutions.

    And where does this claim come from? When has an open-source release
    "killed an industry"?

    A much better example is of an open source release "creating" an
    industry cf. the Web. The Web exists today because Tim Berners-Lee
    and the team at NCSA were committed to 1) simple, open standards, 2)
    open source software, and 3) a *free* front end. An strong argument
    can be made that these were the things that differentiated the 90's
    WWW success from the failures of all previous hypertext efforts.

    It can be argued that the ability of companies to operate "on Internet
    time" owes just as much if not more to open-source as commercial
    efforts. Now, interestingly enough this is definitely more the
    Apache/BSD model of open source than GPL, but it is definitely open
    source and it is definitely industry-enabling.

    >In other words, as long as John Q. Developer has to work
    >somewhere to make ends meet, he will never have the time
    >needed to do the kinds of things to an open source project
    >that his fulltime, professional counterpart could do to
    >a purchased product.
    >Since Marx's actual proposition was a *predictation* that such
    >a cooperative model would be the inevitable, *eventual* result
    >of capitalism (as opposed to something that could somehow be
    >coerced into existence by sheer force of will), then it may
    >be that the development of cooperative sofware model is a first,
    >fledgling step in that direction. If so, the problems with the
    >model would be transient, and they would disappear over time.
    >However, I make that observation only to be fair to alternative
    >viewpoints. My expectation is rather more pessimistic. (On the
    >other hand, I'm excited by the energy-conservation options that
    >are being created, now that prices are high. The world has the
    >capacity to react much more rapidly to change than I had so
    >pessimistically assumed, so there may yet be hope...)

    There are definitely successful open source companies (Cygnus was one
    and Codesourcery is another) that have very simple business models.
    They develop and maintain open source software that other companies
    depend on. The companies paying for the work get the advantage of
    having a stable, centralized code base that they can direct the
    development of with their dollars. Moreover, because other companies
    are also paying to continue development, there is an economy of scale.

    With Apache, it is slightly different, in that the vast majority of
    development (as I understand it) gets done in-house by various
    companies who then feed the changes back into the open source code
    base. As Brian Behlendorf argues, everybody wins with this model.
    Most bugs get fixed quickly and fed back into the baseline code.
    There is a substantial incentive to not branch, since so much work is
    being done by others that you wouldn't be able to take advantage of if
    you were to branch or hold a large codebase private.

    There *are* successful business models out there. Interestingly, they
    are service-oriented and programmer-intensive. Seems just fine by me.

    Lee Iverson SRI International 333 Ravenswood Ave., Menlo Park CA 94025 (650) 859-3307

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