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Sunday, July 31, 2005
  big impact- Open-source vs proprietary

Not so rosy

Yet open-source isn’t perfect production system either. Its strengths are also its flaws. Sometimes and old-fashioned top-down decision is useful, and the open-source model may not provide sufficient revenue to support everything users want when they want it.

BitMover, a vendor software development tools, used an intermediate model until recently. Its product was free to open-source developers on the condition that they did not use it to develop competing products

For proprietary software developers, it charged normal money. Recently the firm ended the free version, alleging that it had been abused.

Larry McVoy, BitMonver’s founder and chief executive officer, has long been involved with open-source, but is nonetheless somewhat sceptical about it.

“Microsoft is successful because in opne-source, nobody gets paid to do the grunt work, like writing boring drivers for every printer on the market,” he said. “Furthermore, open source is largely a copying machine, doing reimplementation’s of existing products; there’s very little innovation in part because the rewards for it are so low.

There is some truth in this. And while the problem is declining as commercial demand for open-source software increases, this creates a final irony.

Microsoft version 2

One objection to open-source is that, in the end, it might just produce a new generation of big, bad, rich monopolists. With the growing importance of Red Hat, some critics see Microsoft all over again. In an open-source world, one might ask how could Red Hat posses power in the way that Microsoft presently does?

The explanation lies in the premium placed upon compatibility, stability, and service by large corporate customers. Red Hat examines every piece of code it ships; it certifies applications; it ports its code to seven different processors architectures; it provides and tests device drivers; it writes code to improve performance on specific machines ; it guarantees service for seven years; it provides the same products in more than dozen languages; it has someone there to answer the telephone 24-7.

Customers who run their business on Red Hat won’t switch easily, even though rival’s source code is equally available. The code that Red Hat ships therefore becomes, to some extent, the real Linux standard.

But for all this, Red Hat will probably never wield the same power that Microsoft currently has. One reason is that, because its products are subject to the GPL, other firms can and do take Red Hat’s code and sell it themselves.

Copyright 2005 Technology Review inc
Distributed by Tribune Media Services

-code must be made available??-

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