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Re: Why free software?

  • Subject: Re: Why free software?
  • From: Roy Schestowitz <newsgroups@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxx>
  • Date: Thu, 27 Apr 2006 07:56:21 +0100
  • Newsgroups: comp.os.linux.advocacy
  • Organization: schestowitz.com / MCC / Manchester University
  • References: <1146111794.107907.195650@i39g2000cwa.googlegroups.com> <1146116327.967893@sky>
  • Reply-to: newsgroups@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxx
  • User-agent: KNode/0.7.2
__/ [ [H]omer ] on Thursday 27 April 2006 06:38 \__

> asj wrote:
>> Although I try to use open source software as much as i can, and try
>> to get my company to use open source stuff like openoffice.org and
>> linux, this is mainly because I have a strong aversion to the
>> monopolistic tendencies of Microsoft - and honestly, it helps the
>> bottom line.
>> So, I'm wondering why people think that "software should be free"?
> Speaking for myself, I believe that "software should be *open*", free or
> otherwise.

The key point is that software can be duplicated infinitely (*cough* grain of
salt please), for free (*coughing again*).

Take Apache for example. It is sufficient to have one good FOSS project to
annihilate potential and incentive for profits through software development.
Whether it's a bad thing or a good thing is an entirely separate question.

I, as a software engineer, came to recognise the fact that commercial
software vendors, along with their commercial software, will reach a state
of demise well before I reach the stage of retirement. Apache, Unisys and
Oracle would confirm this.

So what gives? Earnings can be made through support, donations, and
sponsorships. Then comes the possibilities of OSS that is not free. It
relies on one among the many OSS licences that are available.

>> I personally believe that a person should be able to reap the
>> benefits (including licensing)  of any product that he or she creates
>> by his or her own hard work.
> So do I.
> If someone wants to sell software, then good luck to them. If someone
> wants to buy that software; that's their decision. I have no argument
> with that.
> Equally if someone want to *give* something away, and someone wants to
> accept it for free, then that's their affair. Who am I (or anyone else)
> to criticize it.

It is not impossible to make money through development of open source
software. Open can be interpreted free as in "free to extend, contribute,
distribute" (imprecise, off-the-sleeve definition), but not necessarily free
in terms of cost.

You may not see the benefits of the OSS paradigm yet, but what happens when
the userbase of KDE extends from 30 million to 300 million, or even 3
billion in the long term? Freedom as a characteristic is KDE will allow it
to gain steam and make mockery of commercial counterparts that no longer
appeal to a single person.

>> I've also personally seen some commercial companies folding and/or
>> laying off employees because some open source product gutted their
>> bottom line, and boy that sure do look ugly. Why would companies
>> invest in good software when there is the possibility of some open
>> source product gutting their potential profits?

It is similar to yet another conundrum. What if everyone unilaterally decided
to stop going to restaurants? Many people would lose their job. Correct?
Does it mean that society becomes a poorer and more miserable place to live
in? Of course not.

The lost jobs are converted into efforts that can better serve humanity. For
the lost jobs in services, you may be able to have more educated engineers
that will help man reach new planets, for instance. With less labour out
there, people will relish on more leisure time and still receive the same
funds/means (measured in terms of wage, taxation levels, retirement fees).

It is demand that controls levels of production and if there is less/no
demand for 20 Java-based commercial accounting packages (each re-inventing
the wheel), recently-freed developers will have time to travel and provide
services for one among the Open Source packages that are available. The GNU
philosophy is that which involves standing on the shoulders of giants and
help further develop what giants have already created. Forks are sometimes
allowed as well, so monopolies are difficult to instate.

> As proprietary software advocates so often point out, the TCO of FOSS is
> not always cheaper, nor is the ROI always immediately greater. Costs,
> immediate or otherwise, is only one of many factors. Any company
> seriously re-evaluating their software implementations will not simply
> jump at the first "freebie" that comes along, they must consider how
> well it fulfils their requirements. If the software doesn't work it
> really doesn't matter if it's free or not, does it.
> If one product is better than another, then it is bound to become the de
> facto choice for businesses. And in this case "better" incorporates
> costs *and* functionality.
> Companies go broke all the time, usually because either the bottom falls
> out of the market, or their long term strategy was flawed (which
> includes raising capital and setting prices). For any company to compete
> in the market, they have to understand that market, and if they can't
> offer a product or service that appeals to the customer base more than
> their competition's, then they're going to lose - simple. And like I
> said, costs is only one factor of what comprises that "appeal".

I suggest that the OP reads:


                [ debunking common GNU/Linux myths ]


>> True, OTHER industries benefit from using free open source software,
>> but isn't the software industry cutting its OWN throat???
> No; one segment of the software development *community* is offering
> products and services that are better than those offered by others. The
> only people who are cutting throats, are the traditional vendors cutting
> their *own* throats, due to their inability to adapt to the new market
> conditions.

Allow me to twist this. Assume that industry demands X copies of any type of
database software, be it MySQL, or Oracle, or PosrgreSQL. Each company has
the capacity to earn a share for the proportion of X that it has in its
possession. Usually, when a company grabs a large portion of X, it is the
managers at the top who will reap and the benefits and accumulate the
numbers. Some companies (startups for the most parts) will never grab a
significant enough share of X and then die. That's a grim reality too, don't
you agree? Many commercial software out there suffers from giants and entry

With FOSS, the buttom line is that developers, rather than managers, control
their share of X and the money which can be made in industry. If anything,
it frees the developer from the shackles of a pyramid-type organisation and
caters for better distribution of rewards. Essentially, the middlemen are
culled out. Fair enough, is it not? The geek is in charge. The customer is
in charge too because lockins as a strategy is discouraged.

Best wishes,


Roy S. Schestowitz      |    "These characters were randomly picked"
http://Schestowitz.com  |    SuSE Linux    ¦     PGP-Key: 0x74572E8E
  7:25am  up 4 days 16:36,  9 users,  load average: 1.33, 0.72, 0.54
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