Open source: business model for software is shifting.
I particulary like this passage, since I share the same vision about open source, from Interview with Tony Bove, Author of Just Say No to Microsoft at www.xyzcomputing.com
Are you a major proponent of the open source movement, or are you just against anything that is as harmful as you see Microsoft as being? A lot of people see open source developers as the good guys, but they certainly have problems of their own.
I think the open source movement is sincere and represents a viable alternative to shrink-wrapped, proprietary software. The business model for software is shifting.
The freedom to work with the source code is its own reward. If programmers discover bugs, they can open the source code, fix them, and send the fixes immediately back to the keeper of the source code. The programmers are license-bound to send improvements back if they intend to distribute them, so these bug fixes and improvements are rolled into new versions that become available immediately on public websites. Some improvements and fixes are hotly debated in newsgroups and emails before they become part of the new versions, and many are challenged by alternatives in a sort of competition that ensures survival of the fittest. But a lot of good code comes out of this process.
Which is not to say that this undisciplined approach to system debugging produces the best code. Sometimes programmers create fixes that are just good enough for them and their specific problems. But even if a programmer fixes a problem in a way that breaks other parts of the system, the effect is to place a giant arrow on the entire problem, forcing other programmers to create better fixes.
By comparison, Microsoft — like any commercial software company — tries to fix defects before shipping a new system or upgrade by providing beta versions to power users. While that process can work for simple bugs, more complex system crashes that occur when using products from other companies (such as printers, pointing devices, network cards, and so on) are harder to detect without more widespread distribution of the beta software. And when qualified programmers outside of Microsoft find bugs, all they can do is send emails to Microsoft — they canÃ¢â¬â¢t try to fix them, because the source code is not available to them.
The open source world is like a bazaar populated with merchants large and small. The best merchants attract the most business. In most cases, the software is free, and good service is available for a price. The software industry business model is changing to a model that charges for support and services and gives away the software — like a free cell phone with a monthly service. You no longer have to pay for shrink-wrapped boxes of software products that you have to integrate with your system on your own.
The problems with open source software are, for the most part, legal ones involving patents. These problems should not affect the consumer, because the companies promoting open source have to indemnify their customers from patent lawsuits. This problem will eventually resolve itself as the market for open source software grows.