Apple, Google, and the importance of Bing

Software freedom requires more than just a license. It also needs an open market to be meaningful--witness Apple, Canonical, and others flirting with Microsoft.

For some, the definition of software freedom begins and ends with source code. Such people have apparently never heard of market competition.

It's arguably even more important, and doesn't necessarily derive from a software license (though it's no doubt better when protected by an open-source license).

Over the last few weeks, we've seen signs that key open-source vendors are waking up to this fact, with both Canonical (Ubuntu) and Mozilla (Firefox) sniffing around Yahoo/Microsoft to replace Google with Yahoo/Bing as their default search engine.

Choice, you see, is good, even when it's not created by an open-source license.

In the case of Google, its search technology is 100 percent proprietary. Yes, the open-source world prefers Google , but letting that preference turn into a fixation is both bad business and bad policy.

It creates too much reliance on one vendor. That's not good for software freedom, and certainly not for market freedom, no matter how "not evil" we might presume Google to be.

Apple, the uber-proprietary technology giant, gets this. That's why it, too, is looking to lock Google out of its iPhone, as BusinessWeek has reported. The more Apple competes with Google, the better Microsoft looks as Apple's "pawn" to keep Google's search dominance at bay.

It's not about loving Microsoft. It's about preserving options...and competition.

With ZDNet, I applaud Google's efforts to take on Apple in key markets like smartphones where Apple increasingly dominates. I don't want to serve an Apple monopoly any more than I liked living under a Microsoft monopoly.

Apple, even more than Microsoft before it, is committed to a proprietary path, one that threatens to stifle outside innovation and becomes more proprietary with every product release.

But I also don't want a Google monopoly. While I deeply respect Google's open-source credentials, it is not necessarily always the model open-source citizen, as its experience with Android suggests.

In a perfect world, open source would create the "magic" that wins over consumers and fuels new markets.

Until we arrive at that perfect world, however, there's good old-fashioned competition, which sometimes, indeed often, will have nothing to do with source-code licensing and everything to do with market competition.

About the author

    Matt Asay is chief operating officer at Canonical, the company behind the Ubuntu Linux operating system. Prior to Canonical, Matt was general manager of the Americas division and vice president of business development at Alfresco, an open-source applications company. Matt brings a decade of in-the-trenches open-source business and legal experience to The Open Road, with an emphasis on emerging open-source business strategies and opportunities. He is a member of the CNET Blog Network and is not an employee of CNET. You can follow Matt on Twitter @mjasay.

     

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