"Kinder capitalism"? It's called open source, Mr. Gates. You should try it

Kinder capitalism begins with open source.

Bill Gates welcomed the world to a new breed of "kinder capitalism" at Davos this week. Conveniently forgetting his past, Mr. Gates declared:

We have to find a way to make the aspects of capitalism that serve wealthier people serve poorer people as well.

We have. It's called open source. Open source is "kinder" by design, no matter how capitalistically/self-interestedly it is used. Here's why:

  1. Open source unlocks the value of software. Those who can, pay. Those who can't or prefer to go it alone, can.

  2. Open source drives local value. Because so much opportunity exists to provide service around open-source software, local system integrators can keep open-source revenue within a local economy. Proprietary software expatriates revenue. Open-source software invests it locally.

  3. Related to this, open source allows local pricing for local value. Microsoft and others long stripmined the developing world with high prices (i.e., prices high for the developing world though relatively low by Western standards). The one-size-fits-all approach never fit the developing world, even though the threat of arbitrage in software was minimal. Open source removes completely the threat of arbitrage by focusing the value of software in the services around it, services which are provided locally for local prices.

  4. Open source is the gift that keeps on giving. Gates' "poorer" people own the software and continue to build it through their modifications and localizations.

There are other reasons that open source fits Mr. Gates' call for a "kinder capitalism." The point is that the open-source revolution Mr. Gates has long fought is the single-best answer for building global (IT) economies, just as it's doing in Europe right now according to the European Union.

You should try giving away open source as part of your foundation, Mr. Gates. You could undo much of the wrongs you've done the world's IT economy.

Tech Culture
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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