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Tiemann: 'Honeymoon is over' for software lock-in

There will always be proprietary software, but its era as top-to-bottom lock-in may be over, declares the Open Source Initiative president and a Red Hat executive.

Matt Asay Contributing Writer
Matt Asay is a veteran technology columnist who has written for CNET, ReadWrite, and other tech media. Asay has also held a variety of executive roles with leading mobile and big data software companies.
Matt Asay
2 min read

In the midst of an engaging Times UK article on the rise of open source, Michael Tiemann, president of the Open Source Initiative and a Red Hat executive, declares that proprietary software has outstayed its welcome:

A few days ago, I was visiting several banks in Canary Wharf and the city. On television the entire day was one apology after another from banks whose fundamental business was trust and reputation.

We are now living in a moment where claims of reputation are not sufficient to ensure delivery. We are using source code instead of reputation as a means to grade who is doing what.

The honeymoon period for proprietary software is over. It remains a struggle for many executives to even begin to justify their investment in IT...Ten years ago, I believed that there were reasonable exceptions for when to use proprietary software. I have since come to believe that proprietary software has no advantage, even for the most specific applications.

It used to be believed (by myself and others) that open source couldn't tackle niche applications, as there wouldn't be a financial incentive or sufficient expertise in a given field to mount an open-source approach. But that thinking was wrong. We just didn't know it yet.

It's very likely that open-source vendors will increasingly intermingle proprietary code with open-source code in order to improve their top and bottom lines, but I agree with Tiemann: the era of top-to-bottom proprietary lock-in is over. Even Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer says so.

Follow me on Twitter at mjasay.