Open source: A rock and a hard place

A reader writes that he and his software-writing co-workers don't like the open-source software effort, but they tolerate it as possibly the only way to unseat Microsoft.


Open source: A rock and a hard place

In response to the March 8 Perspectives column by Bruce Perens, "Deciphering the open-source war":

I've made my living designing and writing software for approximately 25 years both as an employee of large software companies (Wang Labs, Digital Equipment) and as an independent contractor.

In his article, Perens states: "If open source was economically unviable, development would have ceased long before there was $1.9 billion worth of it."

This is hard for me to accept. I've discussed the open software effort with many of my co-workers, and the prevailing opinion seems to be that they don't like the open-source effort, but they tolerate it as possibly the only way to unseat Microsoft from its dominant position.

Most of my co-workers are comfortable with open-source efforts only if these can dent Microsoft's position in the operating system and office products area, or in the Passport/Web services segment, if Microsoft tries to dominate this area. Open source is tolerated only to the extent that it helps open up competition. However, open source is considered bad if some open-source proponent decides to lead an effort to provide a free version of the software that my co-workers themselves are writing and from which they are trying to make a living.

My co-workers do not want to see their software niche segments go the open software route. For this reason, we understand why the folks at Microsoft complain so much about open source.

This stance may seem hypocritical, but we're just human beings trying to make a living. Could we make a living if software were viable only as a way to bring in service or other ancillary revenue? Sure, but it would weaken our economic position, so why should we support such a direction?

I do not want to see software being relegated to a secondary economic position. We should not allow software to be free. I'd like to suggest that Perens and other like-minded people spend more time trying to topple the "evil Microsoft monopoly" via competition or litigation instead of ruining a perfectly good industry that has contributed so much to the economic welfare of so many hard-working people in and out of the United States.

The RIAA wants its intellectual property (music) to be protected. Authors want their books protected. I want my industry's intellectual property to be likewise protected. Is this too much to ask?

Jerry Plouffe
Hollis, N.H.



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