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Open Source Forcing Shift in Software Buying 108

LISNews writes "Network World Has An Interesting article on recent buyouts and how they might change the open source landscape. They say moves by Oracle and IBM means corporate buyers should think carefully about future projects before making deployment decisions. It remains to be seen how these acquiring vendors will treat their new open source assets. Users are watching with caution. As more open source companies get gobbled up they say that the open source community likely would develop alternatives to fill the gap."
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Open Source Forcing Shift in Software Buying

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  • by ScrewMaster ( 602015 ) on Sunday February 19, 2006 @01:33AM (#14753236)
    so long as the big guys don't run out of money to keep buying up the little guys.
    • There are some little guys (like me) who are little in the grand scheme of things, but have some money due to some successes on-line.

      I'm open sourcing 30k worth of R&D done over the last two years. Most of it is related to Xen, Clusters and security .. stuff small businesses need that I felt was too expensive for them. I also realize its the best way to get my walking talking resume in front of the clients who can afford some very custom elaborate setups. Those are the people I hope to have feeding me.

      G
  • Money where mouth is (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Sunday February 19, 2006 @01:36AM (#14753246)
    Moves by Oracle and others force the people to put there money where there mouth is on this popular Open Source Mantra.

    Mantra: "Plus if something happens to project xyz, you always have the code so you can keep going"

    True, but how many are prepared to actually do it?
    • by Hosiah ( 849792 ) on Sunday February 19, 2006 @04:37AM (#14753646)
      True, but how many are prepared to actually do it?

      News flash: FOSS distros come with FOSS programming tools: compilers, interpreters, scripting engines, libraries, documentation, et all. Not much point *to* open source code, if all you can do with it is read it, eh? True, many distros are poorly prepared for programming needs, and I shun them and shame them, but even the most threadbare distro has a scripting tool or compiler or two or five.

      I've made periodic policies to obtain the full sources for major installed distros I've run, such as Red Hat and Slackware. Despite the wonders of package management, many times those of us with finickier tastes have to resort to compiling a tarball to get the program we want. And then there's distros like Linux From Scratch, Gentoo, and Sourcemage, where the whole idea is to build it from source code, piece by piece.

      So rest assured, if you *nuked* 90% of the open-source organizations, the rest of us could replenish the well in, oohhh, given sufficient cooperation and bittorrent seeding, about a week.

    • by howlingmadhowie ( 943150 ) on Sunday February 19, 2006 @05:01AM (#14753706)
      someone once told me that 95% of software development takes place in companies and is never released to the public or sold. basically company-A needs a new plug-in for product-B and writes it themselves.

      personally i find the 95% rather exaggerated, but my point should be clear. lots of companies write their own software, and this software is never seen outside of the company. lots of companies use proprietary software which is no longer supported by manufacturers and have to somehow keep it cobbled together themselves.

      this is also the reason why linux runs on ca. 80% of all supercomputers, because these people who have just spent many hundreds of millions on a computer want to know what the computer is doing and they want the best software. they can afford to hire 100 people to write the software and linux provides the best environment for this currently available.

  • Fork (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Saeed al-Sahaf ( 665390 ) on Sunday February 19, 2006 @01:36AM (#14753247) Homepage
    If the companies where once "Open Source", can the source for the last available version be used as a new starting point? So these companies get "gobbled up", it doesn't mean the stuff they already put out automatically becomes closed. If there is really an "Open Source" following for a particular application, there will be a new fork.
    • You mean there MAY be a new fork. A lot of the 'following' for just about any particular OSS app you care to mention, are folks who don't have the capability of coding it themselves. Or even if they do have the skill, don't have the time or interest to maintain it themselves. Even though there may be a lot of folks using/dependent on the app, there is no guarantee if the original maintainers go away, another group will take over the job.
      • Re:Fork (Score:2, Insightful)

        Which is why when a PM or engineer chooses to deploy an open source product part of your job is to select something with well written, maintainable code, an active developer community and large user base. It's no different than a proprietary solution where you have to be careful to choose a vendor that's likely to be around for a while.

        The big difference is in the worst case scenario, wiht open source you can hire a developer to maintain it in house. With a proprietary solution you are screwed if the vend
        • Worst case scenario, you can hire a developer IF you have the funds to do it. Often times buying something off the shelf is much more cost effective then paying someone to develop/maintain it yourself.
          • Re:Fork (Score:3, Insightful)

            by sumdumass ( 711423 )
            This isn't neccesarily true. It would highly depend on the application and the amount of integration your company might have already done. It wouldn't be too unlikley for a company to be highly invested in a particular app and buying somethign off the shelf might mean redoing everything they depend on today. In this case it could be cheaper to just maintain the code of the application or attemp to share the cost of maintaining it with other companies to save the hassle of redoing thier data structure.

            I thin
          • Re:Fork (Score:3, Insightful)

            by killjoe ( 766577 )
            If you were using proprietary software and they got bought out and killed (see peoplesoft) they you wouldn't even have that option. At least with open source you have that option.
          • It's still better than the worst case scenario for proprietary software.
      • Even though there may be a lot of folks using/dependent on the app, there is no guarantee if the original maintainers go away, another group will take over the job.

        Well, if IBM buys up Gnomovision, the chances are pretty good they're doing so for a business reason -- to make money. It doesn't make much sense for them to then give up the revenue stream by ceasing support. Therefore, I think they'd have every interest to continue maintenance. Why else would they have bought it in the first place?

        Now, i

    • This is written assuming that the license(s) in question are GPL-like, rather than BSD-like:

      If the company want to change licenses, they must contact each and every copyright holder (programmer) to get permission. Unless the company being bought owns copyright on ALL the code, this will be difficult -- each and every right holder must be tracked down and their arm twisted enough that they agree to a license change.

      On a typical open source project, many people from across the world contribute. If any on

    • Yep. If the original developers sold out, it probably means they had little interest in continuing development themselves, so this can only be good. Either the buyers will continue open development, or others will, or it will continue to be as valuable as it has ever been.
  • by Azureflare ( 645778 ) on Sunday February 19, 2006 @01:42AM (#14753260)
    I like my OSS the way it is. I think this is one weakness of OSS. We can't really say as a community that we don't want a company to buy out a project, because we don't really have any "share" so to speak in the project. The only thing we can do is annoy people, but those people are facing a very large paycheck, and are very unlikely to listen to what we say, even if they do care about our concerns.

    Thank god for licensing, at least we still have the ability to fork GPL codebases. Someone should make a list of current popular OSS programs, what their licensing is, and what we can do if that project is bought out.

    • by Anonymous Coward
      "Thank god for licensing, at least we still have the ability to fork GPL codebases. Someone should make a list of current popular OSS programs, what their licensing is, and what we can do if that project is bought out."

      Anything that fulfills the Open Source definition or is Free Software can be forked. That is one of the major point of FOSS. You aren't at the mercy of the vendor but rather you can "rebel" against him should he become "evil" by forking the code. Software that doesn't allow forking is neither
    • From The Open Source Definition [opensource.org]...

      3. Derived Works

      The license must allow modifications and derived works, and must allow them to be distributed under the same terms as the license of the original software.

      I read this to mean that any Open Source software can be forked. The MIT license is just as good as the GPL in this regard. All you need is an existing copy of the source.

    • > at least we still have the ability to fork GPL codebases

      Actually, GPL and any other open source license I know of. But the real issues are: will anybody step up to the plate? Will the development keep the same pace? Will quality suffer? The foundations backed by multiple vendors (Apache, Eclipse) will remain safe bets. Not the same can be said about projects found by a single company or a group of developers.
      • I think interbase/firebird makes an interesting study. Borland open sourced it, then they tried to close it again but it was too late. It got forked became open sourced and thrived. The borland product is pretty much dead.

        There ya go, a real life example.
      • by Wonko ( 15033 )

        Actually, GPL and any other open source license I know of. But the real issues are: will anybody step up to the plate? Will the development keep the same pace?

        Does it really need to keep the same pace? Do new features need to be implemented, or is it alright if the community is only able to step up to provide bug fixes? I would assume the latter would be fine for just about everyone and would require much fewer man hours. I would imagine the community around pretty much every major open source softwa

        • "Do new features need to be implemented, or is it alright if the community is only able to step up to provide bug fixes?"

          Quite a good point.

          Closed source, by its own nature is ill of featuritis. No matter how good the software is, it *needs* new features in order for the next release to be marketeed and "stay in the wave", so to say.

          Open source, on the other hand *can* suffer featuritis too, but it's not a *must*. If the codebase already fits a nice niche, there's no need to touch it (bugfixing apart). A
    • Someone should make a list of current popular OSS programs, what their licensing is, and what we can do if that project is bought out.

      Good thinking, but I'm still not too concerned. Last week, I downloaded/burned/and ran live CDs of a FreeBSD distro, GNU/HURD, an OpenSolaris distro, and Plan Nine from Bell Labs, just to see where my "emergency exits in case of Linux failure" are (which saga is covered here [blogspot.com]). With the exception of Plan 9 (Lucent tech's weird license for it's weird OS), the vast, sweeping m

      • Last week, I downloaded/burned/and ran live CDs of a FreeBSD distro, GNU/HURD, an OpenSolaris distro, and Plan Nine from Bell Labs [...]. With the exception of Plan 9 (Lucent tech's weird license for it's weird OS), the vast, sweeping majority of it's all GPL licensed, which belongs to you and I as well as anybody who bought it. We're on more solid ground than you can imagine!

        Except that FreeBSD is BSD-licensed (duh) and OpenSolaris is distributed under CDDL.

        By the way, the HURD booted and perfor

        • FreeBSD is BSD-licensed

          The kernel and a few utilities are BSD-liscenced; the majority of the programs on the distribution are GNU software just like in Linux. To put a fine point on it, some BSD programs are included in Linux distros, like my Slakware has BSD games, fork system calls, and nail, for instance.

          OpenSolaris is distributed under CDDL

          The kernel and some of *their* utilities is, the rest of the software on the system is GNU GPL again! (I grinned to see the SDL game Supertux on the Belenix dis

          • If he balks out and drafts his own, we'll have another Solaris/BSD situation

            Um, what? That's simply impossible. Linus doesn't like GPLv3, and it's unlikely that Linux could be licensed under it anyway, for the exact same reason he couldn't "rewrite" the license. Linus does not own the copyright to the Linux kernel, so he can't unilaterally change the license any more than Dave Jones or Alan Cox. The problems with the GPLv3 are: Linus doesn't like it (unimportant from a legal standpoint), and the Linux ker

    • I like my OSS the way it is. I think this is one weakness of OSS. We can't really say as a community that we don't want a company to buy out a project, because we don't really have any "share" so to speak in the project.

      And exactly how is this different to proprietary software? It's not like history isn't full of examples of good software products that have been aquired and then canceled. The ability to fork a OSS product is just that strong point that makes it so sexy. A very good example of this is the

  • Brilliant (Score:5, Insightful)

    by plopez ( 54068 ) on Sunday February 19, 2006 @01:44AM (#14753264) Journal
    corporate buyers should think carefully about future projects before making deployment decisions

    Umm... shouldn't they *always* be doing this? Things like, oh, gathering requirements, modeling business processes, developing RFP's, assessing vendor and/or open source softwares capabilities? Including in the financial position of the company or the amount of volunteer support and/or commercial support of the product. Also going to current users of the software and seeing how things are working for them.

    Far too often I have been thrown into situations of "here we bought this very expensive product, now make our data fit". I can't understand what people are thinking sometimes...
    • Re:Brilliant (Score:4, Insightful)

      by luvirini ( 753157 ) on Sunday February 19, 2006 @02:20AM (#14753351)
      The problem is.. too often people do not simply think in business situations, letting prestige be the deciding factor instead of need or opportunity.
      • Worse, sometimes they let prejudices and FUD interfere. I know of a company who refused to use AMD Opterons for a long time until their vendors told them about the performance gain (roughly 30% in some scenarios). If the information didn't come from some big name, they won't believe it, even when they could just go and do the testing/research themselves. I love how CDW boxes say "Buy with Confidence. We're a Fortune 500 company." I bet that actually works for most of their customers but I wonder if tho
    • Umm... shouldn't they *always* be doing this? Things like, oh, gathering requirements, modeling business processes, developing RFP's, assessing vendor and/or open source softwares capabilities?

      Yes, of course they should, and that's EXACTLY the point being made here: If a small, fledgling enterprise like MySQL or JBoss gets bought by a company like Oracle or IBM, this is bound to create some uncertainty about the future direction of the said projects (at least, until the new owner makes clear what he intends
      • "I would DEFINITELY be a little bit concerned about the open source enterprise that had just been bought"

        And that's different from any other software company acquisition/absortion exactly how?

        Well, at least, for an open sourced product you know you are in exact the same position PLUS the source code being freely avaliable.
    • From TFA "...some industry watchers say open source products are in good hands when acquired by responsible commercial software makers."

      Golly gee willikers, thanks Captain Obvious! I didn't know that everything was okay as long as the corporations involved are responsible. Now I understand all kinds of things. Toxic waste disposal is fine as long as it's done by responsible chemical manufacturers. Drugs are safe as long as they came from responsible pharmaceutical companies. Quail hunting is fun when
  • This is a bit of a worry, but I don't know how well they would go trying to buy out something like Linux, or another open source program with many different distributions. I can see something like OpenOffice being bought out, but I think of the Linux community as almost as diverse as the bitTorrent community, in that there are many people who work to make Linux better, without getting paid for it, and work on many different distributions. To try to buy out Linux would be like trying to make a completely u
    • I don't get your point here. What you said about linux will work with any OSS... the bigger it is, the faster we'll get a fork to the project, but still,even a little project with almost no community around it will revive after some time if poeple are interested... Corporate keep buying things, mix it up to meet their liking, do whatever they planed with it, and the community version either comes with the corporate soft, or pops out from nowhere as usual with OSS... So corporate are happy, claiming that t
    • When an OSS product is "bought out", it is not the community, install base, or spirit of the product that is acquired. It is the copyright and trademark that are acquired, and maybe a handful of employees, and nothing else. To retain the loyalty of the community, the interest of the install base and therefore any controlling interest in the direction of the product, the acquiring entity must govern these copyrights and trademarks wisely and above all honor the spirit of the product and its license. Otherwis
  • I thought it said, "Linux: Open Source Forcing Shit in Software Buying"
  • by RiotXIX ( 230569 ) on Sunday February 19, 2006 @01:58AM (#14753295) Journal
    Surely this argument could be applied to any company depending on a third party in it's solution - I'd say you have a better chance with opensource though, because on the chances of a buyout your'e

    a) going to be left with a fork of hackers/coders who still maintain the product (probably more likely than a commerical solution, since it's roots were in open source to begin), or
    b) the code for the old program regardless (it's not going to disappear), which should be sufficient anyway (who invests such dependence of their business on the future evolution of a third party product?).

    Better than relying on a company that stops because it has gone bankrupt (and chances are remains closed), or is bought out buy a firm that wants to integrate the codebase with another closed source product, so that it's no longer usable.

    I'd just like to take this opportunity to say Mad props to the edita Kru, Cowboy, Zonk - keeping the pimp scene alive on the streets of harlem. Peace.
  • by jd ( 1658 ) <imipak@yaHORSEhoo.com minus herbivore> on Sunday February 19, 2006 @02:02AM (#14753303) Homepage Journal
    Fred Hoyle, who rejected the Bing Bang theory and developed the rival "Continuous Creation" model, in which the Universe expanded and matter was continuously condensing and filling in the gaps, would have loved the current Open Source model.


    If you liken Open Source to the raw, new matter being formed, and the corporate sector as being the older, "stable" matter, the current buying up of Open Source, and the community re-filling those gaps with yet more raw stuff, really does fit his model very well. Far better than the physical Universe did!


    Adapting Sir Hoyle's model to the software world, it should be possible to make predictions on how well such a system can thrive, what adjustments would be required to keep it functional and keep the creation of new software going, and what the long-term consequences of such an environment would be. If the model is blatantly unstable, we would benefit from knowing that NOW, so we can deal with the commercial sector before it becomes a problem.


    On the other hand, if the model is actually very stable and prone to accelerating, we should expect to see the corporate interest fuelling an ever-growing true F/L/OSS community, which would be no bad thing.


    Instead of waxing philosophical about the whole deal, it is possible to apply abstract models that depict precisely these sorts of situations, so we can see what the longer-term results would be. Once we know what we're facing, THEN we can wax philosophical all we like, as we'll have something more solid to talk about.

  • The office application EI Office http://www.evermoresw.com/weben/index.jsp [evermoresw.com] and open source the code. It is better than anything in the OSS world and even faster then OpenOffice.org 2.0.

    If this ever happened Linux will have got a leg in the Office suite world.

    • What about Corel office?
    • IBM should buy out this application

      Should it, really? Did you say 'IBM'? Or was it, ehm, Lenovo?

      You know, the concept behind EIO is not at all new. It was revolutionary 10 years ago, but now we have better implementations of what here has been done in JVM.

      Kudos to EIO developers, though. The product is seemingly quite usable, given the confined space of Java layer, and a strange data format which has been given an unappropriate importance.

      I'd never waste a second thought on a concept like this. It m

  • I don't think we have to worry to much. Yes, big company's are buying open source firms, but think about it. Its not like they can simply close the project, or take it private. As long as there has been code published under an open source license and it falls under GPL(depending on whatever version of open source lic. they used) then they can't just say fuck you to all the contributers and privatize it. Woulnd't that break the license the original code was published under? or can they?
    • as much as we like to think open source is a "community of rag-tag developers across the internet", a lot of projects (especially ones that are closely associated with a company) have a few core developers that do most of the work. Sleepy Cat, InnoBase, MySQL, Mozilla, etc... most of the code is written by their employees.

      They also might require you to sign over all legal rights before they'll accept code. Official GNU projects, for example, require contributors to assign to sign a contract for non-tri

      • by JoshDanziger ( 878933 ) on Sunday February 19, 2006 @03:34AM (#14753513)
        I think that the problem might be a little bit more subtle. Let's use MySQL as the example here. They offer an open-source, free-as-in-beer version of the application. They also offer a closed-source, commercial version that comes with more support.

        A second market for MySQL is commercial licenses of the DB. In other words, some company wants to distribute MySQL or tightly couple MySQL to their closed source application. Because the GPL prohibits such coupling in closed-source software, these companies need to acquire a commercial license.

        Now, lets say that MySQL is bought out by Evil Enterprises. Bless the open source community, they successfuly fork MySQL and cleverly call it OurSQL. Unfortunately, OurSQL uses 100% GPL code. The implication? The OurSQL developers can't offer the commercial closed-source license that MySQL could. This closes a potential source of revenue for developers of this new OurSQL software.

        I don't know if its a big issue or not, but I certainly haven't seen it mentioned on the forums yet. Feel free to bash me as you see fit.
        • A product like MySQL (or any database product) does not have to be closed source to be coupled with a closed source application. Define a formal, arms-length interface to the product and you can let closed-source applications use it through the interface. Linux does this by defining the system call interface. A database product can do it through SQL.

          In addition, it is possible to make money from an open source product by offering services.

        • Well yes it's an issue for MySQL specifically, although as (I think) Bruce Perens and many other have pointed out, the only part of MySQL that poses a problem for such applications today is the library interface, which, with whatever level of effort, could be reimplemented.

          And folks who don't wish to bother with that could look very profitably at Postgresql, whose libraries don't carry a GPL license. Anyone seems able to make a proprietarized version of Postgresql, so maybe the problem will return there.
    • In America, Afganistan, Africa, Iran, Iraq, etc, to name but a few, in law, victory follows the money.
  • Companies always are looking to buy up the smaller guys, especially the "hot" ones. Right now, open source is growing as a buzzword, but there have been plenty of other examples. Seven years ago, everyone thought Internet radio was The Future(TM) and that's how Mark Cuban made his billions (selling boradcast.com to Yahoo). I'm not saying that open source will tank like Internet radio did; I just think it's analogous right now.

    That said, anytime there's a leadership change there's uncertainty. Will the ne
  • Not to fear (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Eric Damron ( 553630 )
    One only has to look at SUN and Open Office. Once SUN GPL'd the code it was out there. So even when they decided to close source it the net effect was that the code forked. We still have Open Office and always will.
    • Never let the facts get in the way of a good story.

      Star Office was closed before Sun bought it and free'd it. Its done good for Sun, and good for everyone else. Think I would go back to MS Office? ... On FreeBSD on Sparc?

  • by argoff ( 142580 )
    The US is going thru technology deflation. In the past, a 1000 companies would have been required to buy over 2000 software packages at over 3000 each. Today, they just collaberate on an opensource software project, maybe add a few K to the pot here and there depending on their needs.

    This is very good for the little guy who can now get literally millions of dollars worth of development for free, but the transition in the US economy will be very harsh. The drastic drops in cost and margin (along with Asia
    • Wow. In your rambling discourse you pretty much managed to tag all of your pet peeves, except perhaps for "W" and the obligitory MS bash. I'm sure their omission was accidental, however.

      And I don't want to say your arguments don't support your conclusion, but... your arguments don't support your conclusions. First, I think you're rather dramatically overstating the amount of penetration, and by extension, the impact, of OSS. What percentage of how many boxes run Linux, again?

      Second, do you think IBM, to

      • by argoff ( 142580 )

        What percentage of how many boxes run Linux, again?

        It's not driven by the amount, but the uptake. Which for Linux , apache, firefox , etc is obviously very high

        do you think IBM, to pick an example, is into OSS for their health? Or do you think, just maybe, they believe they'll make up lost software sales in service, maintenance, and support, and in the hardware needed to deploy those solutions?

        You don't get it, this is the way the market is going wether it provides IBM optimum profit or not. IBM l

        • Which for Linux , apache, firefox , etc is obviously very high

          Obviously. About 6% for Linux, right? And replacing a free web browser with another free one is deflationary in what way? Apache is a better case, but as I mentioned regarding IBM, all those Apache servers need hardware to run on, and people to set them up and maintain them. All installations which might not have existed otherwise. And so again with IBM, OSS is nothing more than a loss leader. For others, like mySQL AB, it's an income generator

  • by JetScootr ( 319545 ) on Sunday February 19, 2006 @03:33AM (#14753510) Journal
    I'll try not to be flame bait, here, but the article says:
    "The question that customers need to pay attention to is what is going to happen to the code that was open source," says Bob Igou, a research director at Gartner. "Does it remain open source? ...Or .. cannibalize it and integrate it ... and in a sense the open source product goes away?"
    This is, of course, a complete misunderstanding. Once open, always open. The spin on the article is that a buyer may mutate the product into something the customer doesn't want...like, say, the way Microsoft mutates its products so it won't read your old spreadsheets anymore.
    As my example shows, the problem isn't limited to Open source, but only open source has the solution: Stick with the old version, modify it to suit new needs, modify it to output a new format that you're going to upgrade to, or ... or... do anything else that meets your needs. The world changes. Open source makes it easier to keep up than the monopolists "screw you, in 8 months we're not supporting it, and we're not gonna let anyone else support it either".
    The article mentions that there's a worry that "great programmers" will leave the OS company once it's bought. Yeah, maybe. Maybe a buyer could commit business suicide by driving away the best people in *any* company... and maybe those good people can continue to support the OPEN product from whereever they land... or maybe, since it's open, there's ten times as many "great programmers" who have access to the code who'll take up where the originals leave off.
    The writers don't get the most important fact - Microsoft's monopoly is on *products* not *service*. In terms of service, MS isn't the 800 lb gorilla - open source is. For every MS employee, there's at least 100 open source programmers. And for every one that quits, there's a dozen more young folks in college whose eyes are being opened.
    • The article is pure FUD, IMO. The writer is basically saying that managers should be 'scared' of buying OpenSource in case the product is "bought up and goes away or becomes proprietary". This neglects two extremely obvious points: (1) The alternative is to buy proprietary software anyway, which is already, uh, proprietary, and can also just as easily disappear, and (2) OpenSource cannot "disappear".

      So in fact, using their logic for the reasons on which to base purchasing decisions, managers should actuall

    • Actually, it seems to me, it's the commercial vendor that buys up an OSS distributor that is at risk. It pays a great deal of money for what? Essentially goodwill, an installed base, and the developers.

      What if the developers take some of the money, then leave and carry on working on the project independently? Or set up another distributor? This applies in spades to the owners of the distributor, who can screw millions out of the commercial company, then leave and start over.

      As Abraham Lincoln said about Gen
    • ."The question that customers need to pay attention to is what is going to happen to the code that was open source," says Bob Igou, a research director at Gartner.

      At least with MS we know what happens with their software products - they stop supporting it after a few years, thus users have to buy all new software.
       
  • by oncebitten ( 893231 ) on Sunday February 19, 2006 @04:10AM (#14753599)
    I really wanted to use mod points for this discussion, but I decided to give my $.02 here.

    Building software is no longer a sustainable business model. With outsourcing to the third world, and open source, there's no margin anymore. The only exception is for the big boys, who eat the little ones and become monopolistic (see Oracle, Microsoft). Or, the companies who become service companies primarily (RedHat, IBM, etc) and fund OSS.

    All the advocates of the free market here on /. haven't realized the essential truth, the free market will eventually cause these monopolies due to what I've outlined in the paragraph above.

    The same thing happened in the telecom sector (deregulation followed by consolidation) because of the invisible hand of the free market. Why is everyone surprised that the same is happening in software?
    • Building software is only unfeasable due to the sheer number of software producers. If the margins remain as they are, that problem will rectify itself over time. There is an oversupply of software producers because the demand for new software has dropped, as should be expected in a maturing industry predicated on selling "solutions"; eventually all the useful solutions are common-place, and the demand for new ones decreases. There will always remain a non-zero minimum demand, created by first-time customer
    • Building the same software is no longer a sustainable business model. Then again, when has it been?

      The software landscape is changing so fast that I think there will always be new niches where it's possible to build software and earn money - and open source will continually replace it. The only case where this may be blocked is if GPL divides the world into two, one part the is "pure proprietary" and one part that is "free software". And I think the world would be way poorer for it.

      Eivind.

  • Well yeah of course when Apple 'bought' BSD that was pretty much the last nail in its coffin. BSD is truly and utterly dead after going commerercial.

    Oh wait it isn't you say? You Mister BSD user then what is that smell of decay and rot? Oh that is just you, it ain't the OS?

    Oh but Apple never 'bought' BSD they just used it and that is not like what is happening with Oracle and IBM.

    But IBM at least has been putting a lot of its own software into OSS. They have been getting a lot of press about opensourcing

  • by Qbertino ( 265505 ) <moiraNO@SPAMmodparlor.com> on Sunday February 19, 2006 @06:19AM (#14753863)
    The business mechanisim of OSS is marxisim. It's a marxisims wet dream actually. Everybody takes what he needs, makes what he wants and all have the right amount of it.

    It's software, people. It's sequences of bits. It's imaterial and the fact that you can duplicate it for no cost at all is what it's all about. What failed miserably in the real world (for obvious reasons) works extremely well in the virtual world. Marxisim.

    Groups are organized not by money but by a mix of effective hierarchy, mutual interests, code of honor, hype & marketing (Ruby on Rails anyone? No way would it have come that far with the ususal crappy OSS website and without socially competent advocates) and some other soft skills. It's more like a tribal thing than a capitalistic one. It doesn't need money to work. The whole point about OSS is to make it work without money. It scares the living piss out of Microsoft and other entities that are big in the money game and have no foot in the OSS game, because it's not their league.

    Remember the Mambo/Joomla! incident a few months ago? Miro thought it could pull some stunt by 'controlling' or 'regaining control' of what had become of Mambo through the community. The community walked away in something like 2 days flat. And people don't even care if there was some agenda behind it by Jamboworks. The new Joomla! thing serves the purposes of the community better while the Mambofoundation appears as nothing other than a sad and sorry scheme to benefit of others work without paying back.

    Companies controlling OSS? Not if you're not willing to play the OSS game. SUN is a good positive example. For some fuzzy reason Java is considered 'sort of open source allready anyway' even by the most fanatic free-speech advocates. Why? Because they actually do their homework and really contribute. They're giving away their OS, generally nice like with the OSS community and share the ups (OpenOffice) and downs (declining interest by old school business) and thus have gained a solid reputation amoungst OSS people. By now SUN would damage itself if it would take that back again. Like SCO did. SCO played hardball - arguably in a notably stupid manner - and got the reciept for that imediately.
    • I don't think it's marxism. It just promotes *competition* on *equal grounds*. Everyone is *not* equal (like in the aforementioned ideology) but instead they can do at their best because the ground is common for everyone. (Unlike the aforementioned ideology, where everyone is equal, even in the results).
  • I believe that the GPL should have a clause that 5 or 10 years after publication the software falls in the public domain. This is long enough that with normally maintained software nobody will run away with it and start his own version, while it gives users the benefit that if the software is negelected at some point someone else can take over on a commercial base.
    • GPL only relies on copyright in the first place to combat abusiveness of copyrights with respect to software.

      Copyright was originally supposed to be given back to the public domain after N years. Fix copyright, don't destroy GPL's ability to combat it's abuses. It needs these protections just as much after N years, because the abuses of copyright exist just as much then. If copyright were fixed, it would be a fixed in a much better way for GPL.

    • Software released under the GPL, even by a company such as IBM or Oracle (or companies they've purchased) can always be forked at or just prior to the purchase or some other decision to limit its distribution. (charge money for all and sundry instead of just extra service or better versions)

      This means that the business model of the purchaser must be at least reasonable with respect to the future of the product(s) they've purchased. Notwithstanding that, of course purchasing the original copyrights does mea

      • Many opensource companies get part of their income from making closed source versions or add-on products. They can do this only if they own the source or if it is in the public domain.

        As for commecial companies ripping off the source to make their own closed source version: I don't believe that is a real problem after 5 or 10 years. If the software hasn't been developed for so long it obviously has lost its appeal. If in that case a closed source company is making something from it, it clearly has added som
  • Not to worry... Open or Closed is not the issue so much as the source of innovation. You can't truly purchase creativity. As many cigar smoking, butt-kissing business guys have discovered the "lie" of "Our company cares about it's employees" pales in comparison to the ideology of OpenSource projects. To some of us, it is obvious that Open Source is a consequence of the Internet. Pre-Internet, it was possible to maintain Informational Hygiene & treat information assets like any other market commodity.
  • by Anonymous Coward
    have our cake and eat it too: (1) start open source business, (2) sell to big company, (3) profit, (4) fork the project and continue where you left off. It's awesome. Let's just hope the big companies don't catch on.
  • It's an interresting article, but IMHO it doesn't reflect, why big Companys like IBM or Oracle should invest (or buy) OSS.

    The Problem for Corporations is that the GPL, as well as many other licensing models, is mandatory. You cannot gain control of it, unless ALL developers give their permittance. Just imagine how IBM tries to track down AND convince EVERY SIGLE ONE of the thousands (if not millions, I don't know) of Linux developers. Funny picture, isn't it? the code will never be worth (of course not the

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