A think tank's view of free software
Posted May 9, 2007 16:54 UTC (Wed) by epa
In reply to: A think tank's view of free software
Parent article: A think tank's view of free software
The sentences from the report quoted in this article are all valid points. Yes, there is a lack of commercial support for most free programs. Perhaps you or I don't need it, but a lot of companies want it. Yes, there are sometimes weak points with interoperability - while you can buy plenty of things that integrate directly into Microsoft Excel, but not so many statistical packages in the free world have an OpenOffice.org plugin. Or if they work with OOo they don't plug into KOffice, etc. Yes, there are industry standards which are better supported by proprietary software. Companies aren't interested in the excuses for why this is the case, only that it is.
If a report published by Red Hat or the Apache Foundation or some other august body had pointed out the need for 'better governance of open source contributions' then we would be treated to a solemn LWN editorial agreeing with this and stressing that we, as a community, must remain vigilant blah blah. Because it comes from a report by users or potential users of free software, who happen to be companies rather than individuals, we get treated to a Slashdot weenie diatribe making sarcastic quips rather than acknowledging that there might be something to look at.
Indeed, even if none of the points had any validity, they are still _perceived_ as valid by these hundred or so business people. And their perceptions of free software will influence what they decide to use. If you wish, you could see it as a marketing problem, a need to correct mistaken views in the world outside. Myself I think that 'the customer is always right' is a good motto to follow.
These CIOs are not 'greedy sharks' as another commenter called them. They are users, just the same as you and me. They have their own businesses to run and saving the world is not their main job. The boring work of word processing, accounting point of sale automation and the hundred other things needed by businesses may not be as cool as setting up peer-to-peer wireless networks or porting Ruby to camera phones, but it's an important part of the world and free software needs to spread there too. We should listen to the conclusions of the report and find some way to address them, rather than blowing them off.
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