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November 1st: Torsten Jacobi, CEO of Creative Weblogging, joins host Anita Campbell. Sponsored by Six Disciplines. Show details.
Friday, July 09, 2004
Open Source Software Threatens Innovation
The Small Business Survival Committee's most recent Cybercolumn suggests that the open source software movement threatens innovation and entrepreneurship:
"Open-source software certainly is a competitor for Microsoft. But is it a sustainable form of competition? Indeed, open source generates some obvious questions. For example, are entrepreneurs, businesses and other innovators going to do their best work when they aren't creating their own property? Is security and troubleshooting best performed in such an open, non-proprietary setting? Anyone with a minimal understanding of economics will see that the answer to both questions is no.

For good measure, open-source software creates potentially significant liability risks for businesses choosing to use it. How do those providing and using open-source applications know that someone's intellectual property wasn't stolen and inserted? They really don't. Such lawsuits already have been brought, and it's easy to envision them spreading significantly.

If programmers want to spend time creating free software, and businesses want to cash in on this work, so be it. That's their decisions to make. But it doesn't stop there. Many in the open-source crowd, as the Times noted, "propose rewriting intellectual property laws worldwide to limit their scope in duration." In fact, many just simply want to do away with intellectual property rights altogether."

Interesting column. Let me share a more practical, everyday issue I believe small businesses have with Linux and other open-source software. Open source applications are still, for the most part, not user-friendly, either to install initially or conduct business with. Instead of technology working for the business, the business ends up working on the technology. Tech businesses and tech early adopters don't seem to mind this. They have the expertise and the interest to fiddle with open source applications and deal with the idiosyncracies, lack of integration, lack of support, etc. But a small business that is not in the tech industry -- say, a retail establishment or a small manufacturing business -- just wants software that does the job with the least amount of hassle.

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