How Linux could overthrow Microsoft?

Open source inverts this model. Under the terms of the most common open-source licensing agreement, the GNU General Public License (GPL), a program”s source code must be made available whenever the program is distributed. Other programmers may do what they want with it, on one condition: any modifications they make must also be covered by the GPL–that is, their code must be made available. The GPL, in combination with the meritocratic culture of software technologists, has yielded a highly transparent, decentralized approach to software development, controlled by communities of engineers who determine the direction their efforts should take. Open-source development groups generally post all their work publicly, including specifications, source code, bug reports, bug fixes, future plans, proposals for enhancements, and their often vitriolic debates. Linux is open in this sense (and yes, Microsoft monitors it closely).”

“There is some truth in this. And while the problem is declining as commercial demand for open-source software increases, this creates a final irony. One objection to open source is that, in the end, it might just produce a new generation of big, bad, rich monopolists. With the growing importance of Red Hat, some critics see Microsoft all over again. In an open-source world, one might ask, how could Red Hat possess power in the way that Microsoft presently does? The explanation lies in the premium placed upon compatibility, stability, and service by large corporate customers. Red Hat examines every piece of code it ships; it certifies applications; it ports its code to seven different processor architectures; it provides and tests device drivers; it writes code to improve performance on specific machines; it guarantees service for seven years; it provides the same products in more than a dozen languages; it has someone there to answer the telephone 24-7. Customers who run their businesses on Red Hat won”t switch easily, even though a rival”s source code is equally available. The code that Red Hat ships therefore becomes, to some extent, the real Linux standard.”

“Finally, one wonders whether the best features of open source could be combined with the advantages of the proprietary model. One possibility would be to add mechanisms for compensating independent open-source developers. There are interesting precedents. For example, in the music industry, members of the American Society of Composers, Authors, and Publishers receive compensation whenever their work is performed in public or played on the radio or television. Similar compensation rights could be built into open-source code without causing the lock-in problems associated with proprietary software. Vendors and users could choose whether or not to accept code that required compensation; they could rewrite expensive code and replace it; compensation rights could be negotiated, including the possibility of automatically terminating them after a period of time”.

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