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Re: [K12OSN] OT: Open Source counter-arguments

On Jul 14, 2007, at 1:25 PM, ahodson wrote:
Look at GIMP for instance. Whenever Adobe comes out with the latest Photoshop, THEN the GIMP community comes out with an update that tries to match the feature set. Sometimes they do, sometimes they do not. But, GIMP is NOT Photoshop. That is because Photoshop, like many other commercial programs, have an ecosystem built around them that simply cannot be matched by the OS community. Plug Ins, peripherals, books, training video, websites, all revolve around the commercial product.

The ecosystem doesn't exist because the product is closed source, it exists because Photoshop has been around a long time and has a lot of users. Look at the ecosystem around Firefox. There are tons and tons of great extensions and plugins for Firefox. Far more than any other browser. It's true that Photoshop has functionality that GIMP doesn't, and the reverse is true as well. There are a few little features that GIMP does that Photoshop does not (at least according to some GIMP users. I don't do much photo editing so I really can't tell you.) GIMP and Photoshop were designed to tackle similar, but not identical, tasks. GIMP wasn't originally aimed at publishing, just web graphics, so it doesn't (IIRC) support CMYK color. The broader point is that the "copycat" argument cuts both ways. Yes some OSS is simply designed to be a drop in replacement for existing closed source programs; mostly, because they simply wouldn't port the closed source software to the "small" linux market. They also couldn't be included in the linux distribution, since they are not freely re-distributable.

I can get something that MAY be like the plug in I want to use in Photoshop, but to say a program IS JUST LIKE another program is in fact, a terrible misstatement.

This is true of any alternative to favorite program X. No two pieces of software are exactly identical. That's not an argument against open source, it's an argument that they can never switch to a different software package because it doesn't have the EXACT same feature set. Sometimes people really need a certain piece of functionality. Sometimes doing it the other way is just as good or better, but it's different, and people don't like to change. Office doesn't save to PDF. Yes you can buy another software product, but it's integrated into Open Office. Every piece of software has functionality that its competitors don't. The question is how much you heavily you depend on those features, and how exclusive are those features?

Finally, you cannot be in any conversation with an OS person without these words being uttered: "Why should we pay Microsoft for this or that?" Interesting. Why pay for anything? Why pay Dell for hardware? Why pay AT&T for connectivity? Why pay EXXON for gas? I don't understand the aversion to having to pay for something. The entire economy of the free world is based on this. You pay for goods and services.

Open Source isn't about free as in beer. Although much of the software is free of cost too . It's about openness. Dell and Exxon have a marginal cost for their product (so does the printer of the Cathedral and the Bazaar ), meaning that each additional computer or gallon of gas cost them additional money to produce. Software (like movies and other intangible things have marginal costs that are zero (or approximate zero). This means that an additional copy of Office 2007 or Firefox costs basically nothing to produce. It's all just bits. All the cost for software (and music and movies..) is upfront or fixed. This means that software can be free, as long as fixed costs are covered (These costs and payments may or may not be monetary). The writer of the C&B talks about people "scratching their own itch" (or their company's itch). You'd be surprised, but the number of people employed to write software for private use far exceeds (by like ten times) the number that write off the shelf software (stuff that others buy or license.) Most of these people aren't in the software business, so why on earth would they want to try to sell this stuff. The value is in its use. If even a small outside community wants to use or develop their software, then it's no skin off their back. Others are in a service business. They are writing this stuff to help a customer. Making it open source means they can reuse code from one project to another, regardless who has the copyright. The customer doesn't worry they will be cut off from the code base of the software they use either, they always can find someone else to develop it, even if the original developer owns the copyright.

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