Back to KMD2004: competitive forces

(This is not even a draft - more like table-napkin scribblings for my article for a class I'm taking)

Although open source can greatly help developers advance in their careers and provide low-cost, custom solutions for local markets, other factors discourage local developers from gaining open source experience.

First among these factors is the lack of time. Most open source developers are employed by software companies. In a software industry where the benefits of open source are not clearly recognized, developers are unlikely to have the leisure time to experiment with open source.

Second, language may pose a significant barrier for local developers. Local developers who are not comfortable with English may find it difficult to participate in most online communities, where English is used as a common language.

Third, customers may need to be educated about the benefits and risks of open source. Customers may prefer the brand name of an established proprietary solution, or may resist change. Customers who have read about open source may be too optimistic about the benefits it can offer, only to be burned. Developers must carefully manage expectations as they sell solutions to their customers.

Lastly, some actors actively work against the adoption of open source. This is discussed in the next section.

Open source solutions can directly cut into the revenue stream of proprietary software developers and distributors. Some proprietary software vendors adapt by offering open source products. Other vendors attempt to discourage open source adoption through aggressive discounts of closed source software, marketing campaigns, and even anti-open-source articles and advertising.

Use trackers enforce the copyright of proprietary software products by imposing heavy fines on organizations found to violate the licence, but do not educate users about more affordable open source alternatives. This has the effect of stifling the local IT industry due to higher capital requirements. Use trackers can also harass companies that develop with open source projects through audits and other actions.

Proprietary software companies and use trackers such as the Business Software Alliance also exert a powerful influence on the very frame of the controversy. The metaphors chosen and promoted by these organizations are based on physical property and use words such as theft and piracy. Open source advocates argue that the near-zero cost of duplication and distribution of software makes it fundamentally different from physical goods. Because proprietary software companies have successfully framed the debate on their terms and laws and public understanding reflect these changes, open source advocates have a more difficult time arguing the benefits or even the legality of their work.

Proprietary software producers can also weaken support for open source through litigation. Patent disputes can scare developers and consumers away from contested software, or even open source in general. Patent disputes generally play out on the global stage, but affect the public perception at the local level as well.

The open source license is a controversial tool. Different actors within the network attempt to align other actors according to their goals, and how these actors resist the attempts of other actors.

On Technorati:

Random Emacs symbol: message-syntax-checks - Variable: *Controls what syntax checks should not be performed on outgoing posts.