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.

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