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Why Linux And Windows Will Never Do Your Laundry

If a store opened across the street from Target, same relative inventory, same service, only difference everything was free, would Target survive? Unlikely. Yet in software… "Payware" = "Freeware" (open source) -------------------------------------- Windows = Linux Oracle = MySQL MS Office = OpenOffice Ultra Edit = PSPad …the current reality is that payware and freeware compete in the marketplace head to head. In fact, the “for pay” software continues to thrive in the marketplace despite free software that is in many cases just as good (some might claim better). Why is this? When you buy a pair of jeans at the store the total cost is paid in full at the time of the purchase. There are no additional costs involved that directly pertain to the manufacturer. Of course there is the on-going cost of maintaining the pants through washing.

This is a totally different market that is wholly agnostic to the brand of jeans. In other words, Tide washes Wrangler’s the same as Levi’s. With software the game is different. Only a small percentage of the total cost of software can be attributed to its development. Support and maintenance make up a sizeable chunk of the cost.

The larger one scales the software the higher these costs go. There is no singular solution like Tide to deal with both Windows or Linux. Sure you copy files in both, and make directories, but the means of doing so is very different and not interchangeable like your detergent. My trivial example has not even exposed the tip of the iceberg! So this leaves us with the issue of market share. When you have a commodity that requires so much additional and continuing service/support, market share becomes a very important factor. Support and service for free software is anything but free. Microsoft loves to tell us (and rightly so) that TCO (total cost of ownership) between Windows and Linux is in the same ballpark. They even claim that Linux costs more, all factors considered. But the geeks at Redmond can’t have it both ways. Open Source software that can be obtained for free does not represent communism (Remember Mr.

Balmer declaring this?). Communism to my understanding was never a sustaining and growing multi-billion dollar business. If we look back as to how Microsoft dominated the market we tend to forget some key points. * The mainframe market viewed Microsoft as a passing fad. [The CEO of DEC wondered why in the world anyone would every want to own a computer.] *Microsoft was the only real game in town when it came to PC operating systems. [Any attempts by others (DR Dos, OS2) were summarily squashed.] *Microsoft gave away IE in order to squash then leader Netscape. [Who?] *Microsoft sold early versions of Office for $99.00 to gain market share.

[Other players at the time were selling there office suites for 3+ times that amount. Microsoft bought market share by thinking long term. After all, changing your word processor and spreadsheet are a bit dicier than changing your undies. Also, think of all of us who make a living off these products.] While many software vendors have come and gone, it is the open source, "here it is for free" Cowboys and Cowgirls that are here to stay and threaten the very world of "for pay" software. But what the hey, we developers are typically more enthralled by creating things than making money. I know of no other profession on the planet where not taking and reusing other peoples work is considered the sane way of doing ones job. I believe in journalism they call it plagiarism?.


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