Thursday, May 27, 2010

Folks and potential Customers, please look at open-source applications too

I cannot understand why the likes of Apple and Microsoft can generate so much passion, debate. and brouhaha. Whether Apple has overtaken Microsoft as the technology company with the largest market-cap is immaterial to me? My issue is with the predatory business models followed by leading technology corporates. Why do we as customers want to give up the freedom that certain technology corporates take away when we buy products and services from these predatory corporate giants?

Why not look at the possibilities that the open-source software model has to offer? Freedom for one. Freedom to use and do what you want to do with it? Freedom from periodic and costly upgrades. Freedom from anti-competitive lock-ins.

Isn’t that what you do when you buy any other product? You basically own the product for which you put down your hard-earned money. So, why should software be any different?

Now, look at Apple from the application developer perspective. The current Adobe Flash episode comes to mind immediately. Let us say you have a hot idea and have developed a solution for it. You want to implement your application on the popular Apple platform (iPOD, iPAD, iTunes or whatever!!). Go ahead... After all it is your idea and your freedom and privilege to do as you choose. That is what the sensible business model should be. But no, hold on, wrong assumptions.... If you want to get onto the above-mentioned platforms you must basically sign away your right to implement the same or similar solution on a competing platform. Outrageous, isn’t it? Did the platform vendor pay you to develop your solution? Was the original application your own innovative idea or did the innovative idea belong to the platform vendor?

Can I give an example from other industries? Honda and Mercedes are leading providers of auto engines to practically all competing Formula-1 platforms. They compete through the technology they have developed and have a right to migrate it to competing automotive racing platforms. That right belongs to them because they own the technology they have developed. So, why is application software any different? Shouldn't I have a right to proliferate my IT solution onto as many IT platforms as possible? I can understand having to invest in the platform provider's tools that might enable me to implement my task. But I cannot understand why I would give away my right to proliferate the solution?

So, the moot question is why would otherwise intelligent application developers give away their freedom on the intellectual property they have developed? One answer that comes to mind is short-term greed!! Instant gratification is a societal short-coming. This is a good example of it.

This aspect of succumbing to predatory corporate behavior disturbs my sense of personal freedom in the same manner as if some physical property I owned were to be taken away forcefully from me by a non-democratic government. Why would I want to let that happen to my virtual intellectual resources through the force of a one-sided corporate appropriation?

Folks and potential customers, go for open-source. If customers start looking at open-source applications and solutions with some passion and diligence they would find open-source solution developers stepping up to the pitch. Open-source solutions can be and are competitive, cost-effective and start-of-the-art.