Free Open Source Kills Markets
Open source, as a meme, is a successful one. It is also a confusing one because open source often means free software. I am for open source, but I am against wholesale adoption of free software because I believe it harms the health of software industry.
Free open source software devalue commercial software and poisons the marketplace. If some talented individual started giving out free Microsoft Word clone with source code, not only will Microsoft stock drop by 25%, entire word processing market will disappear. Once buys starts thinking that something should be free, there is no turning back.
One might argue that adding new features could revive markets decimated by free software. New features has leverage only during early half of a product category’s lifecycle. Word processing market is already well past the halfway point. I measure halfway point as the point where 20% of product feature set meets 80% of user’s needs. Past that point, users start caring less about new features.
If its possible for a talented individual working in their own time to produce a viable free alternative to a commercial product, doesn’t that offer some indicatation as the the true value of that product? If I can get a free Word clone from the net (and I can) instead of paying 100 pounds for Word, then chances are I will. If however, Word had sufficient added value in terms of reliability, ease of use, extra (useful) features, and good quality support to justify the price differential, then I might choose Word. The key issue is that the choice is mine to make. Competition, whether from Open Source or commercial products is a good thing.
If a commercial product is in competition with a cheaper commercial product, it must have sufficient added value over and above the lower cost alternative to remain competitive. Competing with Open Source is merely a more polarised example of the same issue.