UC Berkeley: Linux Adoption in the Public Sector: An Economic Analysis
Jun 11, 2004, 22:00 (0 Talkback[s])
(Other stories by Hal R. Varian, Carl Shapiro)
[ Thanks to Anonymous for this link and
From the contributor:
Hal Varian and Carl Shapiro, two economics professors from the
University of California at Berkeley, have written a research paper
describing some of the economic issues surrounding open source and
open standards software and its adoption by the public sector.
The authors, who previously co-authored the book Information Rules: A Strategic Guide to
the Network Economy, analyze the costs and benefits of adopting
Linux, rather than a proprietary version of Unix or Windows. Their
analysis is rooted in proven economic principles regarding software
markets, and will be helpful to public-sector decision makers. The
authors' main conclusions are that:
- "The Linux operating system has achieved a 'critical mass'
sufficient to assure users that it will be available and improved
for years to come, reducing the risk to users and to software
developers of making investments associated with Linux."
- "The Linux operating system has a number of very attractive
features for information technology managers in both the private
and public sectors: users adopting Linux are less likely to face
'lock-in' than those adopting proprietary platform software, and
they retain greater control over their own computing environments.
These benefits are especially salient in complex computing
environments where large users benefit from the ability to
customize their software environment, as often occurs in the public
- "Open source software, such as Linux, typically uses open
interfaces. Some commercial software uses open interfaces, some
uses proprietary interfaces. Open interfaces typically lead to a
larger, more robust, and more innovative industry and therefore
software with open interfaces should be preferred by public sector
officials, as long as it offers comparable quality to proprietary
- "Because Linux is open source platform software, adoption of
Linux can help spur the development of a country's software sector,
in part by promoting the training of programmers that enables them
to develop applications that run on the Linux platform. The
adoption of the Linux platform may well promote the economic
development of commercial software to run in that
- "Fears that the licensing terms associated with Linux
discourage the development of commercial software are misplaced.
The fact that Linux is open source software in no way requires that
the development of application software running on Linux follow an
open source model. Rather, we expect mixed computing
environments--involving open source software and commercial
software, that employ both open and proprietary interfaces--to
flourish in the years ahead."
Complete Story (26-page PDF file)