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ComputerBits: Damaging the proprietary software market with GPL

Jul 15, 2001, 18:31 (27 Talkback[s])
(Other stories by Ted Mittelstaedt)

Anyone curious for a take on the history of antagonism between proprietary and open source software (predating by a long shot the invention of the phrase "open source") may be interested in this piece, which characterizes the differences between the two as growing out of the cutting-edge adaptability of the small-time independent developer and the more marketing-oriented money-making prowess of the proprietary houses:

"Twenty years ago, the personal computer (PC) and mainframe software market operated like most other larger markets -- software companies had an R&D department, spent part of their budget on generating new software products, and devoted the rest to sales, marketing and operations. This was a pretty standard model, and it served the software market well for the first 5-6 years.

Then, something unsettling started to happen. Consumers began noticing that the "established" software manufacturers, like Lotus, Ashton-Tate, Wordperfect and others, really couldn't produce new product that was any better than product produced by tiny, small startup software houses.

The reason for this was simple: the big software companies stifled the creativity that the really best programmers demand, and they were quitting and leaving to form small software companies. This shift triggered a decade of "acquisitions," and very shortly the model of the software market was set. Small software companies were the innovators and created the new revolutionary products. Big companies were the marketing engines and simply modified these new products in an evolutionary manner."

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