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developerWorks: Open Source in the Lab

Oct 31, 2002, 13:00 (12 Talkback[s])
(Other stories by Cameron Laird)


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"Scientists and engineers conventionally use proprietary products such as The MathWorks' MATLAB, Wolfram Research's Mathematica, or SAS Institute's SAS/IML (see Resources for links to the companies' products mentioned in this article) to collect, process, and report research data. Although it's tempting from a software standpoint to lump these products into the larger category of 'business intelligence' or 'analytics,' they each are carefully crafted for the specialized science laboratory market--and enjoy unusually high levels of customer satisfaction.

"These applications have been successful, both financially and technically. MathWorks, for example, is still aggressively hiring programmers and Mathematica rolls out interesting enhancements with every release of its symbolic calculator, including 'document-centered interfaces' and its 'algorithm knowledge base.'

"These applications are running into a new generation of competitors, though. In particular, reliance on open source software at many sites is growing steadily. This article explains why, and what the consequences are for your own work. It also concludes that open source and proprietary products might end up as teammates, rather than opponents..."

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