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The Wharton School: Why Global Software Development Unleashes Innovation

Apr 10, 2001, 16:38 (4 Talkback[s])

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"One of the biggest developments in software during the past decade has been the growth of the open source software movement. On the face of it, even the existence of such a movement seems bizarre: Why should large numbers of programmers around the world volunteer to spend hour after hour writing code or catching bugs without the hope of monetary gain? And yet they do. Open source development has led to the creation of applications such as the Linux operating system and the Apache web server. Launched eight years ago at the initiative of Linus Torvalds, a Finnish student, Linux-based operating systems have captured nearly 30% of the server market...."

"What implications does the open source movement have for the global software industry? Wharton's Bruce Kogut and Anca Metiu explore that question in a paper titled 'Distributed Knowledge and the Global Organization of Software Development.' Based on interviews with dozens of software engineers and managers in four countries – the U.S., Ireland, India and Singapore – the study points out that the growth of a global infrastructure has made it possible to 'exploit globally the opportunities opened by the digitalization of production and products.'"

"Metiu and Kogut see the open source movement as a tremendous driver of innovation. 'The open development model opens up the ability to contribute to innovation,' they say. 'It recognizes that the distribution of natural intelligence does not correspond to the monopolization of innovation by the richest firms or richest countries. It is this gap between the distribution of ability and the distribution of opportunity that the web will force companies to recognize and to realign their development strategies.' In other words, engineers in China, Israel or India who are unable or unwilling to move to Silicon Valley or the Research Triangle need not be locked out of innovative product development: They can play a vital role in the creation of new products and services."

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