osOpinion: The Value of Open Source

“Let’s start by saying one thing: Value is relative. What’s
priceless to me is worthless to you (and vice versa), so it really
changes the question of value to one of relevance, not actual
worth. Does a car have value? Sure, if you have gas. Without, it’s
just a heavy, cramped room. Without, you’d trade it for a

“In the software biz, there have always been two sides to the
coin. On one side you’ve got the big guys, the ones who have hired
squadrons of programmers to create their XYZ software system.
Understandably, they tend to be very protective of their
investment, and aren’t anxious to give it away. There are some very
basic economics at work here (and I’m sure that’s no surprise to
any of you): Spend money on R&D to give you a competitive
advantage, to increase your market share and toss some money back
at the investors. Giving away the software would upset a lot of

“On the other side we’ve always had the guys who love to code,
and better yet, love the recognition they get when they give the
code away. Probably the first geek-mainstream conflict between
these two worlds was the infamous “open-letter” from Bill Gates to
the developer community regarding the use of the Microsoft BASIC
If you don’t remember this, it arose because
Microsoft’s BASIC language was so easy to use (compared to what
came before) that development on the various implementations
flourished. People were giving their programs away, trading them at
computer shows, and so on. The problem was that because you had to
buy Microsoft BASIC, a lot of the guys writing code would “lend” a
copy to their friends. Bill didn’t like that, and I understand why:
It cost him money to develop it, and being a rather astute
businessman, wanted to make a lot of money selling it.”

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