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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)

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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 sector."
  • "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 alternatives."
  • "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 environment."
  • "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."

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