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Re: [Fsfe-uk] Cheats!

From: Ian Lynch
Subject: Re: [Fsfe-uk] Cheats!
Date: Sat, 04 Feb 2006 10:47:32 +0000

On Fri, 2006-02-03 at 23:44 +0000, Shane M. Coughlan wrote:
> Hash: SHA256
> David M wrote:
> > On the one hand, you have $BIG_GOV or $MEGA_CORP, who believe that any
> > problem can be solved by throwing (or withholding!) money at (from) it,
> > on the other hand, you have $CRAZY_INTERNET_STARTUP (Yahoo, Google, etc)
> > who started on shoestring budgets and so instinctively went the OSS
> > route, scaling up and scaling up and eventually becoming big enough to
> > start contributing things back to the pool..
> I would suggest that the situation is perhaps more to do with task
> usefulness.  When a large company needs to buy software, they need a
> support package.

But that really is a seperate issue. There are plenty of companies that
support free software. Sun will support OpenOffice.org, Novell support
GNU/Linux, IBM do too. Then there are small businesses like the Open
Source Consortium. The fact is that you don't automatically get support
when buying software licenses for the applications that are responsible
for locking everyone into proprietary licenses, the support is on top.

>   It's not good enough to have an active community.
> They need someone they can call when the system goes down, and they need
> someone who can promise to fix it. 

So engage a company to do it. That is more an attitude of mind than it
is a real difficulty.

>  They also need certification on the
> stability and security of a system according to XYZ standards (like the
> famous orange books in the USA).  FOSS has a problem with offering
> support, and offering a transition path that looks assured to allow
> productivity to continue relatively unhindered. 

There are problems but they are not without solutions.

>  The situation is
> improving, but it'll going to take a long time before FOSS
> infrastructure can match something like Microsoft.

I think MS is a bad example. If a corporate buys a computer with an OEM
OS its down to the vendor not MS to support it. There is no real reason
why that could not apply to GNU/Linux. If your company buys a specialist
proprietary app that is specifically supported by the app's copyright
owner who is the only one that really knows it well, that is a different
situation. In terms of the basic OS and productivity tools there are a
number of companies capable of corporate support. In specialist apps
that isn't the case and the difficulty is when those specialist apps
only run on Windows. 

> Yahoo! and Google directly profit from using FOSS.  Effectively they are
> getting products for nothing, and that's really useful when they need to
> raise their profiles for jumpy shareholders.  Microsoft is under a lot
> less pressure that way.

MS is under a lot of pressure from several directions, not least that
the shareholders expect a rate of growth that is probably unsustainable
whatever happens. If Open Document really catches on MS Office revenue
will be decimated. That alone would be a disaster from MS's point of
view which is why they are so aggressive in the Massachusetts debacle.
Strategically this is a line of least resistance as far as the FOSS
world is concerned. If MS Office topples, it will accelerate the same
fate for Windows and MS know it.

Ian Lynch <address@hidden>

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