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I came across a post today in one of the mailing lists I frequent where the user asked "Why would anyone pay for something at is based on Open Source". This question comes up many many times in various projects and in various forms. I did post a reply to the message, hopefully helping to educate, but thought the question was worthy of deeper exploration.
I'm running Kubuntu Gutsy Gibbon (7.10) on one of my main workstations. As with its sibling Ubuntu, it's an endlessly-entertaining blend of really nice stuff and really irritating stuff. The nice stuff is nearly-current releases of fast-moving applications like KDE, Digikam, Krita, KWord, and other apps that I use a lot, easy-on-the-eyes graphics, a good set of default applications, and nicely-organized menus. The irritating stuff is they still don't pay enough attention to delivering reliable basic functionality in core functions like networking and printing.
So my question is simple: Who is the open source big dog? The answer to the question as stated is likely IBM. You're welcome Savio. :-) IBM, of course, benefits nicely from its investments in Apache and Eclipse and has done a lot to make Linux what it is today. But IBM is not betting the farm on open source, so let me tweak my question to be: Who is the open source [as a business] big dog?
I ran a quick, informal poll on the internal Gentoo developers' list last week, and tonight I began analyzing the results. 50 developers responded to my 9-question survey, and I'm going to post the results of 1 question at a time.
Does motivation matter? Open source contributors are increasingly people who are paid to work on open source. GNOME contributor Lucas Rocha asks how this impacts communities over the long term. This is not a new question by any stretch.
This may not be "the year of Linux on the desktop" -- and who knows, maybe it is -- but there's little to no question that this is a pivotal year for open source as a mainstream economic phenomenon in the tech world, as my colleague Charles Babcock has indicated. My big question is: what next?
Every user of an application has run into small but irritating characteristics of that application. Most of the time, they can be easily ignored. But sometimes they are part of a repetitive task, and then they become problematic. They have a disproportionate effect on both productivity and the user's overall impression of the application.
Why are we still having this question surface? Apple already zapped the valid question in response. So why in the world would someone want to support a product(s) designed by a company that disapproves of Linux usage this much?
In my last post, March 23, 2008, I asked the question “Linux - Is it really for me?”. That post was actually written a few weeks ago and was lost when my Blog went down. Now I have the answer to that question. It is a very firm “YES”.