April 1, 2004

Why Open Source Can't Meet Mass Market Demands

Author: Institute for Policy Innovation

(Washington, DC): Is it possible that, despite all the hype, open source
is not necessarily the best way to develop software? That it's not about
to take over the software industry, and that it's no more a threat to
Microsoft than were Netscape, the Macintosh or Word Perfect? [Editor's note: We received this press release by email several days ago. As far as we know, it is not supposed to be humor.]

A report released today by the Institute for Policy Innovation (IPI)
reveals why it's absolutely possible.

'While open source may fill a useful role in specialized computing
environments, open source does not translate to the mass consumer market
for software,' says IPI report author Tom Healy, a research software
engineer and policy researcher in Sydney, Australia.

'The mass consumer market is qualitatively different from other markets.
It demands a much higher level of software engineering in order to provide
the requisite ease of use, robustness and flexibility.'

Mass Markets:
Many of open sources' famed 'success stories' aren't relevant to the
capturing the mass consumer market:

  • The computer game market dominates technological innovation. Yet
    this innovation is not developed not via open source models, but by
    commercial developers.

  • Most open source success evidence is cited in relationship to
    research outlets like academic and scientific computing developments. It
    is the research, not the software, which constitutes their primary output
    and is the criterion by which success will be judged. Thus actions that
    undermine competitive standing of software have little impact for
    academics, but can cripple software developers.

  • Academics gain nothing from protecting their source code, whereas
    commercial developers do. Why? Academics' pay comes from teaching or
    government or private grants while developers' pay comes from the software
    they produce.

  • Most open source projects are poor quality or unfinished and
    certainly not comparable to the commercial model.

  • Most open source conferences include firms that are not software
    developers at all. Rather, they are web developers whose products include
    little original intellectual property.

Continues Healy: 'Pushing the open source concept too far into areas where
it's not applicable will lead to universities and taxpayers shouldering
the cost of software development for business, and doing it less capably
than specialist software development firms.'

The information in this press release is abstracted from IPI Issue Brief,
'Has Open Source Reached its Limits?' by Tony Healy. For copies, visit
www.ipi.org or contact Sonia Hoffman at shoffman@ipi.org.
The Institute for Policy Innovation is a non-partisan, public-policy


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