Ok – and I guess that means consultants will rule the world again which will put them in the same bag as lawyers and politicians. (great!)
There is a serious push for everyone to provide free software but there’s a hypocrisy there as well: I want a free operating system and a free development system but I want my customers to pay me for something I will build? You can’t have it both ways. If you are a consultant and being paid to deliver something, then you are no longer an open-source proponent. You will be making money off of someone else’s back.
But the critical factor here is what software should be free? If it’s the OS or the Word processor, why not the inventory management system or the customer tracking database?
The biggest problem with low-cost or free software is that customers then expect the support to be the same and that just isn’t realistic. This article hits part of the nail – hardware will never be free (it may just seem that way with support and subscription services). But software is in the same boat – the time and energy that goes into software development may not be the same as building a house – but the provider still needs to be paid somewhere along the line.
For every Bill Gates who has made a fortune on software, there are hundreds of smaller developers who have a great idea for a product but are almost pushed into the realm of public domain or freeware by the open-source people. And yet, the constant demand for their time grows, even though they aren’t seeing any real money from it.
Sure – it’s good for the ego, but it’s not good for the pocketbook or life in general. This is similar to the music industry but at least with software, no one is likely to want to download the 1.7GB for a particular package (unless they have that trusty T1 line).
How many people actually registered WinZip? I know I did but I’m amazed at how many people have it who are on their 5675th day of the “free trial” and have used it more than 10,000 times. It’s $30. Show some support to the actual people who go out and make these things.
If you don’t pay for your software, then you shoudn’t expect much. The reverse is also true – if you pay for your software, then you have every right to shout and demand new features and the like. Sounds like democracy, right?
This isn’t critizing the open source community – I think building software in the wide open is a great idea – HOWEVER, it should not be the only argument for its benefit. Unless everyone in open source is independently wealthy, its likely that the guy offering up his wares for the world is struggling between a meek consulting practice and trying to build the next great thing.
Free software is not a solution; neither is free hardware. If the trend continues without a change in attitude, we’ll all be worse off.