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Software "Open Monopoly" 284

Posted by Hemos
from the could-it-happen dept.
garoush writes "The following article is at C|Net.news Software "open monopoly". In it "Sun developers Petr Hrebejk and Tim Boudreau say the economics of open-source software will break Microsoft's operating system hammerlock and replace it with a what they describe as an 'open monopoly.'" I Personally have issues with such claims. With .NET, MS is positioning the company at "services" -- in effect MS is now gearing up to take on a new monopoly: "services" at the "consumer" level. If you agree, I don't see how "open monopoly" can break MS. After all, your average "Joe the consumer" doesn't know a thing about open source. " The submittor has an interesting point - but I think that even if John Q Public knows nothing about open source, if the services he uses are running open source, it doesn't matter.
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Software "Open Monopoly"

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  • ha ha ha, they'll just release a special "limited" version of open source stuff you're running, that makes it more "compatible" with MS's services. next thing you know your machine isn't your own, and that Linux partition you had has magically disappeared. guess that's a feature.
    • I agree. The great thing about M$'s Embrace and Extend philosophy is that is can work on everything.

      OTOH, this Open monopoly could be bad for John Q Consumer-Nondeveloper. A developer could code a program that's great. JQC-N needs one more feature. Now they have to hire Jane P. Developer to make it for him. There are goods and bads to both. Since, I'm a tech, I support an Open Monopoly but I don't think it can squash M$ anytime soon.
      • On the other hand, in the proprietary software world, if John Q Consumer-Nondeveloper needs one more feature, he CAN'T hire Jane P. Developer to make it for him. He has to ask the software developer if they will make it, and then wait and wait and wait and hope the developer agrees.

        In the open source world, the freedom to modify that software to get you that one extra feature is a great strength.

  • by Bob McCown (8411) on Wednesday October 24, 2001 @01:52PM (#2473319)
    We already have open monopoly [freshmeat.net]!
  • an open monopoly? I haer people saying that "it is just as bad to have an open source monopoly as it is for MS to have on".
    I never under stood this reasoning because if it is an OSS monopoly, would that not mean that the people are in total control?
    • by krlynch (158571) on Wednesday October 24, 2001 @02:09PM (#2473415) Homepage

      if it is an OSS monopoly, would that not mean that the people are in total control?

      If I understand what you imply by "the people", the the answer is "no". Just take a look at most (NOT ALL!!!!!) OSS projects today: while there are some notable exceptions, the developers are not interested in making "better software for the people", but "better software for themselves". I am not making a negative value judgement here; there is nothing wrong with this attitude! If you are going to write software for free in your own time, I EXPECT that you will write the software you want, with the features you want, and document it however you want, even if those things don't advance the needs of the larger user base.

      But this model doesn't put "the people" in control any more than a closed source model does! In fact, while it might make the monopoly a little more transparent, it completely removes all incentive to be responsive to the "needs" of the "users" (i.e., those users who are not also active developers); in this sense, an OSS monopoly may actually be WORSE for the "the people" than a closed source monopoly is. The closed source monopoly at least has to worry about pleasing government regulators and large volume customers; OSS projects don't even have those hurdles to overcome.


      • But this model doesn't put "the people" in control any more than a closed source model does!


        Sure it does! If the "people" want a feature that isn't in the OSS, they can code it up themselves, or hire someone else to do it. Try that with closed source.

        • But my point is that the vast, vast majority of "the people" can neither do the coding themselves (inability to code, lack of time, etc.), nor can they afford to hire someone to do it for them, nor can they convince or cajole anyone in the OSS world to write what they need. It is just cheaper and easier for someone/some company to pay for a less-than-perfect closed source program that can do more or less what they need to do and that comes with more or less competent on-demand support, and to stick with that software once it has been chosen, than to modify, write or have written the code that does exactly what they want. Most of the closed source "monopolies" got to where they are by providing exactly the less-than-perfect code that did more or less what was needed by the largest number of people. Unless the OSS model manages to respond to the needs of people who neither have the time, the money, the knowledge, nor the inclination to do have the coding done "for them", the closed model will always survive to feed them almost-what-they-need. And I suspect that an OSS monopoly would generally be less responsive to those needs than a closed source monopoly.

      • But the fact that the code can be forked presents a much more real accountability mechanism than "don't like our x86-based desktop OS? buy someone else's. Ha-ha!" A credible fork that does respond to user needs raises the possibility of the original project withering into irrelevance.

        If you think it doesn't happen, I'd give the examples of Minix-to-Linux, gcc-to-egcs-to-gcc dropping its code in favor of egcs, and X11-to-XFree86. Minix was more a case of adopting an orphan, but in the case of gcc and X, an important and widely-used code base was successfully wrested from the control of its original developers by the community.

        Also, since the free software world relies on open reimplementable-for-free standards, it's common for new competitive projects to take "share" from established ones. Witness GNOME development after KDE's head start, the proliferation of mail servers despite sendmail's dominance, the rise of ssh to replace telnet, the quick spread of Konqueror use, etc. All of these projects were started because some users didn't like the "dominant" project, but the relevant standards (X, POSIX, SMTP, HTML) allowed alternative implementations that wouldn't be crippled by incompatibility.

        Free software has, from its first project (GNU emacs) been about developing alternatives to the dominant software available. That sounds like people power to me.
      • The closed source monopoly at least has to worry about pleasing government regulators and large volume customers;

        Baloney. (with all due respect.)

        The key word here is monopoly. Any monopoly has to do niether of these things, because they are a monopoly.

        I will agree that any commercial non-monopoly must do these two things. In order to survive.

        Look at the history of past monopolies. They will do anything either legal or illegal in order to maintain their monopoly. First and foremost. Monopoly maintenance is even more important than profits! It doesn't matter if you are prosecuted. It doesn't matter if you have to pay fines. It doesn't matter if you have to agree to consent decrees. After all, as long as you squish competitors, you can make up lost profits later. People have to pay whatever you charge. Now, you can't just suddenly raise prices, but you must make it seem like XP is oh so much more valuable than previous releases, and therefore worth way more money.
      • There's a very simple way for "the people" to take control of open source development: donate money to projects they like. Those who do so demonstrate that catering to their tastes will be rewarded, and then it's in commercial developers' best interests to make OSS with established donors in mind.

        It's the simplest, most direct exchange of the relevant scarce resources: money for control over what is produced.

        If you're interested, follow my sig.
    • Imagine yourself in the crossroad.

      To your left is a world of "open monopoly"

      To your right is a world of "MS monopoly"

      You have to make a choice to live in one of them. Which would you choose?

      The moment you have chosen one, you have answered your own question - that the two are not "equally bad" - that one of them is the obvious lesser of the two evils.
  • John Q Ignoramus (Score:2, Insightful)

    by DeadPrez (129998)
    ...but I think that even if John Q Public knows nothing about open source, if the services he uses are running open source, it doesn't matter.

    And the inverse works just the same (John Q Public would be perfectly happy with closed source services). This is a battle that won't be won at the consumer level.
    • If the services are Free Software (as opposed to open source), then of course the consumer has a choice: although you may have to pay to receive services, there is nothing stopping a competitor setting up a competitive service, and you can't lock each other out - you have to compete on something other than a monopoly market position.

      It's a no-brainer - surely even Hemos understands it??
    • ..."ignoramus'" PCs...and they love it! especially when I explain that their lack of a qualifying product for an upgrade will mean that they will have to shell out 650 bucks (Cdn) for a full version. Free is a pretty strong persuader. I'm not sure if StarOffice qualifies as open source (for the purposes of our discussion), but the same argument can be applied to genuine open source products, including O/S's. Money remaining in the user's pocket instead of streaming into Bill's pocket is a concept that needs to be allowed to speak a little louder.
  • Jim Allchin, the company's Windows operating-system chief, was quoted by Bloomberg News earlier this year as saying: "Open source is an intellectual-property destroyer. I can't imagine something that could be worse than this for the software business and the intellectual-property business." He added, "I'm an American, I believe in the American Way. I worry if the government encourages open source, and I don't think we've done enough education of policy-makers to understand the threat."

    Translation: I support a laissez-faire business model. For me. But please shut down our competitors.
    • Allchin's looking at it from the point of view that the buyers exist for the benefit of the sellers and not the other way around. In other words, the consumer has an obligation to arrange their needs and desires to support what the producer wants, and if it takes legislation to force that to happen, well, to him, that *is* The American Way.
    • "...and I don't think we've done enough education of policy-makers to understand the threat."

      I wonder how much education will be enough?

      $100,000? $200,000? =)


      -And how would you like that, Senator Schmidt?
      -Oh, tens and twenties.

      Mayor Quimby: "Did I, uh, hear a briefcase opening?
  • I agree with this article's submitter that open source OS / servers are not going to kill MS.

    I believe that the article's point about today's corporate open source usage vs. that three years agos says just as much about the corporate world being pissed off with Microsoft's licensing practices as it does about the improving quality of open source products.

    I'm an IT buyer, I budget and spend dollars on an annual basis. It doesn't take a big whack from the clue stick to realize that MS is trying to AOL-ize their revenue stream.

    Cheers,
    - RLJ

    • I'm an IT buyer, I budget and spend dollars on an annual basis. It doesn't take a big whack from the clue stick to realize that MS is trying to AOL-ize their revenue stream.

      Also, remember that it didn't take a big "clue stick" for businesses to figure out how innovative and powerful the internet was for streamlining and saving money for their business. And they had no clue what this new-fangled 'internet' thing was 10 years ago. Open-Source probably won't create any new-new economy, but it won't take long for some cheesehead purchasing manager of IT dept's at any Fortune500 company to figure out that software that is free and does exactly the same thing as the pricey, licensed software of MS, Oracle, etc is a much better investment for their business.

      • "...but it won't take long for some cheesehead purchasing manager of IT dept's at any Fortune500 company to figure out that software that is free and does exactly the same thing as the pricey, licensed software of MS, Oracle, etc is a much better investment for their business."

        Well, yeah, but only after he realises that the answer* to the question "Who are you going to sue if it doesn't work?" is the same with either kind.

        *(Nobody, the license means they get to treat you the same way The Secretary would have treated Jim Phelps if he ever got caught.)

  • The only way it will work is if they can constantly do things like "request" that you sign up for a passport account or use their current dominance to make themselves look like the only option.

    Without windows .Net loses.

    Now whether an "open monopoly" will happen soon enough to stop it is a totally diffrent question.
  • Everyone is wrong. (Score:4, Insightful)

    by supabeast! (84658) on Wednesday October 24, 2001 @01:59PM (#2473357)
    No one will correctly predict where things are going. Computers and the devices that run them are too varied and change too quickly. No one ever expected Microsoft to go anywhere early on. Microsoft never expected the internet to go anywhere, which is why they are still having a hard time getting their shit together. Eventually, something strange and surprising will come out of the kludge that is screwball desktop OSs and people trying to connect everything in the universe to the net, and it will change everything. Such is that nature of the chaotic beast that is the transistor.
    • by srvivn21 (410280) on Wednesday October 24, 2001 @02:34PM (#2473542)
      Your headline, and the gist of your statement is correct, everyone (likely) is wrong. But your focus is too narrow. This chaos is not limited to the effect of the transistor.

      Look back a couple hundred years to the days where cargo was shipped via sailing vessels. Then one day someone (James Watt?) designs an efficient steam engine. Someone else (Robert Fulton) figured out a way to effectively drive a ship using a steam engine. Most of the shipping companies (my great great grandfather 's company included) could not foresee the impact and benefits or this technology. As a result, his son (my great grandfather) basically put him out of business by taking advantage of the benefits of steam powered ships.

      The electric motor is another good example. When they were first exhibited, they were unreliable, and room filling (remind anyone of another tech that we know and love?). Today, electric motors are effectively invisible.

      History continues to show us that innovative people will realize unorthodox uses for gadgets that many think will never have a purpose. And those unorthodox uses will (overall) make our lives easier, and more pleasant to live.
  • As we read articles like the recently published and still steaming wired article predicting the death of Linux as a desktop OS and the futility of fighting Microsoft, I wonder... If Linux and its ilk are no threat to MS, then why are they running so scared?

    Regardless of whether Joe Sixpack understands how to install an OS (which he shouldn't have to), eventually it won't matter. MS has repeatedly shown that despite all their resources, they can't produce anything but crap, and in the long run they will fail.
  • by dave-fu (86011)
    Yes, open source as a hobbyist development model can and will persist long into the future, and I'm sure that there will be fun and exciting products as a result of it.
    That said, now that the heady, greedy days of the dot com boom are long behind us, it's high time to re-evaluate the position. Money isn't growing on trees and being plucked from the asses of VCs star-struck by that beautiful three-letter phrase (IPO, IPO, IPO!) so much that they can overlook that little thing called "a business plan."
    Internet advertising is the redheaded stepchild of the marketing family. Old media ads have no need to justify themselves with inanities like "click-through"; they know their demographic and their real estate is mindshare, that precious commodity which they assume that they're purchasing with their ad dollars, regardless of whether or not this purchase translates into a product purchase immediately or down the road. The internet is a fickle bastard: people gravitate towards the warez model of "buy none, get one free" and so there's the propensity towards stealing everything we can. To wit: the inevitable linking to archives.nytimes.com anytime they've got an article up because registration is such a chore, but if you were to ask the average Slashdotter how they feel about someone using "their" resources without registration (think Anonymous Cowards here), one would instead getsthe impression that merely providing a name and e-mail address is as simple as could be. Hmm. To wit: proxies, ad-killing bots and specialized hosts files that insure that our precious bandwidth isn't eaten up by ancillary ads that might keep the sites afloat, but then again if we don't click on them and buy something might not even if we do see them. Hmm.
    Ah, open source. Communism reborn, and who can hate that? Not the watered down Leninism that the Soviet Union ran through in short order, but honest-to-goodness communism. Take what you need, give what you have. Beautiful. A touching sentiment.
    Also impossible to be a commercially viable entity when human nature comes into play. If we can get our content ad-free we will, even though it means economic hardship and possibly the closing of the sites we visit and love (or love to hate, as the case may be) and if we can get our software cost-free, without the dirty stigma of clicking through porno banners to find the 3rd word of the 4th paragraph to get entry to L33t b0b'5 h0u53 0f w4r3z, all the better. I whip up a weekend project that is derivative but I'm proud of and off to Freshmeat with you! Maybe even Sourceforge! Take it! Share it!
    I'll pour a few hundred hours of blood, sweat and tears into it! Shiny new! Everyone wants it! It's hot!
    But how do I parlay it into a commercial venture when everyone can get it for free and fix it up as they want? Hmm.
    Open source is a lovely idea with lofty goals, and as long as talented, motivated, intelligent programmers buy into it, it will generate impressive results. Unfortunately, there's a very finite number of talented, motivated, intelligent, ascetic programmers out there who will buy into it.
    OSDN's changing business strategies faster than you can say "we're a B2B play now!" (read: brushed up that resume yet?). If bigger ads or a subscription service to a website who doesn't give a whit about the quality of its journalism and doesn't know the meaning of the word "editing", relying on constantly inflammatory agitprop to woo its readership are the order of the day, then I'll just stick with Ars Technica, The Register and memepool (topical, informative, and normally journalistically objective sites), thanks. Slashdot's been a fun little ride, and like many other things, peer moderation was a sexy little idea, just unfortunate in that it pretty much disintegrated into ugly mob rule groupthink. Scene, not herd.
    • Re:Enough already. (Score:2, Insightful)

      by Evangelion (2145)

      Did you just type this up randomly, expecting to get moderated up just for rebellously bashing slashdot, with a bit of "get real" attitude added to it?

      The article wasn't brilliant, but it brought up one point, and then took an acid-induced trip out into left field at the end.

      It was basically saying that OSS products will gradually eclipse propriatery solutions, because there are too many problems and costs associated with properiatary software nowadays. Not just monetary costs, but also costs for downtime, costs for cleaning up after a worm takes out your office network for 2 days, and (potentially) reduced hardware costs.

      OSS doesn't have licencing costs (which are a huge factor and headache for smaller companies), and are (generally) more reliable with respect to issues such as viruses, worms and trojans.

      It's actually fairly ironic -- just as OSS software is trying to figure out how to make themselves profitable, MS is right alongside them scrambling to find new revenue streams for thier flagship products, because they're not as relatively profitable as they used to be.

      The problem with the article (which any english teacher would tell you -- wait, these are web writers, they probably failed english class) is that it suddenly decided to go off into left field at the end talking about how companies that provide OSS can be profitable, which has really nothing to do with it's first point -- in that the gradual increase in the use of OSS is inevitable.

  • by glebite (206150)

    A truly Open Source version of Monopoly would be neatoh to play. I mean - I've played the ASCII versions, the BBS versions, some version for Windows, but one for my Linux box would be fun to play...

    Oh wait - you're not talking about the game are you?

  • Think of it this way. What happens when a software project is more maintainable, more self-managing? When geography is less important? When companies need fewer buildings, less energy and have more choice in the labor market? What would happen if all software projects were built on more robust, maintainable architectures? Those sound a lot like things that lead to cost savings.

    This is just like open source politics/economics (socialism).

    I really like socialism and spread the virus wherever I go, since I think bottom-up control of stuff by the people who design things is a good idea.

    Unfortunately, for a world socialist society, its proponents would have to wage a war against the entrenched interests of capitalism.

    A very chaotic, damaging, bloody war.

    Similarly, the Open Source Monopoly would enforce rigorous peer review on all software while encouraging long-term profitability trends. It's a damn good idea!

    The problem with the idea isn't the IDEA, it's the fact that large corporations think on the short term and don't want to risk losing the "asset" they think they have built up with their closed source technologies.

    They don't care about the long term future of the software industry, they care about the need to compete with voracious rivals in THIS economy!

    Open Sourcers, they won't listen to your reason, your arguments, or your technology benchmarks.

    They will cast a chill over your free speech and beer with intellectually unsupportable, unconstitutional laws because they can. Despite the irrationality of their actions. They'll do it every time.

  • I think the Open Source model is not revolutionary enough to prevent the problems of proprietry ownership of code and domination by multinationals such as MS.

    The reason for this is that capitalism is capitalism, and although some take the Fabien position that it can be reformed to cater for the needs of the majority, it seems pretty clear to me that only a radical overthrow of the entire system can improve our lot and stop the evils.

    What does this mean in an Open Source context? Well, there is nothing in the OSS liscence preventing corporate PLC's from using software code. It merely addresses the symptoms, and not the cause. A more restrictive liscence for the people denying access to selfish concerns would be a great boost and a bigger threat to MS than anything.

    At present there is nothing stopping MS from using OSS software and still dominating, despite the left reformist nature of OSS. Frankly, a new liscence is needed if we really want to see the back of such companies and corporate practises for all time.

    • The reason for this is that capitalism is capitalism

      Thank goodness! Can't do away with capitalism because it's what runs everything from radical socialism to extremist anarcho-corporatism. In short, capitalism is an economic model that has nothing to do with political models. Capitalism means that capital is the dominant means of production. You don't want to do away with it, because the only alternatives to are base production on labor. I would rather purchase a car built in a factory because it's far cheaper than one built by hand from all hand-made parts.

      I have zero problems with any economic system, so long as it is based on the voluntary actions of the participants. Where I have a big problem is when a bunch of whiners get together to use the power of the government to get their way. If you set up a socialist society, you won't hear any objections from me. I might even join if you run it right. But once you attempt to force that society on upon me you become my enemy. The same is true for those that set up proprietary corporate structures. It's fine by me until you attempt to make me comply with your vision.

      Apropos software, I will be as much opposed to your demands that I only use Free Software as I would to your demands that I only use proprietary software. It's my choice what software I use, and if you don't like, go blow it out your ass.

      A more restrictive liscence for the people denying access to selfish concerns would be a great boost

      Like I said, go blow it out your ass. Whether or not I am selfish, altruistic or somewhere in between is my concern, and my concern alone.
  • ...when describing this phenomenon. A true monopoly is one entity controlling the selling and distribution of goods or services. Not to mention all the negative connotations with it as well.

    This open-source "monopoly" is more like a free market system than anything else, where many entities create, distribute and control the flow. The barriers to entry are eliminated or reduced.
  • ...is a bit of a misnomer. If OSS starts to have a big market share, or even all of the market, it will still not be a monopoly. No single company will have the sole 'power' over OSS, for example, think of Linux vs. BSD vs. AtheOS etc. Don't forget Redhat vs. Caldera etc. Definition (stolen from dictionary.com): Exclusive control by one group of the means of producing or selling a commodity or service: "Monopoly frequently... arises from government support or from collusive agreements among individuals"
  • Microsoft has a long history of milking people of their money because they can charge almost whatever they want. Be thankful other OSes exist besides MS ones. Imagine what they'll do with services. At least many more people are in the services area of business, or you'd have "$8,000 a month and an upgrade plan for webmail" type services. And, of course, they'll have the right to do anything they want with what you send through the system...thats Microsoft for ya.
  • While I think the authors have a point in the sense that gradual migration to an OSS codebase is something that will happen, there's a few points we should not overlook:
    • MSFT has 25+ Billion in cash. This means that for the foreseeable future they can:
      • place strategic bets by investing in whatever they think will be the next big thing. Witness their investments in the cable providers. Not all their bets have to work out ...
      • bribe their way into the enterprise. As long as the average IT manager is fed the 'research' reports (in part) paid for by MSFT, Windows will be very hard to disloge
      • MSFT may still succeed in buying laws which make it difficult for OSS to compete. Witness DMCA, which together with patents may well make certain technologies out-of-reach for OSS implementations. Unforunately, recent history in theis area is not very encouraging ...
      • money talks, even in court. It's still rather difficult to buy a brand-name PC without windows preinstalled. MSFT has enough clout to force vendors to comply and buy it's way out of any dangerous lawsuits it may come to face.

    • Hailstorm (if it ever works out) might give MSFT a far more insidious monopoly: the information monopoly
    • The MSFT monopoly (at this) point is not based on Windows anymore (think about it; Windows (as an OS) would be easy to replace) but on application lock-in with the ever changing Office file formats.


    I think technically (and from a usability point of view) linux is pretty much there but it will take (lots of) time for it to permeate the non-geek computing circles. It took MSFT 25 years to get where they are today; it will take quite some time for them to loose their position of influence.


    The biggest irony may well be that by the time linux became competitive on the desktop (ie: the last 12-18 months), MSFT was (for the first time) able to respond with a product which didn't suck (Win2K).


    However, MSFT may still shoot itself in the foot by being too overbearing (restrictive licencing, 'forced' upgrades, cumbersome product activation, etc). If they squeeze to hard, people will look much harder at any alternatives out there. I for one think this is the biggest danger they face ...

  • This is something that I think that the OSS movement underemphasizes due to the socialist image that is so feared in the software industry.

    OSS is a very socialist movement. That's not necessarily a bad thing. It's been made into a bad thing by decades of 'red scare' propoganda and negative indoctrination by the companies who stand to be hurt by a less capitalist system of software development.

    Software companies, like all companies, beleive as if they have a right to exist and profit. There would be no such thing as 'intellectual property' if they didn't. They've been telling everybody else this same thing for so long that it's become 'unamerican' to try to deny a company its profit. Thus, when a mode of business has become obsoleted (Are you listening, music distributors?), that company starts engaging in negative propoganda to try to preserve their business model. Thus Disney's anti-napster cartoon and things like the 'Virus' speech from MS.

    Companies do not have the right to exist and profit. The existance of a company should never be protected from consumer pressure.

    In this case, it is the pressure to use free software. Here, I am referring to the cost, and not the ideology. Microsoft puts enormous pressure on businesses to use IIS, despite the fact that Apache is better, more stable, and costs 100% less. The same is true for all the Java servlet engines. Jakarta is the best, despite a wealth of options. The same will probably be true of Mono over .Net in the way of application servers.

    OSS Developers: Stress the 'free' nature of your product. In cases like Star Office/Open Office, it has already started to win 'Normal Joe' converts from pay for software.
    VirtualDub, the GPL'd video editor, has already become a defacto standard for internet video publishing. This is mostly because it combines excellent usage with zero cost.

    If you want Joe-sixpack to use your OS app, stress how much he gets and how little it costs.
    • While I think you're right that we should stress "Free" when talking to consumers/users, we need to be careful in how we say it.

      Many people associate free with less quality. We need to imply both Free and Better. In fact, that is what we should say:

      "Open Source Software is both Free and Better than closed source."

      When talking to corporations, trying to convince them to use open source, you need to talk about "lower cost to maintain and operate" and "lower cost to purchase". They won't be getting it free, as they will pay for service contracts and documentation and training. But it is true that it is Less Expensive and Better.

      It's all about the marketing. That and a little brute force piracy won Bill G the keys to the kingdowm.

    • Software companies, like all companies, beleive as if they have a right to exist and profit.

      Too bad the entrenched Pony Express industry wasn't clueful enough to buy legislation to protect itself from the onslaught of the evil Telegraph.

      Or perhaps it's not Pony Express's lack of clue, but Congress wasn't clueful enough to recognize the money to be made by selling legislation.
    • This is something that I think that the OSS movement underemphasizes due to the socialist image that is so feared in the software industry.

      OSS is a very socialist movement. That's not necessarily a bad thing. It's been made into a bad thing by decades of 'red scare' propoganda and negative indoctrination by the companies who stand to be hurt by a less capitalist system of software development.


      OSS isn't socialist at all. Socialism is a system where private property is owned by "the government" and its use is allocated by legislative decree. OSS is private property. The copyright is NOT given to the government and NOT given to the public domain. It is retained by the author as a private individual. This is done out of rational self interest that would make a die hard capitalist (like me or ESR) proud.

      When someone releases code, say under the GPL, they are making an offer for trade. The trade is that I give you complete access to my intellectual property and in return any derivitive IP you develop and distribute is thrown into the pool, so that I get access to it and together we make the same offer again. I make a speculative investment with the goal of gaining access to the IP of others for free. Its a form of direct barter and is based on the recognition that IP value has actual tangilble use value, not just a value because it provides an exclusive right to sell.

      Think of software development as a service. In order to control my computer, I need someone to provide that service. I can do it entirely myself, or I can pay someone else large amounts of money, or I can do a little bit of it myself and use that as barter to get a "force multiplier". OSS is about option three.

      This model explains why companies that throw their software out under an open source licence but don't adopt the open source development model don't get the same return on investment.
  • As usual, M$ is going after the money. This is not new, IBM realized that service is where the money is almost a decade ago. Open Source is, at least in part, an ideological movement and therefore can naturally plug the holes where there is less money to be made. Fighting with M$ over market share in OS was a noble thing, and we may win ultimately with some DoJ help, but this will not change the fact that M$ is going after the money. We all know that they aren't really technology innovators, their strength has always been seeing where the market is (even if they realize it later than others) and going after it with a well-oiled marketing machine. That's what they're trying to do now with services.
    • More questions than answers.

      Let's think the unthinkable for a moment.

      Let's suppose that Microsoft is not stupid.

      Suppose tomorrow's CNet and ZDNet headlines proclaim that MS embraces an open source development process. They successfully shift their business to making moeny with services. They aim to provide better support and service with open source development than any competitors. They quickly gain a monopoly, leveraging their existing monopoly to do so. Then they can offer substandard service and products, but marketed and packaged real slick.

      Sure, others can take their open source, improve it and try to sell it or sell service. But MS can quickly absorb innovations and take the high ground. Customers perceive the Microsoft brand to have quality.

      MS can run television and magazine ad campaigns. They can out market the competing open source solutions. They stand behind it and offer support, leveraging off the hard work of others in making a reliable product. People perceive quality, and safety in the Microsoft brand of open source. And it's worth paying a premium price for. Even though overall prices are lower. But consequently so are R&D costs.

      So Joe Blow comes out with, suppose, an improved packaged version of Apache? Microsoft Apache will soon have the same features. It will have a strong QA department and support and sales department behind it. Microsoft can ad-campaign Joe Blow Apache into the ground.

      MS can add some trivial contributions to their distribution. Drag their feet in releasing it. Absorb other contributions as they appear.

      See any fatal flaws in what I've described so far? Wouldn't it be ironic?
  • (just conjecture, I'm not suggesting this is the way it -is-, just a slim chance that it is the way it may-be)

    I know that may sound crazy, but look at the .NET stuff. The have submitted it for standardization, and must even supply a working implementation in something other then Windows.

    I know that part probably just includes things for server-side .NET services (And "hello world" programs), but I'm sure the runtime libararies will eventually be copied. Once those are done developers will soon be using that exclusively anyway, and getting (more) portability 'for free' since it's standardized.

    In fact, the company working on a Linux .NET (name escapes me) is planning on building the windowing framework too.

    After a time, MS will still be there, but only to collect monthly/yearly fees for MS Office (which will be DLed and installed over the net), MSN, email, and other net-based services. It may not matter whether you run MS Windows, or a *nix, since to interoperate with others you'll need .NET subscription.

    Of course, it may not turn out anyway like that.. I just don't see the motive in standardizing something that will only benifit themselves.
  • With companies such as IBM and SUN backing Open Source the question remains as to where do these companies see there future revenue being generated. These companies invest in the ideology with there future revenue being more focused away from the Shelf Software solutions (as per MS) and more to the Hardware and Services that are required to implement the Opens Source solutions. Either way in the long run the consumer is always going to have to pay for a quality solution, if it is against hardware, services or software is unknown!
  • Given that the people most likely to participate in an open-source project are also users of the application being worked on, what would happen if the customers for a software product actually participated in its design and creation? It would be impossible to create a product that is not what the market wants!

    Unfortunately, the only people who are able to participate effectively in the design and creation of an open source project under existing models are computer programmers. So yes, they will be able to create programs that computer programmers want to use, and they already have, which is why the only examples of open source successes the article could cite (Apache and BIND) are targeted at programmer/sysadmins. The problem is that the larger market doesn't want programs for programmers, and programmers are really poor at designing systems for non-programmers.

    This is not to say there may not be future open source models which allow the participation of non-programmers, but so far the only way seems to be for companies to take losses investing in open-source development meant to unseat a closed-source competitor -- and this strategic pressure would not exist in the imagined open-source utopia.

    How can user-centered design be reconciled with open source?

    Tim
  • The $500 billion question is whether or not MS can move their revenue base to services before their monopoly on the desktop runs out. I think they might just be able to pull it off, but the odds are against them.

    I figure the Linux desktop (including productivity applications) will be feature comparible to Windows/Office in about two years. That's about one iteration of Windows away. At that point the trickle of users moving their desktops to Linux will become a flood and MS won't have anything to use as leverage to take over new markets.

    So what are the chances that MS will be able to build their services business from almost nothing to $30 billion dollars within that time? Considering that the services don't even exist yet, I'd say their chances are pretty slim. When you consider the fact that IBM, AOL, Sun, Sony, Oracle, and others will be fighting MS all the way, I'd say MS is screwed.

    The best MS can do is become like every other IT company struggling to compete on merit. Sure they'll always be big, but in five years they won't be any more influentual than the other major players.

  • There's a reason Microsoft won the browser war. They shipped their browser on new PCs, and restricted the big computer sellers from including anything else. Granted, most people on slashdot are more than capable of downloading Netscape, but the general public isn't.


    That's why there will never be an open source monopoly. Until PCs ship with open source programs, 95% of the computing public isn't going to be using anything except that which came with their computer.

    • Open Source will never have a monopoly, legally speaking because no one company will ever have market power, not because single products won't arise to overwhelming dominance.

      Look at Apache, for example. 60% of domains run on it and the next runner-up is IIS with about 25%. No other OSS web server (and there are several) can touch Apache's market share. The same can happen with other products too. Market power in terms of products is OK, but in terms of economic entities, like persons or corporations, it is a BAD thing because it can damage the very foundation of the market economy and turn Capitalism into everything that its opponents think that it is.
  • I had a Dimension XPSD 233 that had the mother board go in it. they were quick to respond to the first call but after installing the mother board I found that it had also fried the video card. They left me hanging for three weeks while they tried to find the same model card. After several calls I finally got them to send me a different model card, but it was a major hassle.

    On the other side though I have had the computer for 4yrs and it still runs. There customer service may suck but they make the best computers out there.
  • One of the things that open source is good at is distributed development. I don't know that anyone can argue that point. However, services are more than just code. I think that MS is positioning itself into a world where the code is not as important as the directed effort of many people.

    The corporate lock-step activity necessary to execute a services plan is different than the open source model. In many ways, the services that are to be provided require a large marketing team to convince companies to use a new type of software (such as .Net). While the open source community can quickly create versions of .Net, the community would be hard pressed to create .Net from scratch AND get large corporate participation in the way that Microsoft is doing. (Yes yes yes, the reason that they can do it is because of their monopolistic position).

    So what if we let MS do all of the marketing work, and then reverse engineer all the code. Would this mean that MS is right and open source is stealing all the work? Is it more like the generic drug companies? Is it possible for open source to "embrace and extend" on MS activities?

    These are questions that are impossible to answer at the moment, but interesting to think about. Finishing back on the original point, however, we should really examine what these "services" are and if there is more to them than just code.

  • that if such an "open monopoly" were to occur, the majority of folks on Slashdot would be wailing about how the government needs to step in...
  • Has Slashdot started a new department entitled "Yet-Another-Intro-To-Open-Source-Article Department." Not to be critical, but the only thing his article shows us is that C|Net continues to cover and introduce Open Source through tough economic times.

    Of course, for those of you unaware of Open Source software, read the article.
  • Open source software is not possessed or controlled by any one group, and therefore it doesn't meet the criteria for a "monopoly". Microsoft can use it as much as the next guy. It gives nobody a commercial advantage or disadvantage, and if people want to write proprietary software in an open source environment, nothing is stopping them from doing so.

    What open source does is something very logical and economically rational. The technologies underlying Windows and UNIX were developed years ago and do not require much investment to keep up or "manufacture", yet commercial vendors keep charging a premium. Open source software simply reflects the fact that these old technologies should cost little or nothing nowadays. Open source is simply a mechanism of a rational, efficient market. And as such, open source software will indeed become dominant, unless the government enacts market-distorting laws for the benefit of companies like Microsoft.

  • Simple Economics (Score:2, Interesting)

    by begonia (177694)
    I'm not sure that I like the term "Open Monopoly" any more than I am that crazy about the term "Open Source Movement". I am inclined to think of it more in terms of simple supply and demand. For the first time in history, it is possible for any individual to produce a product (i.e., a piece of software) and to distribute it to the entire world with essentially no distribution costs -- merely the cost of an internet connection. The net effect of this enormous overhead supply is exactly what economics would predict: the price of software is plummetting.

    With regard to Microsoft, they have the reputation and the refinement of product to dominate current installations. They also have a cozy relationship with computer vendors that makes John Q. Public think he's getting things for free. But the quality of Linux products is improving rapidly. These days there are far fewer differences that similarities between a Windows and a KDE desktop. One of these days Microsoft is going to make a misstep, and I suspect their rate of their collapse will be a shock to most people.
  • Who pays to educate a student to PHD level, where upon he/she can write the complicated algorithms needed to do *insert subject here* within an 'open source' program?

    Are all your ideas going to come out of academics locked behind the desk? Or do you think someone with a HS education and lots of free time can do the complicated calculations while pounding out code?

    No, this isn't a troll- but *someone* has to think and spend the time to write these algorithms, and that costs money. Education costs money. Yes, you can have 3 million people working on it, and yes they are paid by employers ... and yes they can dedicate their time to helping along open source programs.

    Don't patent anything? Where's the profit motive? How will you pay off your 10 years of college for your PHD by giving away your ideas freely? Oh, get a job and then give those ideas away freely?? Sorry... can't work that way.

    Anways, I see OS as a more potent form of QA- force the corporations to incorporate the stability of newer platforms... if at least customers are expecting that kind of stability then that raises the stakes.
    • I don't know about "complex calculations", but the extreme wealth of effective Free Software shows that the model does work, and that many "someone"'s are, in fact, writing all these algorithms. Unless you think multiple kernels, a complex network-transparent windowing environment, a high performance/highly configurable webserver, multiple scripting languages, 2 major desktop environments, 3 office suites, and a whole buttload of other apps don't count as "complex". These apps all work, and will continue to work. People will continue to write them even if they don't have profit motives.

      Not everyone is in it for the money, and not everyone requires a PHD to feel like they can reach some goal in this world. There's plenty of work still to be done that doesn't require a doctoral level of education in computer science to write. While Free Software won't solve everything, it doesn't necessarily have to.
    • You're making unwarranted assumptions about the role of the free market in properly dealing with *insert subject here*.

      Let's talk pro audio here. There's a particular product out there that's widely used, "Jam". It burns audio CDs and allows the setting of PQ codes- lots of mastering houses are using this, in conjunction with quadrillabuck DAWs, to produce final output. It burns DAO, lets you put in ISDN codes for vendors, a wide range of capabilities that are strictly professional use. It also tries to offer features like crossfades, but the resolution of its signal processing is so inferior to what a mastering house with Sonic Solutions has, that those features go unused.

      The software was bought by Adaptec, and is being revised, for new versions to be sold commercially, sold into the consumer sphere. Now, mastering people depend on this software, and they would like substantially better dither, workflow improvements, specialised improvements to please their very, very small market.

      How much do you want to bet that there will be no improvement in the crossfade handling, but you'll get maybe a graphic EQ stuck on, and on-the-fly burning from mp3s?

      My point is that you're trusting in the commercial sphere to be the bringers of all good things, and the commercial sphere is just as capable of backstabbing. Look at CDRs. Mastering engineers can test the results of burns using special hardware to indicate the number of errors that are normally corrected silently by the CD player circuitry (your CD-R does not have this hardware. No consumer gear does, though some is hackable to enable it). Some brands of CDR are better at this than others, and 74 minutes is the standard media length. 80 minute CDRs came out, and mastering engineers freaked: the error rates were way up compared to 74 minute. The results were markedly inferior burns. As 80 minute media was pushed onto the market, it pushed out 74 minute media... where's the profit motive in keeping less-space media around for a relative few mastering geeks who, unlike the consumer, could test the error rates of the media? And that's the way it goes...

      In that light, open source is a vital counter, not because it forces corporations to play nice- they won't- but because if you're doing specialized work and you are using Open Source, you can't have it taken away from you. If you use commercial, proprietary software, you're in constant danger of having your tools taken away and returned as consumer-grade kiddy toys, and you have no protection and no recourse. The only true safety is in owning your own tools- and with open source, you effectively do own your tools, it's just that if someone else wants a perfect copy of your tools without taking your copy away, they can have it.

      Open Source has substantial value on its own, apart from any hypothetical ability it supposedly has to make corporations and competitors play nice. It's an ownership matter- a control issue.

  • Joe Consumer (Score:2, Interesting)

    After all, your average "Joe the consumer" doesn't know a thing about open source

    Although this statement is factually correct, that should not mean that we stop trying to promote Linux at every opportunity.

    I see the upcoming launch of XP as a chance for Linux evangelism on a huge scale.

    Don't like product activation ? - Linux

    Don't want to pay $200 ? - Linux

    I have managed to convert three of my friends to mandrake without really trying. Once you explain to them how Microsoft works, its like a light goes on in their heads and they are like, "where can I get Linux ?".

    For me at least it was like shooting fish in a barrel. Perhaps if more of us took an active approach to evangelism, there would be even more Linux users than there are already.

    Some people are still clinging to their microsoft comforter, but I'll bet product activation makes a few of those people think twice! :-)

  • c'mon folks (Score:2, Interesting)

    by naughtynative (213281)
    Apart from the natty meme 'open monopoly', what value will Slashdotters get from this article? Did you get to the bottom? To the bit where it says



    who's speaking?


    Petr Hrebejk is a senior software architect and developer on the open source NetBeans Tools Platform project at NetBeans, working for Sun Microsystems in the Czech Republic.


    Tim Boudreau is a software developer, writer and marketing manager on the same project, also working for Sun Microsystems in the Czech Republic.


    Now can you spell a-d-v-o-c-a-c-y ?


    This puff piece was meant for the suits.

  • ...is one hell of a monopoly to break. With even a licence to do development under .NET costing in the hundreds (or maybe thousands), .NET will be unreachable by Open Source vendors, making it impossible for the market to be infiltrated. MS will have a guaranteed 100% monopoly, from the day .NET is deployed.

    By even conservative estimates, Linux et al should have depleted Microsoft of several percent of market share. This isn't happening, except in some high-end businesses, and even that might be more attributable to the economic dark-age we're in.

    Worse, the likely result of the DOJ vs. MS trial is that the "settlement" will be quietly forgotten and the case dropped. Sure, MS has been found guilty, but if the settlement is a fine of $0.00, then that's the end of it. Right now, America is more focussed on "other" news, giving both MS and the DOJ a chance to wriggle out of the mess, if not smelling like roses, then at least having a stench that is totally overpowered by current events.

    To wrap it all up, Microsoft, Sun and Oracle seem to be keen on out-Orwelling each other. Seriously, I would not be surprised if one of those three companies effectively had the power to dictate and licence ALL computer use, of any kind, anywhere. At which point, we might as well all give up and go home. If Open Source becomes illegal through some piece of legislation or other (it nearly happened, not that long ago!), and/or information becomes purely licenced intellectual property (including common & public knowledge), then there is no point in even trying.

    The scary thing is, these are not so improbable, today. Ten years ago, nobody would even dream of trying to restrict even the most hazardous of texts on the Internet. I believe that the "Anarchist's Cookbook" even won in a court action, under the first ammendment. I'm not so sure that it would fare so well, today. There are plenty of public records that document the location of grounds contaminated with deadly bacteria and viruses. Given the genuine potential for abuse, I'd be amazed if these records stayed public for long. And if some records "vanish", then you can expect to see others slip into the "vanish" tray. "Accidents" happen, especially when people are too busy worrying about potential lawsuits & covering their back.

    The end result is almost inevitable. For very real security reasons, the Government and Corporations are going to have to re-think their attitudes towards disclosure. And since nobody likes to be vulnerable, that means that it's equally inevitable that we'll end up with some private enterprise that will graciously handle all that drudgery for everyone. At some point, it may well become mandatory to filter everything through such a company. At which point, "openness" will not exist and those who yearn for a reneissance will be deemed a hazard, or worse. The recently-dropped bill shows clearly that this is not some desperate attempt at an Orwellian nightmare, set in a Corporate-owned post-apocolyptic world, but something that today's Senators are willing to openly consider.

    • 95% of the desktop market...is one hell of a monopoly to break.

      Only if you think of it as a monopoly. When you think "monopoly" you think "there's nothing I can do about it". But there's a hell of a lot you can do about it when you shift your attention away from Microsoft and onto things that you can influence.

      Microsoft got its monopoly because of a few lucky guesses combined with a rapidly expanding user base. They got to the right place at the right time, and just a tiny nudge and they were a snowball rolling downhill. A few tiny changes to history (like open standards) and the world today would be different.

      What good would it have done for BeOS (as an example) to snatch 5% of the market share from Microsoft back in 1998, when the total market doubled in 1999? Until the market size stops expanding, focusing on market share is meaningless. Taking share away from Microsoft is absolutely pointless unless you're growing as fast as Microsoft.

      The good news is that snow covered hill that Microsoft is rolling down has a bottom. That bottom is the halt of the ever doubling user base. Pretty soon now, if it hasn't happened already, Microsoft will no longer be able to concentrate on the new computer user, because there won't be any. They are going to have to do what they have never done before, and that's to aggressively market to their existing customer base. You won't see millions of people switching from Windows to Linux, FreeBSD, Mac OSX, or anything like that. But you WILL see millions of users simply not upgrade their systems. Microsoft's growth will slow and halt.

      The article compared Microsoft to the railroad and phone monopolies of old. That is an inaccurate comparison to make. That's because the railroads and phone companies *owned* the infrastructure, namely the railways and phone lines. Microsoft doesn't own the computer infrastructure. They can't stop you from using the web. They can't stop you from using OpenOffice or Linux. They can't stop you from using AMD or PPC. They can intimidate but they can't coerce. Remember, the railroad monopoly didn't intimidate the trucks out of business. Microsoft is the railroad. Linux is a truck. If you don't want to ship your good by rail, consider shipping them by truck. Or ship, or plane, or ...
  • Mr. Public is quite likely to have a computer, and quite likely to learn a lot by using it. A 'we're smarter than them' mentality isn't going to help anything. If this community really does care about 'our rights online' maybe they should be in places where John Q. Public hangs out, telling him why he should care.

    Anyway, I'm veering of topic. I just know that I used to be a computer illiterate AOL user, and it was online activism in the Nader campaign, and then here on Slashdot that woke me up from the dreamy, free, unchallenged democratic paradise I thought I was lounging around in. Although, it was not being able to play Quake online that got me off AOL. But I sure learned to hate'em even more afterwards! And if some of the short-and-to-the-point arguements that are made here against MS, or AOL, or the DMCA, were made in an AOL chatroom, they'd have a much larger impact.
  • by pubjames (468013) on Wednesday October 24, 2001 @02:51PM (#2473680)
    The important thing to note about the Open Source is that it is a new process for the creation of software products. It is more efficient that the traditional means of creating software, so much so that the resulting software products are often free.

    Before Henry Ford, there were lots of little companies that built cars by hand. Ford's new process for creating cars made them cheaper. The small car companies at the time said, "But most people will always want hand-built cars, because they are custom built and better quality." They were of course wrong - the more efficient process won in the end. The only way that car manufacturers of the time could survive was by producing cars by the same process, so very few of the companies survived.

    Microsoft will try everything they can to stop the progress of open source, but in the long term, the more efficient process will win. Just like the car manufacturers of old, the only way that Microsoft can survive is to start using the new process. Unfortunately for Microsoft, it's a loose-loose situation, because the new process is so efficient that it is hardly possible to make a profit from it. So, either way, Microsoft dies. I give it ten years max.

    Ten years may not seem like a long time, but remember that it is less than ten years since the launch of Windows 3.1
    • Exactly. Even more telling is the fact that the two authors of this article happen to be living in the Czech Republic. What do you want to bet that they are willing to work for a heck of a lot less than our friends in the Silicon Valley?

      My friends in Peru will probably work for even less, and they'll consider it a blessing.

      The only way that Microsoft is going to maintain it's current position for 10 years is if they start drastically reducing prices, and start treating their customers like friends and not enemies. The problem with that, of course, is that if Microsoft doesn't keep up their revenues then Wall Street will punish them severely.

      Good Luck, Microsoft. Maybe everyone in the world will sign up for the Premium .Net My Services :).

    • The only way Microsoft can stop Open Source or at least slow it's progression, is through litigation, patents, and by lobbying for even more severe laws. DMCA, and the coming SSSCA are clearly a real threat for OSS. They have the deep pockets for that, OSS advocates don't.This problem really worries me more and more every day. Although it's mainly located in the US but will eventually creep to Europe, one day or another.
  • There is one point left out by the article, and one other point which is plain wrong.

    If corporations want to increase the viability of open source, one very important action they can do (and have been doing to some extent) is to hire open source programmers. That way the features they want will be more likely to get included, and the bugs they discover are more likely to be fixed. One difficulty is to ensure that any of their proprietary software does not "infected" with any GPLed software.

    One point where the article is plain wrong is where it says OS software will be the best because the users will program the features they want. Sorry, but l^Husers can't program. But users can get the features they want by paying OS programmers, e.g., by buying (favorite brandname) Linux or *BSD and/or service agreements.

    And maybe one more point. The nicest thing about the open monopoly is that everyone can join.

    • But users can get the features they want by paying OS programmers, e.g., by buying (favorite brandname) Linux or *BSD and/or service agreements.

      Or just asking the developer to implement the feature. Ever hear of a wishlist bug? Granted, your average user wouldn't ever file one, but they could look in the "about" box of a program and see the author's name and email, and write to them asking for/about a feature. More advanced users can get on mailing lists and actively participate without writing a single line of code.

      And you know what? They'll actually be heard and most likely responded to.

      This very personal aspect of the whole model is something I think people tend to forget, that you can come in to direct contact with the authors. You don't necessarily have to write any code as a user, the same way you don't have to write any code to get features in closed-source stuff either. In both, it depends on what the developers want to provide. The difference is that in the closed-source world, if they say No then you're screwed, whereas in the open world you always have other options.
  • An open monopoly is immossible. There are no problems with point of entry into a market with opensource. For closed source software companies, this can be a problem. The reason why Microsoft has such a huge monoppoly is because it has all the distribution points at the pc level and invenstors support. If I were to start an OS company as an example, I would be automatically destined to lose. Consumers may want a competitive OS but they would not invest in such an alternative OS because they are unsure if I would stay in bussiness. Also no sane investor would ever invest in such a risky proposition. This is the second problem. You need lots of money to start out. You really have to prove to investors that your product can win and your company can make money.

    With opensource all you need is an idea and some code. If its good or there is a demand other programmers will pick up. If one app monopolizes everythign and innovation stagnates then another project will form.

    Gnome is a classic example as well as Samba TNG. KDE was the only full desktop envirnoment and that made lots of developers uneasy. TrollTEch could screw the whole environment if they decided to stop distributing the QT libraries for free. Gnome was then born. Many members of the SAMBA team were unhappy with the way SAMBA was going. THey formed Samba TNG. Microsoft has made the whole bussiness by illegally wiping out points of entries into the software market making it really difficult or impossible to get in. The harder it is to enter the less compettion Microsoft will have. Thats all changed with opensource. Linux can't be bought out or crippled. Even if Microsoft somehow manages to really screw RedHat, another company will arise to take its place. If one product owns all the marketshare and its open and free, another one will form.

  • ... a "Non-opoly." Because it doesn't have any of the same effects.

    The problem with a corporation having a monopoly over a physical product, like the Standard Oil monopoly early in this century, is that they literally controlled all the oil, and could fix prices. With an IP monopoly like microsoft's, it's not quite like that. It's more that everyone is so deeply in the habit of using their stuff, that changing would cost too much, thus enabling microsoft to set prices.

    The so-called "Open monopoly" would have neither of those problems because... it's not run by a corporation! Basically all it would amount to if, say, Apache took over the webserver market, is a lot of people getting an inexpensive webserver. If someone tried to raise their IT consulting rates because "Apache is the only game out there," someone else would jump in with all the knowledge for half the price, and the problem would be solved.

    Basically, it's impossible for open systems to cause the bad effects of a corporate monopoly, since no single entity can strangle any particular market in the same way. Personally, I'm looking forward to the ubiquity of open source software, and I don't fear that I will be unable to use an alternative should Linux run 85% of the servers.
  • It's interesting that Sun is saying this. Sun's main business of servers is being squeezed from the bottom by Linux (and WinNT/XP). It is also now being squeezed from the top by IBM: both by Linux-on-the-mainframe and by the new p-series [ibm.com] (Regatta) *nix servers, which IBM intends to eventually run mostly Linux. The Economist [economist.com] has a detailed story [economist.com] discussing all this.

    An additional problem for Sun is with workstations, where Linux seems to be making headway against Solaris (whether on a SPARC or on a high-end PC).

    Right now, Sun is in good financial shape, with lots of cash and revenues. As the above shows, though, in the long run, Linux could threaten Sun's survival.

  • And economists should stick to economics.

    An "open monopoly"? Come on. This is gobbledy-gook, senseless babbling.

    They say Microsoft is threatened by open source because they are the current proprietary software monopoly. But MSFT's competitors - who are not the monopoly - are alleged to understand that "...in the end, there will be a monopoly again. The one-winner principle still applies. To them, the world will not change greatly whether open-source or proprietary software is running the world's computers. The end result will still be decreasing average costs, and the same barriers to entering the market will still apply."

    But then they go on in the next paragraph and negate the previous paragraph's thesis: "What is different, however, is that in an open-source monopoly the barriers to participation and influence will disappear. This will be a different kind of monopoly ... from which no vendor can be excluded from participating, including the big companies now joining the open-source movement."

    Well then, where is the monopoly? Where is the "one winner"? Maybe programmers should stay away from logic, too. :)
    • This is gobbledy-gook, senseless babbling.

      Read and learn.

      It's quite simple: Good open source programs are category killers. That is, if there is a good (ie feature-complete, stable, fast etc. ) program that does X and is open, there is little or no opportunity for a company to try to enter the X market with an expensive product.

      This works to an extent in existing markets - for e.g. all proprietary unix vendors are feeling the Linux pinch. MS can't sell IIS for much, due to Apache's presence.

      Thus, open-source can be a barrier to entry, and have a monopoly on a market. A monopoly of sorts - Here's an old quote (I forget who from)

      "Open Source will not become a multi-billion or trillion dollar sector of the global economy. Quite on the contrary, Open Source/Free Software has the effect of removing points of economic friction by circumventing the traps and nets that allow certain types of profit to be accumulated."
      • Well fine, if they meant Good open source programs are category killers , why didn't they just say it? And why did they pick you to explain what they really meant to the rest of us? What is your connection?
  • Microsoft is DOOMED.

    I suggest people consult some facts before making pronouncements of Microsoft's impending doom. Look at Microsoft's earnings and think for a moment about where that company gets its money. Go here [microsoft.com] then you can begin to understand exactly how Microsoft is dying.

    Microsoft's most recent quarterly earnings for Three Months Ended September 30 per region:

    South Pacific and Americas Region: 2,433 million
    Europe, Middle East, and Africa Region: 1,105 million
    Asia Region: 604 million

    Now for the same period last year:

    South Pacific and Americas Region: 2,154 million
    Europe, Middle East, and Africa Region: 1,085 million
    Asia Region: 708 million

    The only region in which MS earnings actually went up in this comparison is in the United States of America. The rest of the world is quickly figuring out that it doesn't need to be paying a tax to Microsoft. The fat US corporations are the only ones who can still afford MS software. That's why IBM says over half of its DB2 installations in China run on Linux. There is a similarity between US corporate use of Microsoft tax-ware and the bloated US car industry of the 1970s and 1980s. The US car industry had to reform in order to compete. The same will probably happen in regard to wasting revenue on tax-ware given the recent economic downturn.
    • Well, you "forgot" to mention the OEM sales channel:
      OEM $1,819 $1,984
      Apparently, the OEM channel is too opaque to be region-based, which isn't very surprising. And of course total revenue:
      Total revenue $5,766 $6,126
      But yes, Asia-Pacific did go down significantly year-over-year. And that is interesting. And the URL is here: http://www.microsoft.com/msft/earnings/FY02/Q02_1_ channelbusiness.htm [microsoft.com]
    • Microsoft ARE in serious financial trouble, their earning are down, the share price is down;

      http://news.excite.com/news/ap/011022/06/earns-m ic rosoft

      A recession looks set to help the Free/OS Software community at Microsoft expense and finish them as the dominant player, with cost cutting accelerating Open Source/Free Software installations in place of M$. My employers is increasingly deploying Linux instead of Windows, currently mainly as servers, but this is from an IT Services division that 6months ago was a strongly pro-M$, the XP licencing issue has turned them.

      This declining share price issue is going to cause M$ major trouble. The M$ share price will fall, they will cut investment, the share price will fall more, they will lose their 'famous names' the shares will fall further, it is a vicious feed back loop. Before long the Microsoft Empire will be shadow of it's former self, like IBM in the 80's.

      We can also help the share price fall. We short M$ on global scale.

      http://www.fool.com/FoolFAQ/FoolFAQ0033.htm

      Not only will we get to engineer the fall of Microsoft, we'll be able to turn a profit by doing it, personally I love the irony.

  • The main thing the article fails to address is how many monopolies we'll end up with. We might end up with
    • monopoly #1: servers (Linux)
    • monopoly #2: games (Windows & X-box converge)
    • monopoly #3: office desktops (some new OS)
    I can easily believe the future desktop monopoly won't be Windows, because Windows is a disaster, but I also am skeptical that it will be Linux, because so far the ease of use and installation is too much of a problem.

    Now consider this. Given that the people most likely to participate in an open-source project are also users of the application being worked on, what would happen if the customers for a software product actually participated in its design and creation? It would be impossible to create a product that is not what the market wants!
    Well, it would be impossible to create a product that is not what the active developers want. That's a whole different thing.

  • Correct me if I'm wrong, but it's not clear at all that M$ is a natural monopoly. The term natural monopoly [investorwords.com] designates a market in which a single vendor leads to the most efficient outcome (which is precisely defined within the context of any given economic model... within the traditional "Marshallian cross" micro model the most efficient outcome might be the one which maximizes the sum of consumer and producer surplus).

    IIRC, in the case of, say, a TelCo considered to be a natural monopoly, the old-school supporting arguments centered around the idea that it's inefficient to have a redundant network of phone lines. The same notion was applied to utility companies. It's not clear at all to me that M$'s product development (and software development in general) is an analogous process (in terms of high infrastructure costs) to connecting phone lines or distributing electric power. To me, M$ is more of an old-school monopoly a la Standard Oil, that uses its market power to drive out competitors, even when they have arguably superior products.

    If, by "open monopoly," Hrebejk means "everyone around the globe using open-source software for most of their computing" then I hope he's right, although that situation wouldn't be a true monopoly unless one company (Sun? Red Hat?) ends up controlling most of the software market.

    -Rene

  • I think that even if John Q Public knows nothing about open source, if the services he uses are running open source, it doesn't matter.

    Lets make them "Usefull Idiots" eh? I am appauled(sp?) that you believe it fruitfull to mislead people to direct their 'weight'.

    What is the purpose in advocating the "moral superiority(sp?)" of Free Software" if you are not willing to take the time to discuss it with the "masses" - jesus man, are the unwashed not smart enough to understand what "we" are talking about? Should we just lead them through the dark with half-truths and bullshite?

    Im drunk, a little in-=articulate(sP?), and frankly insulted - what makes you the "saviour of people who dont know whats good for themselves"?

    I read a .sig here on /. recently that I found very interesting: "anyone who says that "X" is manipulating you is trying to take "X's" job."

    Only full disclosure, education and complete honesty will build our desired future.

    Hey [indymedia.org] what [www.tao.ca]what is this? [protest.net] If what you have to say isnt 'self-evident' its not that important... lets find some basic thruths mmmm, kay?

From Sharp minds come... pointed heads. -- Bryan Sparrowhawk

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