The Politics of OSS Still Overshadow The Benefits of Collaborative Development


It has now been almost three years since I stepped away from working daily on open source opportunities for Microsoft. I’ve watched the team that took on Shared Source morph it into some extremely positive collaborative work that is exactly what OSS is all about. The paltry few projects that were in place in 2006 have blossomed into thousands of projects, and some of the core source release programs for flagship technologies are still operational today. All good.

Unfortunately, I can’t say that I’m seeing the same understanding about collaborative development when I go out and meet with customers, governments, partners…whomever.

I haven’t been blogging much due to a great deal of travel, and the huge backlog of other work catching up to me following the close of the Open XML process. One of my most interesting trips was down to South Africa to talk interop, document formats, and yes…open source software.

South Africa has taken a most unfortunate position of late – the government has sought to put a political mandate in place for the adoption of open source software. I am against all technology mandates, and this one is no different. Ultimately, it constrains decision-making away from technology, solution quality, ROI on existing investments, people issues…in short value-for-money – all in the name of a political position. Worse, it is pushing CIOs into decisions that they don’t want to make – essentially taking working environments representing huge investments and moving to untested, more expensive solutions.

But, the most serious issue to me is that they are not looking at the real benefits that OSS can bring them. Politically, every conversation about the OSS mandate is really a Windows vs. Linux discussion. This is in no small part assisted by the local presence of Ubuntu. There is absolutely no comprehension that the Linux they will deploy on an enterprise scale will be completely locked down by commercial services agreements and version controls by the apps vendors (e.g. SAP). This is absolutely fine from a decision point of view for enterprise systems, but it is most certainly not any gain due to open source.

The real value of OSS to a government that is looking to:

  1. save money
  2. bring development skills in-country
  3. address local issues with home-grown, customized solutions
  4. gain operational as well as financial efficiencies across government agencies
  5. foster local services and ISV opportunities
  6. etc. etc.

is to apply OSS development and licensing methodologies at the app-dev and tools layers, rather than thinking of the core OS as an OSS opportunity for them. Deep dev of the core OS is not likely to happen in South Africa today on any large scale. Students at the university still grappling with coding skills are not going to dive into the inner-working of Linux. Any innovation on Linux that is broadly applicable will immediately be picked up by Red Hat or Novell and commercialized globally with little economic benefit coming back to SA.

Yet, if they looked instead at the existing investments in infrastructure, and thought about the use of OSS against the custom needs of their government activities. Or for intra-government projects. Or for building key bridges to enable eGovernment solutions. Or any of a number of projects – they could bring in academics, local ISVs, local services providers, engage existing government developers, etc.

All of that could happen regardless of whether the platform is Windows, Linux, AS/400, OS/X…whatever.

The developing world still views OSS as “free as in no money,” and that is widely known to not be the case. Technology solutions are expensive no matter what the development and/or philosophical model are underlying them.

I heard this same point of view for 5 years all over Asia, parts of Europe, and Latin America. I saw governments try to incubate OSS businesses solely because “OSS” was in the title and mandate. Then, those businesses failed, and the mandated solutions turned out to be far more expensive than other commercial alternatives. Almost uniformly this came about through a misunderstand (in my humble opinion) of what OSS can do for organizations.

There is a reason that Harvard Business School found that more than 95% of all OSS venture funding went into fewer than 20 projects. Those heavily commercialized projects are just another way to deliver high-value, mass-consumed, supported technology. Finding the value of OSS beyond those projects for the average organization is all about applying collaborative development against real-world problem sets in small, efficient projects.

 

Ahhh…it feels good to blog again. 🙂

Comments (42)

  1. Mike Herrick says:

    Great post. Interestingly, we just announced a project along these lines in public health: http://www.csinitiative.com/5-19-08.php

  2. And Microsoft readily supports these OSS application projects.

    Unless, that is, they use the GPL (or even the LGPL, the huge difference seems to be largely unknown within Microsoft). Even in dual licensing scenarios, that a) require the GPL (as opposed to less restrictive OSS licenses) to provide additional value for the commercial license, and b) don’t force anybody to use the GPL, if they are willing to pay a license fee (no mandatory "infection").

    And, unless the application seems to have some features that SharePoint has, even if everybody, including technical staff at MS, agrees that that application can not (currently) be built on SharePoint (even though it does integrate Office System, big time).

    I can see the forces in MS that try to make all of this possible, but be aware that not everyone over there is pulling in the same direction. Right now, it’s: Only at our conditions, and only for segments that we don’t have offerings for. Which makes the MS plattform a lot less desirable for OSS shops. I think you have to fight hard to win those over if you want to support OSS on Windows on a larger scale.

    I’d think it’s worth it, though. We’ve been telling customers that OSS makes so much more sense on the application level than on the OS level for years now, and it’s starting to be heard. But that won’t help you much if all the OSS app projects are based on Linux, just because the ecosystem is too OSS-unfriendly in the world of Windows.

  3. Vexorian says:

    I wonder if Microsoft actually pay their employees to blog this BS.

    I pity anyone that would take the msdn blogs seriously.

  4. Jason –

    It is such a pleasure to have you blog about a topic and be able to agree with you completely for once.  Like "organic" food, open source software is "in", and thus mistaken for always the right choice.  There are times when OSS software is right, either for cost or flexibility reasons, but there are many times when it is a false economy or no economy at all.  In particular, I agree with your statement: "Technology solutions are expensive no matter what the development and/or philosophical model are underlying them."  You would think that companies would understand this by now.

    – Ben Langhinrichs

  5. Wu MingShi says:

    One purpose of open source for government is …

      … to clobber IBM/SAP/Microsoft and other big companies into reducing their prices

    And for that, why not?

  6. Chandru says:

    "Any innovation on Linux that is broadly applicable will immediately be picked up by Red Hat or Novell and commercialized globally with little economic benefit coming back to SA."

    First off all they would be extending the features already implemented outside SA.  That itself gives a benefit.

    If contributing to Linux will not help SA, how will paying for Windows license would?  What on earth makes you believe that SA cannot develop the core OS when you have already stated Ubuntu is from SA?

    Are you scared that it will affect Microsoft’s monopoly in OS market?  Are you scared that all the mis-information in "Get the Facts" would be visible to the world?

  7. Chandru says:

    "Then, those businesses failed, and the mandated solutions turned out to be far more expensive than other commercial alternatives."

    Do you mean those businesses mentioned in "Get the Facts"?

    http://www.itwire.com/content/view/17764/1141/

  8. Dave S. says:

    Perhaps if there was a product called Microsoft Government?

    An immediate benefit direction is to sever the dependence they have on Microsoft. No more paperwork keeping track of who has what OS installed. Success can only follow attempt.

    The long term direction may be the same that Japan has gone. In 40 years Japan went from making trinkets to taking first place from General Motors. Perhaps the same can happen in the software industry.

    Your example of South Africa is particularly poor. South Africa had a near dictatorial minority cede that power to a population they had treated badly for at least 100 years with no noticeable riot or bloodshed. That seems progressive enough to handle their own choices.

  9. KimTjik says:

    What an amazing mishmash of logic and confusion! What’s the purpose of these blogs? Cheer up the co workers of Microsoft and its golden partners? Matusow,when you act as a spokesman for Microsoft, then please improve your rhetoric skills.

    What are you trying to convey by this: "Any innovation on Linux that is broadly applicable will immediately be picked up by Red Hat or Novell and commercialized globally with little economic benefit coming back to SA."?

    If they would have chose Microsoft solutions, in what way could they get any money back? Will you pay them for using Windows solutions? Give example on any country that actually make an income of being a Microsoft parter.

    Then you blame for example Red Hat of commercializing open-source innovations; does that mean you regret all commercialized software now belonging to Microsoft? Try to think straight for once:

    – if Red Hat "picks up" an innovation it will of course be included in their commercial product, but before that its usually improved AND THOSE IMPROVEMENTS ARE JUST AS FREE AS THE INITIAL INNOVATIONS

  10. jasonmatusow says:

    Stefan – not sure what project you were trying to work on with MS, but it is true, the company does not tend to work using the GPL, but that is a choice anyone can make. I was the co-author of the MS reciprocal license which has now been approved by the OSI, so the concepts of that style licensing are not anethma to MS (or any commercial org.). We just happen to fall more in the Mozilla-style license camp than the FSF. There are many, many GPL-based projects on the MS-hosted CodePlex, but that does not mean they come from MS.

    Vexorian – this is my own observation from my trip recently. If you don’t like it…don’t read it. 🙂

    Ben – it is nice to agree for once. I’m glad you like the post. I have long felt that the commercial discussion of platform choice (Win/Linux) has distorted the value proposition of collaborative development.

    Wu – competition has the effect of downward price pressure. That is all good – it is also a major driver of innovation. If you are not innovating in software you are not going to stay in business long.

    Chandru – wow have you missed the point of what I’m saying. I think it is just great that Ubuntu is in South Africa. The stated goal though of the OSS policy is growth of software dev skills in SA – and for that broadly to take place I’d argue that doing it a the operating system level is the least efficient choice. Another stated goal is the creation of a software industry in SA – and that doesn’t effecitvely happen if innovations are moved overseas without any compensation back into the SA economy. You should check out what happened in korea when they attempted to incubate OSS companies.  

    Dave – actually, I believe SA is the perfect example because they have shown such resilience and commitment on other fronts. They are mistaking platform choice with OSS and economic development. There is absolutely no reason they can’t acheive that success through the use of multiple platforms. Ubuntu is by no means the primary Linux provider in SA. Furthermore, the services companies used for large enterprise deployments are not from SA either. So you end up with the same concerns about exporting money and skills. I think there is more to this conversation than you are giving credit for.

    Thanks all — Jason

  11. Chandru says:

    "The stated goal though of the OSS policy is growth of software dev skills in SA – and for that broadly to take place I’d argue that doing it a the operating system level is the least efficient choice."

    How do you decide that?  Can you give any concrete fact which shows it is not worth for software firms outside US to work on core OS?

    "Another stated goal is the creation of a software industry in SA – and that doesn’t effecitvely happen if innovations are moved overseas without any compensation back into the SA economy."

    How would buying non-open-source software from outside SA compensate SA?  At least FOSS would give them source code.

    And no I have not missed your points.  Just showing that there not even a bit of fact in it.

  12. Andrew Sayers says:

    Reading this post, I couldn’t help feeling that you’re advocating a sort of software equivalent of mercantilism – that there’s a fixed-size pot of software work in the world, so the aim of the game is to get as much of that pot into your country as possible.

    While I certainly agree that governments shouldn’t be mandating individual technologies, it’s a different matter to mandate licensing terms or even a development model.  By trying to stimulate a Free market (if you’ll pardon the pun), less-developed countries can ensure that they can compete on a level playing field in the future, as well as growing markets through increased "trade" of code.

    When developing countries don’t stand up for market freedom, you get situations like the one China is in with regards to intellectual property or Africa is in with regards to food – developed countries sew the market up, wiping out any short-term gains that developing countries might have made.

    – Andrew

  13. Dave S. says:

    I missed this gem on the first read –

    "Students at the university still grappling with coding skills are not going to dive into the inner-working of Linux."

    Wasn’t Linus Torvalds at university when he started Linux?

    And it still seems your example is an insult to the South African government by indicating you know much better than they what they should do for themselves. If removing themselves from Microsoft licensing is a goal, then South Africa cannot be completely  successful if they build anything on a Microsoft platform.

  14. jasonmatusow says:

    Chandu – My point about the core OS development is that starting there is arguably the most complex engineering to be working on. Why not pick problems to work on where one can see rapid results that generate both economic and operational value. My point is not made idilly, I spend time speaking with CIOs from around the world and I can tell you that very, very, very few of them want to invest their scarce development resources in core OS work. They want to pay Red Hat, Novell, Microsoft, IBM…someone else to provide and support core OS functionality. in SA, the discussion of the OSS policy (at least what conversations I had) were all focused on Windows and Linux. That, in my opinion, is missing the real opportunity presented to them by OSS.

    Ah – and you have hit the nail on the head with your quesiton about how non-OSS code from outside SA could benefit them. It already has. Software companies and services providers have sprung up around MS technologies, IBM technologies, Sun technologies, SAP technologies, etc… We have been looking carefully at economic benefit on local economies for a long time because we are interested in seeing the whole industry grow. If I’m not mistaken, it is better than a 9:1 ratio of dollars generated in country (that stay in country) to every dollar MS earns in SA. This says nothing of the efficiencies gained by use of commercial software in the industries of the country. In fact, I’d be interested in seeing the # of OSS-based companies in SA or the rest of sub-Sahara that are generating the revenues, jobs, and career opportunities of traditional commercial-model ISVs.

    OSS is a very powerful development model, and has great benefits to offer. But it is not a panacea, nor is it necessarily the best business model for all organizations to follow. Balance is important and useful. I’m a big fan of OSS, but like to see it used to its best advantange on a situational basis – not a religious one.

    thx

    jason

  15. jasonmatusow says:

    Hi Andrew – no, I don’t believe I was making a merchantile argument in the least. Governents are hoping to get a piece of the software industry pie in their countries. The push to move to information-based economies, where the ultimate goal is becoming net exporters of information-based industries is very broad based. They are eager to avoid brain-drain, they are eager to create economic opportunity, and to attract long-term investment. You and I are in agreement on mandates being bad. The use of OSS should be one strategy of many, and even that too depends on strong property protections. I see the OSS mandate as a troubling concept for the exact reason you list and even more so when there is an apparant greater focus on the politics of it vs. the real-world benefits that could be realized through creative use of the model.

    Dave S – Yes, Linus was at university, and I’d say he has proven to be a pretty exceptional developer. Many professors I speak to use stripped down, or older versions of Linux Kernel code to teach OS concepts courses with. I don’t know how many comp-sci projects are focused on contributing to the Linux Kernel project or any of the core functions of Linux. Rather, seeing that code may be educational, but the opportunity to work on higher-order functions has proven to be more attractive to the majority of developers.

    I do not wish any insult on anyone – particularly the SA government. I met some incredibly bright and dedicated people when I was in that country. More importantly, they are working hard to grow opportunity across all strata of society and are looking to use software to bring more government services (more efficiently) to the population. If they wish as a government to remove all MS software from their environment, then they should have that CHOICE to do so. To mandate it across all departments is something i will speak out against in any form. If they said that all departments must use MS products, I would speak out against that just as strongly.

    Thanks all…

    Jason

  16. Raoul Snyman says:

    So you’re calling me stupid and unskilled? I happen to be one of those "Students at the university still grappling with coding skills" to quote you. Ask my boss and my colleagues, and I think you’ll find the picture slightly different to what you claim. Thanks for insulting me and all those who have ever graduated in South Africa, and are now working in countries like the USA because they’re ace coders.

    Better to be silent and thought a fool than to speak up and confirm it.

  17. stefan.wenig says:

    Jason,

    I’m well aware of the terms of the Ms-PL and the Ms-CL, and I’m not demanding you’re switching to the GPL. All I’d be asking is a little less fear of the GPL’s use in other people’s projects. I’m not going to go into details here, but using the GPL can be a bit of a problem even between a gold cert partner and MS. Between a nice GPLed, Windows and Office based OSS application, and a crappy SharePoint-based thingy that’s bound to dissatisfy the customer, MS would rather support the latter. Some people there don’t like the GPL (or are afraid the people they’re reporting to don’t do, which is worse because at this point there’s no reasoning about it), some don’t like OSS altoghether, some have SharePoint sales goals to reach, whatever. It’s still possible, and we didn’t cross swords with MS over this, but still, you don’t feel very loved or well supported that way. That’s just an example. Ask any other Windows/.NET-based OSS project, and most of them will have their own sad little story to tell. If you really want to enable mission-critical OSS application projects for your government customers, you still have a way to go. CodePlex is a good thing, but it’s really another game. This is mostly, I believe, because so many people with so different mind settings are involved, not because it is somehow opposing Microsofts goals.

    I guess what I’m saying is, you want core-biz OSS apps on your platform, you should evangelize within MS to drop their defenses. Or else, you better not tell your customers to embrace OSS on an app-level, because then sooner or later all the nice OSS apps will be on OSS platforms.

  18. jasonmatusow says:

    Raoul – I’ve just traded mail with someone else on this…here is what I wrote:

    I am sure that there are people who can talk deeply about Linux, and know much about the core coding of Linux (in South Africa) – but that completely misses my point. I have met with professors in more than 20 countries, with OSS developers in more countries than that, and have worked extensively on the source licensing programs within MS that have made the Windows kernel available for teaching purposes. A near universal opinion is that the production code of commercial-grade operating systems tends not to be effective for teaching, nor for student projects.

    It is important to keep in mind that policies like the one in SA are meant to have a macro effect rather than a specific. Thus, my comments are directed at the macro concepts. I think it is a very good idea to look to OSS development methodologies to encourage local skills development in any country. I think it is a good idea to think about how collaborative development can bring about the creation of compelling solutions for government enterprise ICT use. I just think it is too bad that people so often misconstrue that to be a platform conversation. Why not advocate completely for FreeBSD Unix? That was the teaching platform for quite some time if I’m not mistaken.

    Raoul – I’m sorry you have taken this as an insult – it was not meant to be. The students I refer to could be anywhere – and yes, students do grapple with new concepts…that would be part of the whole learning thing. I continuoulsy grapple with new concepts and have yet to feel insulted by that process.

    Jason

  19. jasonmatusow says:

    Andrew Sayers has been having trouble getting his comment posted…I’m pasting in his comments – Jason

    "

    Jason,

    Now I remember why I stopped coming here – one idea-packed reply and I spend four hours rearranging my world view 🙂

    I think I might have misunderstood an important point – are you saying that SA has required all software purchases must be open source for the foreseeable future, no matter how esoteric?  If so, I think I see what you’re saying – discouraging South Africans from experimenting with licensing models makes them less able to adapt when new markets open up.

    From the mention of Ubuntu, I’d assumed you meant that the South African government was mandating the use of OSS in specific cases like desktop operating systems, which strikes me as an astute tactic even if it leads to inefficient IT solutions, because it gives maturing companies a steady supply of money at a time when the IT industry is changing, so that they can spend that money arguing for changes that benefit South Africa.

    Incidentally, talking about the "religious" application of OSS is quite interesting.  My understanding has always been that open source people like open source because it’s more efficient, whereas free software people like free software because it’s more moral.  Although that was just a semantic distinction for a long time, it seems to have become more practically relevant in recent years, and it sounds like you’re bumping into an instance of it here.  It’s natural for open source people to argue that open source should have a level playing field, because then OSS alternatives will be chosen if and only if they’re more efficient; it’s also natural for free software people to argue for a field tilted in free software’s favour, because ethical considerations should always weigh more heavily than mere practicalities.  If that’s an accurate portrayal of the situation, then I don’t think that dismissing the free software argument as a religious one will be very effective, because free software proponents’ behaviour is perfectly rational if you believe that information wants to be free.

    – Andrew"

  20. Nir says:

    Microsoft people can be so funny when they talk about Free Software.

    It is so hilarious it was dugg. Congrats.

  21. Dean Landolt says:

    "I am against all technology mandates, and this one is no different."

    I find it interesting that you couch your argument this way — at first blush it certainly harbors an appeal I can get in line with. But it doesn’t hold water…

    How do you feel about security mandates? Continuity mandates? Technology "mandates" as you call them are nothing more than policies, and an in-built preference for F/OSS is just good policy. Forgot the standard "get the facts" TCO garbage — that wouldn’t matter even if it were true. Source code and the freedom to do with it what you will matters to governments: from a security perspective, from a continuity perspective, from any perspective.

    And government agencies the world over are realizing this. I don’t envy you — you’re fighting an uphill battle.

  22. Dave S. says:

    "If they wish as a government to remove all MS software from their environment, then they should have that CHOICE to do so. To mandate it across all departments is something i will speak out against in any form."

    I must have missed a step. If the government mandates that all governement departments must remove MS software, then the choice has been made. Is your suggestion that some departments, on their own, pursue some other direction from that which is mandated?

    "the opportunity to work on higher-order functions has proven to be more attractive to the majority of developers."

    Of course higher levels are attractive. Many students wish to distance themselves from understanding the small details. The ones who do get into the small details, though, are the ones who will make the most-leveraged and therefore the most profitable contributions.

  23. Ben Johnson says:

    "Deep dev of the core OS is not likely to happen in South Africa today on any large scale."

    Wrong.  My (South African) company uses linux exclusively on our products, and for development.  We regularly contribute to the kernel.  If we had to pay for Visual Studio, or an OS like QNX (MS doesn’t even have a viable alternative in the embedded market), our small company wouldn’t be able to exist.

    "Students at the university still grappling with coding skills are not going to dive into the inner-working of Linux."

    Thanks for the insult (I will give you the benefit of the doubt on this being a plain old racist remark), but we manage just fine with the inner workings of things here.  I don’t know what university you attended, but if the linux kernel is the most complex concept you encounter in your CS or engineering studies, your degree isn’t worth much.  

    Shame on you for spreading your lies!

  24. Louis Cordier says:

    I was one of those Engineering students in South Africa, I didn’t really grapple with programming. 😉

    My vision for South Africa is an army of Python (FOSS) programmers, with free education material abound on the internet. Google, YouTube, NYSE uses it… it scales.

    Then proper project management skills such as Scrum

    (from rugby, as in South Africa is the world champions!)

    Obviously running on Ubuntu. It is more than an OS it is a mindset.

    I think the people of South Africa has a plan, maybe it is not written somewhere or stated, but we are moving in its  general direction.

  25. Jason,

    My own experiences are so different from what you say. And I am certain that the African students are rather intelligent to be able to program in Linux.

    It was important that your assertions have an answer from a guy from a Developing Country. My answer became too long, I directly put it on my blog, http://linuxeries.blogspot.com

    (in French).

  26. max stirner says:

    trying to talk away the benefits of a free software linux desktop that may be collaboratively developed and used free-of-charge is attempting the impossible my friend.. how paying local developers/university students (even!) to improve on these systems does not foster local talent never seems clear to me. instead, you appear to be transparently begging "not to focus on the O/S, make tools on windows" as that is what MS lives on!

    theres quite a bit of you focussing on the "throwing their established system out of the window" [no pun intended], which is just about the last desperate argument you have left. do you think the MS-tax will be remitted abroad forever? contributions to free software will always be free, contributions made by developers in SA will thus benefit the national usage of said software just as much as it will to anyone else who is part of that ecosystem.

    defending the indefensible – its a difficult world for MS these days..

  27. rob enderle says:

    Dude, youve been DUGG!

    In the comedy section I believe.

    That Ben Johnson guy had an excellent post but his closing remark was a zinger:

    > I don’t know what university you attended, but if the linux kernel >is the most complex concept you encounter in your CS or >engineering studies, your degree isn’t worth much.  

    >Shame on you for spreading your lies!

    Burn!!!

  28. Sa student says:

    This is standard Microsoft FUD that shows Microsoft know they cant win against open source.

    I am a student and  contribute code to the Ubuntu and other open source  projects but what you are not mentioning is that any person can contribute to an open source project not just coders, this includes translations, art ect. Microsoft cant offer that. The language support for South African languages is a good example…        

    Please fight fair and leave your FUD statements out of it.

  29. Andrew Back says:

    Hi Jason,

    It appears that whilst demonstrating a fundamental lack of understanding – or refusal to acknowledge the reality – when it comes to FOSS, you’ve also managed to insult South Africans in the process. But I shan’t dwell on these points as you’ve already taken a reasonable beating for this! But I would urge you not to underestimate the power of FOSS in enabling those to innovate who were previously excluded. As others have pointed out Linux is not as impenetrable as you purport, and in there are even businesses built around development and support in the Scottish Outer Hebrides.

    You must also consider as Dan Bricklin would put it "the long-term needs of society for software that is part of its infrastructure" ?

    http://www.bricklin.com/200yearsoftware.htm

    This provides yet another compelling reason for government’s to mandate use of open source software. With another being the increased likelihood of success with large scale software projects. Here through adoption of open source technology and principles problems can be identified early on in the project life cycle, and vendors and integrators more easily swapped-out if underperforming. Or worse still should they go out of business – a concern with the typically longer term projects of governments – you have something infinitely better than source code escrow. As you’ve had access to the source all along and if you are sensible ensured that knowledge sharing took place along the journey. And given a worst case scenario should the project ultimately fail at least some value can be realised from the investment made in the development of FOSS.

    Compare this to traditional development models where millions of pounds/dollars have many times been invested in projects that just do not deliver and where problems have in many cases – as is possible with such models – been hidden away. Where all the money goes into integration and software licensing, and failure leads to a zero return on investment. Contrasted with investment in a FOSS-based solution where even if the project ultimately fails not everything has been in vain the cost of failure is much lower.

    Governments exist to serve their citizens, investments should be made with them in mind, should have as wide a benefit as possible and with vendor shareholder interests being very low down on their list of priorities.

    FOSS will continue to erode traditional business models as in the end cost will win-out. The anti-FOSS TCO arguments just don’t stack up, amount to little more than FUD and will serve only as a temporary distraction at sites that are still heavily locked-in to proprietary solutions. You just have to come to terms with the fact that moving forward survival will depend on a shift to making money because of software instead of with it. And furthermore that claims of new levels of interoperability, open standards support and re-use capabilities Etc. are beginning to ware thin – we’ve heard it all before. Many times we’ve bought the silver bullet purported to be the answer to all our problems, and just as many times we’ve had to throw it away and replace it with the next incarnation. We are tired of the non-stop vendor-driven upgrade cycle, and now we have an opportunity to break it. Yet another reason for the shift.

    Regards,

    Andrew

  30. Chandru says:

    "My point about the core OS development is that starting there is arguably the most complex engineering to be working on."

    Why?  Is there any specific reason why SA (or any other nation for that matter) should not work on complex engineering?

    "They want to pay Red Hat, Novell, Microsoft, IBM…someone else to provide and support core OS functionality."

    Why shouldn’t that someone else be from SA why should money be drained into foreign economies (even if in small amounts)?

    "In fact, I’d be interested in seeing the # of OSS-based companies in SA or the rest of sub-Sahara that are generating the revenues, jobs, and career opportunities of traditional commercial-model ISVs."

    That is exactly the reason I feel SA govt has taken the right decision.  Finally they can stop depending on US Monopolies and non-monopolistic US corporations for their technology need.  They already have a well-respected Linux distribution.  Now that govt supports FOSS there would definitely be service providers which would provide service around Ubuntu without getting into the strangle hold of foreign corporates.

    But yes I understand your fear and the reason you are spreading this FUD and INSULTS.

    When you said,

    "Deep dev of the core OS is not likely to happen in South Africa today on any large scale. Students at the university still grappling with coding skills are not going to dive into the inner-working of Linux."

    If you really meant only the educational value of production-class code then you shouldn’t have mentioned SA explicitly in that statement because all over the world (including US) students would be grappling with coding skills (not that I believe it but you said so in your reply).  The olny way to prove that what you said was not an INSULT thrown at SA students is to convince MS to stop developing Windows as even students in US would be grappling with coding skills (as you had stated in your reply).

  31. Ramiro Vergara says:

    What a posting you wrote Jason.

    Your assumption that only people in the USA would have full command of computing skills is a bit Xenophobic. I believe you need to live and share with people outside your neighborhood.

    I am a director of the ADempiere project which is one of the most active FOSS (Noticed you forgot the F as in Freedom) ERP solutions worldwide. Although we have people from the USA helping in the development of our solution, most of the key people are people from Latin America and Asia and let me tell you an ERP is a lot higher in the value stack than an OS.

    I believe your comment demands an apology to the thousands of smart people working in ADempiere and many other FOSS solutions around the world.

    Ramiro Vergara

    Public Affairs

    ADempiere Project

  32. linux user says:

    hey you are the stupid person here as every linux user knows we are not locked down by software developers like you are in windows why dont you get your facts right you use windows which is very unsecure just look at all the security you need just to use windows since using linux i haven’t needed all the ms security junk so why cant you come out from behind the fud book and look with your own eyes to see how much better linux is than windows

  33. rich says:

    Wow… you (Jason) are an ass.

    As a former MS employee of many years (thankfully long before the company soured), you exemplify a healthy dose of both ignorance and arrogance.

    How shameful, truly.

  34. Sid Boyce says:

    If you are crying, it must be hurting. Microsoft’s products

    have been mandated and are still being mandated in

    great swathes of the globe, so you should be unhappy

    with that, but I guess not.

    Every fool has his own sense and I hope the fools of

    South Africa and elsewhere continue and escalate

    their folly. As characterised, their folly as you see it

    is to think that half-baked cake is better than no cake,  

    but they survive to bake the perfect cake one day.

    Self-reliance and self-help never hurt anyone except

    the exploiters who have a vested interest in continued

    and deepening dependence, loan sharks operate that

    way and only stoke up resentment. I think Microsoft is

    justifyably seeing an increasing amount of such

    resentment. In this industry I have seen the full

    spectrum, the babes that like to be taken care of, the

    ones with no imagination and the "dangerous"

    independent forward thinkers, much disliked by the

    established order. The latter group always despised and

    FUDed.

    I’d like to thank Microsoft for it’s sterling efforts in

    advertising Linux by way of it’s slick, as in colourful,

    but amateurish Get The Facts campaign.

  35. bigbert says:

    I was going to flame you for giving a very slanted view etc. etc. but decided against that.

    Instead, let me ask you this: When is Microsoft going to do the inevitable and embrace Linux? And before you get a heart attack, think about it:

    1. MS has the biggest distribution channel in the world already set up.

    2. MS can save billions of $$ by leveraging the OSS development model.

    3. Most (if not all) legal hassles will go away, as MS will be competing with RedHat, Novell etc.

    4. MS (and partners) have the killer apps ready; they just need to be ported to Linux (MSOffice; Autocad; Quickbooks etc). There are millions of people who would use these apps on any platform, BECAUSE THEY ARE ALREADY USING IT.

    Simply put: Why does MS not join the movement and make money, rather than fight it and lose money?

  36. Andre says:

    <i>"South Africa has taken a most unfortunate position of late – the government has sought to put a political mandate in place for the adoption of open source software. I am against all technology mandates, and this one is no different. Ultimately, it constrains decision-making away from technology, solution quality, ROI on existing investments, people issues…in short value-for-money – all in the name of a political position. Worse, it is pushing CIOs into decisions that they don’t want to make"</i>

    Exactly, the focus shall rather be open standards but often the selection of open source will automatically ensure an open standards friendly policy and – important for me – improvements in the software patent environment while Microsoft influence promotes the exact opposite objectives.

    But generally speaking you need to learn that the opinion of an American working in an American company is totally irrelevant for the political deliberations in South Africa and other third nations. I feel the same in Europe: massive vendor interference from third nations in democratic decision making procedures. It should not be mine or your job to tell South Africans what to do and how to be smarter in their procurement decisions. The days of colonialism are over.

    <a href="http://www.euractiv.com/en/infosociety/need-work-live-streaming-challenge/article-172653">Consider this here for instance</a>. Who invited an American lobby company to interfere into a debate in Europe regarding access to council streaming services? Why are these astroturfs financed to influence political debates in other nations? And who is "we" in "we need to work on streaming"?

  37. Wesley Parish says:

    Wow, Jason, you’ve really stirred the pot this time!

    I actually took my foot out of my mouth once, when the New Zealand government got into the MS government shared source program in 2k3, and I said words to the effect that opening the source to read but not fix, was not going to be helpful in the (now) toxic environment of the network, because if you need to get someone overseas to fix the problem instead of relying on your own programmers, you have a long wait until the problem is fixed, etc, etc, etc.  I used the analogy of "Pappy" Boyington during the Pacific War having to send a damaged Corsair to a certified repair depot in the States instead of having mechanics on his home base fixing it … I believe that might be a helpful analogy … maybe not?

    Of course when you have eleven official languages – which is the case with South Africa – South Africans have found that it’s a lot easier and faster to get people to translate the relevant parts of OpenOffice.org than to ask Microsoft … redial … redial … redial … redial … redial … "Hello, Microsoft?" … redial … redial … redial … redial … and I appear to have been the person who provoked Microsoft into providing Te Reo Maori as a language option for Windows and Office, and that through making fun of Microsoft’s name.  Nga Matapihi a Tino-Iti ko Wairangi http://www.learningmedia.co.nz/ngata/

    If there’s a software marketplace for Microsoft in Sotho or Zulu or Xhosa or … Microsoft owes it exclusively to the South African volunteers who established it through their hard work on translating OpenOffice.org.  I think they deserve a lot or respect.

  38. Mitch 74 says:

    Hum… I guess this blog post is the best example of what not to say if you don’t want to get bashed:

    – insulting a whole country: its government, the most used desktop Linux distribution, its supporting company, and its students;

    – opening a large door on MS bashing: if you can’t understand the intricacies of the Linux kernel, you can start small and try MINIX, like Linus Torvald did; if you can’t understand the Windows kernel, you… can’t;

    – for you, saving money means buying shrink-wrapped stuff, not make it yourself; short-term yes, long-term (like a government usually is) not always.

    The way I understand it, what you are saying is:

    1 – by forcing all government services to use F/OSS, they limit their choice, which is always a bad thing;

    2 – doing development yourself is a huge cost that can’t be mutualized;

    3 – the most effective development is the one that take the best minds out there to accomplish.

    Point 1: if you go the F/OSS way, you have choice in a lot of F/OSS projects that do similar things, or any other UNIX way, or to do your own thing yourself. Mitigating factor: if you choose the MS way, you become forced to go the MS way, and to stay there (see: monopolistic behaviors, US of A and EU) with no opportunity to change. In F/OSS (you forgot the F), F means "Free"…

    Point 2: the nice thing about F/OSS is that it is, by nature, already a community, where smart people used to solving their (and others) problems can be found; if you start developing on existing stuff, you’ll get help from the original authors – fast, and usually for free.

    Point 3: see point 2. Let’s add that necessity drives innovation, and that F/OSS always looks for new stuff.

    I’d like to think that because of where you work and leave, you can’t see things from where the SA gov sees them; I really hope you’re not a FUD-spouting, MS-trolling, borgified racist.

  39. Last week I wrote a blog entry stemming from my experience in South Africa and my impressions about the

  40. Philip Hands says:

    "Any innovation on Linux that is broadly applicable will immediately be picked up by Red Hat or Novell and commercialized globally with little economic benefit coming back to SA."

    This comment reveals a fundamental misunderstanding of software.  Microsoft has built its business on an artificial scarcity of software, and so it seems that people from that camp think of software as a limited resource that can only be given to another by depriving oneself of something.

    The fact is that someone else copying one’s software and using it does not diminish its value, it actually makes it even more valuable.  A program that I write, and that only I use, is a potential future cost, as I will have to carry the maintenance on my shoulders alone.

    If on the other hand, I give the program away, and ensure it is as widely used as possible (under a decent license), then others will also have an incentive to maintain and improve it, and I’ll get those improvements as they happen.

    Achieving the same thing by waiting for Microsoft to develop a solution is not all _that_ different, except that the potential audience is smaller, since Microsoft will be restricting distribution to extract a license fee, I’ll have to put up with a feature set aimed at the modal group which might not address my specific needs (like local languages), I’ll have to pay Microsoft’s profit margin, normally via a local company that ships all the profit overseas and pays minimal/no local taxes, and will then be hostage to future changes of strategy by the company based in a country far away, with an obligation to its shareholders to screw the maximum profit out of its customers.

    If I had the choice in SA of paying someone local $100.00 to do several days programming to address my specific needs, which money would then circulate locally and much of it would end up back in my tax coffers so I could do it again, or pay Microsoft $100.00 which money would rush off to Redmond, and pay some advertising executive for the five minutes he was standing next to the coffee machine, between coming up with slogans designed to make me feel better about being ripped off, I know which choice I’d make.

  41. SnrOfficeDev says:

    Yeah for Mr Smug, you single-handedly torpedoed OOXML!

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