Being a technical person at core, it has always been difficult, if not extremely difficult, to justify the open source movement to a business. In fact, in specific cases it is easier to provide numbers instead of vouching for the open source concept. More because businesses require the extrapolated data after the open source effect. The open source movement itself has been so involving and growing, it is difficult to quantify it.
Andy Updegrove explores the idea of the open source concept penetrating more and more domains. This attempt is justified considering the fact the recent developments of companies opening up their hardware intellect.
Not only did Sun announce its intention to open source its UltraSPARC architecture on December 6 of last year, but IBM had beaten it to the punch with the announcement last summer that it would open source the architecture of its venerable PowerPC processor. Similarly, Google has already made a wealth of geodata available through its Google Earth project. And that project is already being used in just the type of creative ways (so called “mashups” and more) to which Berners-Lee alluded in his Oxford speech. And finally, the use of the Creative Commons has been expanding logarithmically on the Web for some time now.
This vindicates his point that open source is being accepted in multiple, different situations. It has always been a reactive perception that open source steps on the toes of IPR, and goes against the business. Andy, however, provides a rational explanation saying
Crucial to this process will be the accumulating evidence in more and more domains that the owners of IPR may gain (indirectly) more by giving than selling (directly).
I agree with him that IPR has always been means to an end, the end usually being profit for businesses. It is possible that sometimes the profit might not necessarily be direct revenues, but definitely in a form that will affect the revenue.
Open source improves quality
However, I feel this is not the only case for the open source concept. Maybe it is purely from a technical person’s perspective, but it does not make it any less true or valuable. Open source movement brings in ideas from multiple fronts, ideas by people in different walks of life – an ideal platform for brainstorming or the concept of war room which are techniques resulting into innovation. This kind of contribution does more than ideate, it builds up the base for requirements or need of any specific product or feature. It gives an oppurtunity to the user to contribute in creation and provide feedback. This is not any less valuable than the surveys or requirements gathering done to do feasibility studies. This directly factors in the product roadmap. This is especially important nowadays where software products are getting obsolete faster than they are being developed.
Any improvement in the product is going to benefit the end user as well as the business directly. Like Andy mentions, this same concept can be applied to multiple domains. My two cents – open source might improve, fully or partially, and spread its benefit in any domain, if given a chance and managed properly.
Copyright Abhijit Nadgouda.