Financial Crisis: How will it affect Free and Open Source software?
The current financial and credit crisis on Wall Street has had a global affect on the economy that we have not seen since the Great Depression. The economic downturn has hurt nearly all sectors of the economy, the tech industry being no exception. So in these times of uncertainty, it is obvious that IT companies of all sizes will be looking for anyway to reduce costs, one of them being the implementation of open source software. Will this economic crisis be somewhat positive by accelerating the use of open source?
According to Matt Asay from CNET the answer is yes across the board. In an informal poll he performed, he asked various open source companies how the failing economy has been affecting their sales. Some might think that with the Dow Jones Industrial Average down 4000 points over the past year, these open source companies would have headed in the same direction with everyone else. However, every company that Matt Asay polled is recording record sales. It is not surprising to us or to Matt that companies are shifting from expensive proprietary software to cost efficient open source software, but it did take us back that every single company that Matt polled is doing so well. It solidifies the fact that open source companies are in a different market and a different business.
Open source has always been the underdog when competing for commercial business. There might have been too much fear or misinformation about what open source is and how it works, and before the economy began to fall, there was no reason to fix that which was not broken. But hard times call for drastic measures and for these companies to reevaluate their business models and spending. Companies can save hundreds of thousands of dollars by switching over to open source software and lose little to none functionality, perhaps even gaining in functionality. In an article entitled Five programs you can afford in a financial meltdown, Steven J. Vaughan-Nichols lists open source alternatives to popular proprietary software programs. Almost every piece of software has an open source counterpart these days and it is becoming more costly to ignore them. Perhaps one of the biggest myths about open source software is that it is a lesser product when in actuality it is just a different product built a cheaper way. The largest costs to implementing open source software, and what I suspect has held the conversion back for so long, is relearning, retraining, and readjusting the business model for the new open source software. But these costs are more time and effort than actually cash spending, and with the economy in the state that it is in, this is no time to be lazy.
The times are changing and are changing fast with what is going on in politics, the world, and the economy. The opportunity for open source to go mainstream is drawing near due to factors such as the falling economy and advancements in online technology such as Web 2.0 and cloud computing, mentioned in last weeks article. This may be a bit cynical, but it seems fitting that as capitalism is failing, open source is benefiting. Open source, which came out of the free software movement, was anti-capitalism and sought to free developers and users from the grips of proprietary software. It really is no surprise that open source is doing well during this financial crisis.-Antony Tran