The open source battleship game

It would just be nice if, sometimes, we could make choices based on merit.

How is open source like the old game battleship?

The strategy of many players seems identical. You win by destroying the economic value of the other guy's software. Blow up his financial battleship and he's got less ammunition to throw at your new products.

That is the cynical reaction to IBM's decision to (finally) support the Open Document Format. IBM has been a passive endorser of the standard for some time, but now it it is putting it into production, taking advantage of Microsoft's problems in Massachusetts, where the Governor has endorsed the more "open" offering over Microsoft's Office standard.

Microsoft, in fact, is the target of many open source efforts backed by corporate rivals, not just OpenOffice. Firefox is just one of many examples.

It happens with start-ups as well. Take this example, SourceCRM. It's a Customer Relationship Management system, open source, that runs on Windows. Could it hope to compete as a proprietary product? Maybe not. But as an open source offering it has hope.

There is nothing inherently wrong with any of this. There is, in fact, something noble, competition by another means. But the cynic responds that in business everything becomes corporate strategy, even ideals. It's a mirror to the politicalization of technology seen in the Massachusetts case. A choice of file formats has no business becoming a Republican vs. Democratic battle. But then again everything else is.

It would just be nice if, sometimes, we could make choices based on merit.

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