I come in for a lot of critical comments here for being an open source zealot. (Pictured here is Bill Gates, in about 1986, with Windows 1.0. I have an autographed copy.)
I'm not a zealot. I'm a reporter by trade, specifically a business reporter. I like to see folks making money and getting things done the way sportswriters like to see a great game or performance.
Today, in 2006, performance comes from using open source.
Open source is many things. It's a business model. It's a development strategy. Mostly it's a way to use the idea of a "commons" in order to expand your reach.
Does it work? There are open source failures. You can argue that most open source projects still just replicate what proprietary vendors did years ago.
But look at this another way. Where are the new proprietary vendors? Where are the new proprietary hits? If Bill Gates were starting into business now, would he be using a proprietary base or one based on open source?
Back in the 20th century it was easy to find proprietary start-ups. They were all over the PC space, the network space, the database space, and the enterprise space. They promised great things a year from now, and sometimes delivered.
Where are they now? Some survivors are doing OK, but where are the new proprietary vendors? And when was the last time you got excited about a new proprietary product? Is Vista exciting? The new Office? Or do you read stories about these products with dread, fearful of bugs, viruses, and costs, wondering if it's all worthwhile?
What I have been told is that very few proprietary start-ups exist. Open source creates too much momentum too quickly for most proprietary start-ups to compete. The strategy, even for firms with proprietary code, is to push out some code as open source, try to set a standard, and then hold back something better for those with more money than time.
This is the test of the market. Where are the start-ups coming from, where are the new ideas coming from, where are the new jobs being created?
It's in open source.