Vista marks end of 'planned software'

Big software releases like Windows Vista demonstrate the limits of a "planned" development model characteristic of proprietary software, says Red Hat CEO.
Written by Victoria Ho, Contributor

SINGAPORE--Big software releases like Windows Vista mark the end of "planned software" for the industry, according to Red Hat CEO, Jim Whitehurst.

Speaking at a forum here Friday, Whitehurst said the proprietary, "top-down, planned" software development model characteristic of closed source companies is coming to an end--one which is demonstrated by the number of bugs in Vista, he said.

Whitehurst claimed that there are "half the number of bugs in Linux per thousand lines" compared to the Microsoft operating system, because of the open source collaborative model.

Vulnerability research company, Secunia, released a report earlier this year stating there were more flaws reported last year for Red Hat operating systems than for Microsoft operating systems. This was denied by a Red Hat security team member.

Whitehurst explained his position in an interview with ZDNet Asia later, saying closed source models are hampered by the limit to the amount of planning that can be done during the development process to foresee all the roadblocks that might come up. "If software gets too big, it cannot be organized. This is an indicator of what can be planned," he said.

The Linux stack, on the other hand, "had to be modular" because of how vast development efforts on it spread. Development from the global open source community happens in tandem and at a rate not pre-planned by a "monolithic vendor", he said.

However, because of the modular development model and the number of parties checking through for errors, open source software comes out with fewer errors and is more organized, he explained.

Whitehurst attempted to explain the appeal of open source software's participatory "community" model: he likened open source to U.S. reality TV competition, American Idol and closed products to U.S. pop star, Britney Spears.

Of American Idol, he said the record studios were able to spend less to market the eventual winner because audience participation accurately showed which singer was preferred before the competition was over.

Britney Spears, on the other hand, as a "product of millions of dollars in investment" is not a sure bet when each record is released to the public, because the marketing surrounding her was pre-planned and excluded the public, he said.

Whitehurst said during his presentation, development through the open source community is also faster and often more precise as to what customers need, because enterprises are able to contribute code that they have written for their pain points back to the community. He contrasted this example against the traditional proprietary method of "listening to customers" and writing code based on that interpretation.

"Linux functionality leapt forward because customers could develop what they wanted, and Red Hat could help share it," he said.

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