Will Google Kill Open Source? (And Do Open Developers Have to Be Underpaid?): Page 2

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The true poster child for Open Source is Google, which makes its money not by sharing technology but by using it effectively to reduce technology costs to incredibly low levels. If everyone were to follow Google’s example much of the existing technology industry, from Sun to Microsoft, would simply cease to exist. Google’s long term plan would appear to be to become more powerful than AT&T, IBM, and Microsoft combined. And even though they are having a little trouble controlling costs, the company is executing on this plan at an impressive speed.

Will a world dominated by Google – with more power than the combined power of the firms they displace – be better or worse than it is now? That will depend on Google, but clearly companies that achieved a fraction of that kind of power in the past (do no evil policies aside) have not handled it well, and I doubt Google will either. Because inside the search giant are people, many of whom came from the same companies that had issues when they dominated their respective segments.

But, and here is the kicker, if Google wins as they intend, Open Source effectively is dead in much of the market as is Free (as in Free Speech) Software. In other words Google will define what you get and don’t get and they likely will define much of what you see as well. Granted much will be Free, as in Free Beer, but I wonder if the cost of this “Free” will be more than any of us now intend to pay. You could call this collateral damage.

Is OSS Inadvertently Killing the Software Job Market in Developed Nations?

Or, put a different way, should part of the mission for OSS advocates be to assure the incomes of those who code? With a heavy focus on “Free” as in “Free Beer,” and folks like Richard Stallman driving the movement, who don’t believe people should make money, there would appear to be a connection to declining incomes that I think we have all observed that goes beyond economics, because it speaks directly to the human resources focused on Open Source.

Back in ‘80s and ‘90s the value of software, and the compensation for those who wrote it, were tied to marketing and sales organizations which, when successful, maintained or increased the related prices, thus providing funding for programmer salaries. But, in the Open Source world, companies like Red Hat don’t generate enough cash to attract top sales people and have no budget for marketing, at least not to the level a firm like Google does, and Google redefines marketing because they increasingly choose the ads you see.

In addition, those that have adopted Open Source generally find line managers focused like a laser, not on getting down hardware or software cost (which is already as low as it can go, and you can’t get blood out of a stone), but on getting down labor cost, resulting in off-shoring or foreign labor being brought in at discount rates. There really is nothing to support the compensation for OSS developers like there generally is in the proprietary world.


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