Open Source Billionaires and Ridiculous Questions

HughMacleod recently asked “HowWell Does Open Source Currently Meet The Needs of Shareholders andCEO’s?” It’s an illogical, inconsistent post that should havescrolled out of the memory of mankind, but somehow it has beenmentioned far and wide, including a mentionon the popular CodingHorror, among other highly ranked blogs, many of which justmuddied the waters of this misleading question evenworse.

Photo by Zach McCarthyThe originalpost by Hugh was baffling, first confusing the Microsoft Partnerprogram with gross Microsoft sales, and then completelyhodge-podging software as a commercial product withsoftware as a consumable.

There aren’t any opensource billionaires selling software as a product, Hugh tells us,so therefore open source doesn’t service shareholders and CEO’s (ofnon software-as-a-product organizations) as aconsumable.


Hugh isn’t evencommenting on the financial viability of building a software as aproduct company around open source, where such a question meritssober consideration (though there are quite a few very successfulopen source businesses, whether a company can survive and thrivewith their crown jewels open sourced needs to be considered on acase by case basis). Instead he’s claiming that every organizationneeds to ensure that their suppliers are making boatloadsof loot (preferrably suppliers with an ownership structurethat centralizes it on one or two individuals), which is a ratherodd consideration. Or worse, that their suppliers share somenonsensical correlation with someone else that is verysuccessful.

Open source is a verycontentious topic, and to many it is threatening to their world. Itis often grossly oversold as a silver-bullet, when oftenit only plays a marginal part (both Firefox and MySQL, as examples,are overwhelmingly developed by a traditional team in a traditionalway, and the source just happens to be available. It really isn’tthe driving force of their march forward).

Yet to correlatesoftware as a consumable so arbitrarily holds no value whatsoever,and isn’t a good foundation for any discussion.

And most remarkably ituses Bill Gates as the example of the merit of non-open sourcesoftware as a consumable — yet Bill Gates is perversely probablythe single biggest reason the open source market is so vibrant andalive. The anti-Microsoft rallying cry was a critical early factorin the growth of the OSS community.