Monday, March 27, 2006

Commerical Software vs. Open Source...Is There a Clear Winner?

As I casually flipped through one of the IT Trade magazines I recieve I came across a statement by an executive of a software company. His statement was a bold one indeed as he said, "...the days of commerical software are numbered as Open Source is truly taking over."

First off, Open Source software is usually free software that companies give out. Now as a commericial software developer myself that statement truly made me wonder. Is this gentleman right?

It depends. First off, Open Source software is a good thing. Alot of times the code of the software is written using a non-Microsoft software language (i.e. Java, RealBasic, etc.). Also the label "Open Source" software comes from the fact that these software applications are often developed by a community. That is a group of individuals start writing the software application and then share the code so others can contribute. Thus there is a "community" that develops from all the contributors of the software development and the subsequent users of the software.

The most popular Open Source software on the internet today is from the Mozilla foundation. They developed Mozilla, Firefox and Thunderbird (web browsers and email clients). Anyone can go to their site and download the software...and millions of individuals across the world have.

Ok so now let's get into a debate - which is better...open source or commerical software? I believe that their is no distinct winner. For example, the open source browser Firefox is a tremendous piece of software. Often times it is thought of better than Internet Explorer. Since it is a community developed software there are hundreds of add-ins such as having customized weather reports, password checkers, and the list goes on and on. AVG Free (a free anti-virus program) from GriSoft is another excellent piece of open source software. I often recommend that program to my clients as it is extremely reliable for home users.

So at this point your saying..."looks as if Open Source software is the better choice!". Well not necessairily. A good deal of open source software is more technically advanced than the traditional commercial software. Sometimes just installing the software is enough to drive users crazy! Also, the technical support for the software may be somewhat limited due to the lack of a centralized development team. Perhaps the most important fact is that alot of the open source software items on the internet that are indeed free are the basic versions of the software. For example, AVG Free is the free anti-virus software for home users but for business use GriSoft only has commerical versions. Some companies are bringing open source into the enterprise but for the most part that's the trend. You get a free basic version but for professional versions you have to pay.

Now for most folks (i.e. home users) that is fine. However for business use, the small business owner should take a minute and closely evaluate each piece of software (open source vs. commericial) before deciding.

For questions or comments please reply to this post or email me directly at bwinston@thebricogroup.com

Blog On.

Brian J. Winston
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