Bill Gates Claims Open Source Means Nobody Can Improve Software

from the say-what-now? dept

Wired is running an interesting article about Bill Gates' thoughts on the pharmaceutical industry, which he's increasingly focused on as he transitions out of Microsoft and into his foundation. He clearly understands the basic problem, though I think he has the wrong solution in brushing off the idea that "open sourcing" medicine is a huge opportunity. As for why... well, I'll be discussing that in a future post. Instead, for this post, I wanted to focus on a rather bizarre statement out of Gates (all the way at the end of the article) in discussing why he dislikes open source software. His complaint is that open source creates a license "so that nobody can ever improve the software." It's hard to figure out how to respond to that statement since it's the exact opposite of how open source software works. The exact point is that anyone can improve the software. It's proprietary software like Microsoft's that's limited such that only Microsoft is allowed to improve it. It's no secret that Gates isn't a fan of open source software, but it still seems odd that he would make a statement that is so obviously false, both in theory and in practice. Perhaps old FUD habits die hard, but one would hope that as he enters "retirement" he'll have a more open mind on such things.

Filed Under: bill gates, open source, pharmaceuticals


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  1. identicon
    N1ck0, 23 Apr 2008 @ 1:13pm

    Re: It depends on what your definition of "improve" is.

    Its simple, Bill doesn't see how support and ancillary services could make money (which is interesting cause Microsoft made a lot of money of consulting/research/supporting products & services). He basically believes that the backing of any product is the value invested in intellectual property behind it.

    With the GPL license you can't just buy-out an existing work and assume all control over that intellectual property. And as Microsoft gains a large amount of its IP that way; he doesn't can go buy new technologies with the GPL around.

    So basically its the 'if I can't buy and control all of it, it must not have value' thinking.

    Of course this is very hypocritical because this is the same person who said that hardware would become free, and promotes the future of selling software/support as pay services over the cost of the product. So in essence he is saying the ancillary products & service offerings are worth more.

    In the end the guy is just looking for investments that his investment firms can buy and dominate (like the rights to Einstein's public image, or a drug to cure cancer) he's not concerned with consumers, or business relationships anymore.

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