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.

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  1. identicon
    Ryan, 23 Apr 2008 @ 2:19pm

    Tech Geekieness Aside...

    We can discuss all day long about open source this, commercial that, but when it boils right down to it, which is more successful?

    Windows is more successful because of its ease of use. It's commercial.

    PHP is more successful because of it's ease of use.
    It's Open source.

    So which is the winner? There is no clear answer because it is different with every situation.

    Ease of use brings better adoption. It is easier to write a program for Windows than for MAC or Linux.

    It is easy to write a script in PHP because you don't rely on the VBScripting world roots of ASP, (which was harder to get used to in the earlier days).

    If you make it easy to obtain, learn, adopt, practice, etc. you will have a winner.

    Open source doesn't lead itself to direct goals in all cases. They say, "hey there, there is this free utility and here's how it works. Go play with it." And people do.

    People tinker from all over the globe and they all have different ideas as to what is "EASIER". Eventually, you get a better version or a neat widget, but the focus isn't there like with commercial.

    GUI based linux OS's run like Windows 98. Whoop di doo!

    That's because everyone has a different goal when developing this open source software.

    If you devote the whole world to one specific task in open source, you would have the world's best system in a year flat.

    But that isn't how open source works. It gives you freedom, and with freedom comes choice. And if you are told to do something versus asked to do something, a lot of times the person telling you what to do needs to pull out their checkbook to get us to do it. Because we don't like being TOLD what to do. We like to choose.

    So, in the end, you want a better product faster, PAY.

    If you want a better, more well rounded product, Open Source. But you goal must be to make it...

    EASIER!

    Thanks for reading my ramble.

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