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. icon
    PaulT (profile), 23 Apr 2008 @ 2:30pm

    Re: Re: Re:

    "Leave that to the geeks."

    You see, here's the problem. People complain that FOSS software is not good enough for them because it doesn't meet their needs, or because the "geeks" don't understand their needs.

    So, if you don't have the time to communicate the needs, how the hell are the "geeks" meant to meet your needs.

    Let me put it another way. How does Microsoft know what its customers want? How does it meet the needs of the enterprise that it focusses on so heavily? Because people talk to them, constantly. The fact that they're paying money for support means that they contact Microsoft for any problem. This allows Microsoft to determine the largest problems and fix/improve accordingly.

    If you don't bother feeding back the same information to the people you're not paying, how are they supposed to fix the "problems"? If money's the problem, every major Linux distribution has a paid-for support channel with the same guarantees as Microsoft should you wish to pay them. Why not help them help you?

    "I want my software to make me more productive, meaning I want to install it and get going with it to complete my goals."

    I recently bought a laptop preinstalled with Vista. It was slow, and almost completely unusable until SP1 was released thanks to a well documented problem with copying files.

    While waiting for Vista to be fixed, I installed Mandriva in a different partition. Everything worked straight away, including wireless and 3D graphics, straight out of the box. As did the applications I used out of the 10,000+ that came on the same DVD.

    By your standard, Vista sucked and Linux did not. By your standard, I was ripped off by Microsoft yet Mandriva came in and did everything I needed free-of-charge.

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