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
    Francis the Wonder Llama, 23 Apr 2008 @ 5:37pm

    Re: Re: Re: Re:

    It's not just time to communicate to the geeks, it's that most casual users don't want to have to do it. It's simply not my (as a casual user) problem to have to take time to tell the geeks so that they can accomplish whatever is the geek's agenda is. Be it some quasi-religious pursuit, software utopian ideal or semi-socialist, anti-corporate political issue. Or whatever else motivates the geeks.

    BTW, I AM a geek and don't mind doing it myself. Professionally I support probably 25 different versions of OSes. At home I play with maybe 10 more. So I do it quite frequently. But I'm speaking to what my non-geek friends, family and customers say and what seems obvious to me.

    What you seem to be missing is that for geeks, the software itself is the focus. For most people, what the software lets them accomplish is the focus. They don't give a rats ass about OSS or those other things. And the VAST majority of people have never given feedback to MS. Instead, they've let other people (mainly their IT support geeks) do it for them. In fact, that has been a portion of my various jobs at times.

    The fact is that MS and other "closed SW suppliers" are already there. My family or friends can just go down to Fry's or wherever to and pick something up. Throw the disk in, and get going. What you are BEGGING them to do is help you in YOUR pursuit to get there. And that is just not their fucking problem.

    But the geeks persist to pontificate from on high and look down their noses upon the unwashed and pitifully ignorant masses with statements like "Then maybe, just maybe, they don't need to use a computer because zero knowledge of how ANY operating system works is the problem, not the operating system itself." from erichweiss

    Such blantant arrogance is laughable. Not to mention that the reponse was purposefully done out of context. And then to top it off, it displays a typical discrete geek logic. Jumping to the conclusion that if someone doesn't want to spend a lot of time on the OS itself then they must have zero knowledge. Typical binary thinking Full knowledge and devotion (1) versus zero knowledge (0). Missing the point that the household computer has become to the users, a commodity just like the microwave, TV, and dishwasher. Just how much time and effort have any of us put into those things' improvements?

    Was the home computer and its OSes ready for that when it came about? No. Is it even really ready now? Arguably still no. But that is the problem of the geeks to make it so. It is not the problem of the comsumers who have every right to expect what they can buy in a store to just work for them (with a "good enough" probability), not for them to work for the software.

    Sorry about the Vista experience. It's a pig especially pre-SP1. But liek anything a single sample doesn't make a rule. And I doubt I could calcualte the total time I've spent with getting various distros of Linux or FreeBSD etc to work properly.

    But maybe the best question at that topic is...

    Just how much time and effort did you put into giving MS constructive feedback about your Vista problems?

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