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
    Iron Chef, 23 Apr 2008 @ 6:49pm

    GPL, MySql, and everything inbetween.

    GPL is impractical in a business setting- there can be too many new feature additions that deviate from the core concept of the software, which can make it large and extremely difficult to manage.

    Tying into an earlier TechDirt post, which has some congruency, I have to admit- I really admire how MySql managed within the confines of GPL for so long, without forking the codebase into a 2nd project. Having used MySql for several years, I sat in on the Sun/MySQL acquisition conference call a few months ago, and was inspired by what they were doing... But thats another blog post.

    So one of the benefits of a second, propietary EULA is accountability, and the ability to create a defined support model, prioritization of features for releases, and documentation. I imagine these needs were why that merger took place.

    Many people today are expanding on previously derived works- much like in music and film- Something like a remix. They use something under GPL that fills 80% of the gap, and fix that last 20% to fill the complete need.

    But without an open codebase, its tough to extend or expand. Maybe this is Bill's frustration...?


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