Decline of Open Source Follow-Up: FUD Attack?

Rob Enderle

I was fascinated with the responses I got around the Web on my observation that open source interest, according to the OEMs I've spoken to recently, is dropping. These responses seemed to be attempting to FUD my post, which in itself is ironic.

In a company, there are often views that may be incredibly stupid and destructive, but they are protected because a few powerful people hold them. In religious groups, you can ostensibly be against violence and then use violence to further your goals. We call that hypocrisy, and we are up to our armpits in it.

With all of the comparisons between free software and free speech, I often wonder if people realize that many who support one don't seem to support the other.

 

Freedom as in Free Speech

 

I'm actually a big believer in freedom and competition. Whether it is Microsoft or any other company, I believe you should always have a choice of vendors. However, I also realize that a monopoly is the most efficient business model and the market will almost always gravitate towards it. Then the monopoly misuses its power and loses its hard-won position, and we start over again.

 


That creates a natural tension, because you can't have both a monopoly and competition, and the goal should be to ensure that the consumer, either business or individual, is not disadvantaged (which they almost always are) as the market transitions back and forth between modes.

 

Critical to protecting customers is the freedom for both sides to be heard. If one side gains too much power over the conversation, the consumer can be misled and damaged; then not only will the market be sub-optimized, it can become an oppressive place to do business.

 

Propaganda

 

One of the things I object to with vendors is the tendency to buy and craft news coverage and then believe it as if it were independent, both misleading their customers and themselves.

 

One of the things I object to with open source is the tendency to use intimidation to discourage dissenting voices. While the "free" in "free software" is compared to the "free " in "free speech," the reality is that the two often seem mutually exclusive.

 

This last is more frightening to me, because it often feels like the kind of thing that happens when major religions brand people as heretical and criminal.

 

If you look at my previous piece, and then some of the responses here at LinuxToday.com, you'll see the focus too often wasn't on my observation -- which was just that, an observation -- it was on silencing my voice.

 

I was also fascinated by the number of folks who seem to use SlashDot but don't seem to trust it and argue that "serious journalists" don't link to it.

 

Microsft as Satan

 

Today we see many political and religious organizations bringing up scary things -- or folks who are different -- as reasons to set aside freedoms as part of a response. In observing this, I think we can determine that the goal of people who do this is not the obvious one; it is power and control.

 

To me, too much of open source is about controlling speech and the elimination of dissenting views, often arguing that only approved people can argue critical points. The acronym FUD is used to discredit anything OSS supporters disagree with, without requiring a discussion of the facts that back up their disagreement.

 

Let's leave this section with this thought. Microsoft has been the target, the devil, if you will, that open source has often been positioned to eliminate. Microsoft is seen as a company that steals ideas from others to its own financial benefit. My view is that it played the game very well for much of the last decade and those that didn't are pissed. I don't think it is playing the game as well now, and that is largely why other companies are more consistently seen as leaders today.

 

Since the war was declared against Microsoft, Google and Apple have risen up as major powers in their respective segments. Both companies make heavy use of open source resources, both have executives who have been made very wealthy, and few of the people who have provided the open source technology to either firm have benefited financially.

 

All open source did is move the deck chairs. Both of these new powers are arguably more closed and autocratic than Microsoft was/is.

 

Wrapping up and Moving on

 

It is my experience that people find comfort in telling themselves they are right, regardless of whether they are. A great example is the Iraq war; people in power were so sure they were right that they silenced dissenting voices who argued the war was being poorly managed and was likely to be counter-productive. The end result wasn't a successful effort; it simply ensured the failures identified by those dissenting voices.

 

In the end, I think any group that seems to want to control who can speak on a subject, what they can say, and how often they say it is suspect regardless of what they publicly appear to stand for. Anyone can be on the wrong path; allowing people the right to say the emperor has no clothes would seem wise given our recent history as a race.

 

Let me leave you with this. If customers really want open source, as many argue, why then, when given a choice, do they line up to buy products like the iPhone and seem to avoid Linux-based products? The exception is Tivo, which is now at risk, not from Microsoft, but from the FSF and GPL 3.0.



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Jul 17, 2007 5:45 AM Chris Weiss Chris Weiss  says:
Interesting perspective. My only disagreement is:"Both of these new powers are arguably more closed and autocratic than Microsoft was/is."This in my opinion is hyperbole. All big IT powers try for hegemony - it is part of the business move toward monopoly regardless of Open Source, Closed Source, or mixed source. However, I have never paid a license fee for anything Google. Apple is incapable of executing hegemony successfully, so their stance really doesn't matter. Both companies rely on choice. My family uses iPods because they seem to work well and they look "cool." The consumer allows Apple to be dominant. Google requires users to choose them. Try buying a functional PC for business use without Windows? There is no viable alternative unlike for search or MP3 players.Apple is a funny company. However, their OS is based on Mach and free BSD. Their move to PC hardware was overdue. Neither of these were closed or autocratic actions. Similarly, Google allows you to use their software and building blocks for free. I can't think of anything I have ever gotten from MS that wasn't tied to the OS or very expensive.Closed and autocratic??? No. Strong desire for monopoly? Yes, but don't we all wish to dominate? Reply
Jul 18, 2007 1:23 AM Bob Robertson Bob Robertson  says:
"on my observation that open source interest, according to the OEMs Ive spoken to recently, is dropping."And oh, how little controversy and how few clicks for your advertisers if you had left it at that.But no, you have to go off into subjects of which you know nothing, such as Information Technology and business, and make as many wild accusations as possible. Ah, watch that ad revenue soar! Reply
Jul 18, 2007 3:52 AM gcacic gcacic  says:
- Once again - copy & paste -In his novel The Honourable Schoolboy John Le Caree introduced a respective, though with a very small role, character named Craw - self proclaimed president of Hong Kong something club. After a long night conversation with George Smiley, the best played ever,according to unwritten history of Circus, newspaper article was born into the local (fiction) newspaper the very next day.The writer of the novel - Caree himself - though never introduced the readers to the text of the article itself.I wonder would it be better for the author of this article to never introduce us to the strory as such.FUD chages (tries to change) its own faces but sad true for the FUDers is - too litle too late Reply
Jul 18, 2007 10:03 AM JohnMc JohnMc  says:
"I was fascinated with the responses I got around the Web on my observation that open source interest, according to the OEMs Ive spoken to recently, is dropping...."Rob I replied to your previous post on the subject based on my observations of FOSS in the microniche environments. But based on the comment above, I have to ask. If your pronouncement is based on the impressions of OEM's then you are mouthing the viewpoints of others. What is YOUR view on the topic?I would also observe that OEM like any other seller of product have internal pressures and relationships to preserve. If you are tier 2 OEM provider, Microsoft has ways to apply financial pressures on you to keep on the MS ranch and not go open source. The fact that Dell has decided to do so is a significant development in that regard. For only Dell/HP/Lenovo-IBM have the financial standing as market endpoints to go toe to toe with Microsoft. This has already born some early fruit as Dell has released drivers not available before for use of several softmodem chipsets. So as you observed -- "One of the things I object to with vendors is the tendency to buy and craft news coverage and then believe it as if it were independent, both misleading their customers and themselves." Be also observant to OEM's who apply the other side of the coin. That is, they like the football owner, pronounce they are right behind their coach all the way all the while the front office is searching for his replacement. Only in their case they can't remove themselves from the price pressures of one of their largest suppliers. So they play along otherwise they lose their business.I offer you a challenge. Forego the OEMs for a while. Go talk to the development shops in Apple, Google, Xerox. Go talk to the development shops of the printer vendors -- Xerox, Lexmark, HP who all use linux code to drive their printers. Or go into the embedded controller market where MS is not to be seen. It is linux uber alles in that market today. Look, observe and you will find that Linux and it's supporting cast of code tools are taking over many segments. FOSS IS the economic advantage in those markets. Reply
Jul 19, 2007 1:29 AM Michael H Michael H  says:
I find it interesting that you take the comment of a vocal few and use them to paint a circle around an entire community. This would be just like saying that all Muslems are terrorists. I am sure that in your years of penning opinions, you have raised the ire of quite a few people. The majority, by far, will probably just ignore you and go on. It is only a very small percentage that will rise to the occasion to respond. Having read you original piece, I found it to be just speculation on your part with nothing really given as proof of any of the assertions you were makeing. Now, by taking the replys of a few, you can now paint yourself as a victim of a "community." While I am sure that controversy sells ads, it does not actual provide any useful information.Using your technique, I reviewed with several MS Business Partners in the area and the majority of them did not know who Rob Enderle was, so based on that, my perception is that your readership is declining. Just thought you should know. Reply
Jul 19, 2007 1:46 AM Rob Enderle Rob Enderle  says:
Cute but not a good comparison at all unless the Microsoft partners control the majority of the intended audiance. The OEMs still have the majority of hardware sales, desktop and server, and what they see could be a leading indicator. Not scientific though. Communities are measured by their vocul minority. Right or wrong that's the way things are. But I never said everyone was like that I simply pointed out examples of bad behavior. If you can think of a better way to stop that behavior I'd love to hear it, or are you condoning it?Over my years I've seen what appears to be an increase of people who feel they can, if they disagree, use threat, personal attack, or physical attack (DOS) to censor those they disagree with. I think Free Speech should be defended. Be interested to know if you agree. My piece was speculative, that's the nature of what I write, I try to find things that are interesting that aren't being well covered by someone else. Reply
Jul 19, 2007 2:35 AM Michael H Michael H  says:
Yes, I would agree that it was not scientific. Nor was my comparison.Looking back, I do see that you never said everyone was, but the implications of the article were that it was. As with every community, there are always going to be some bad eggs. And no, I have never been able to come up with a reasonable way of dissuading the comments. I do believe in fredom of speech (although I do not put hate speech into that category), so it is difficult to tell people that they can not express their minds without being concidered censorship. As for the increase in vitrol in the replies, I too have seen that and for the most part, I blame the lack of ethics being taught any more, and the economic situation that makes most homes unable to have parents around to teach the kids. This is one of the areas that I have been working with my own children. On another thought, there is also no way of knowing how many that are responding truly are part of the FOSS group, and how many are just tagging along to earn their "street credit." The idea of using DOS or even physical attacks to silence someone is repugnant and only makes the conversation get drowned in the noise of acrimony between the parties. For myself, I have almost always found that a calm, gentle message is much more effective than overt threats. Now, how you get people to open their eyes and actually see this, I do not know. Maybe if I did, I could get peace in the Middle East or kids to actually listen to their teachers.Realizing that your piece was speculative puts a different light on it. I think that some just take all pieces reported as being statements of fact. In the article, you made several pronouncements that make it sound like you were reporting facts, not opinion, especially with the tag line of "The Real Truth about Technology and IT." I very rarely reply to articles that I disagree with, so this is unusual for me. I am thankful that you seem to realize that I am not blasting you. Reply
Jul 19, 2007 2:52 AM Rob Enderle Rob Enderle  says:
The point of this is to actually create discussions; my objection was to folks who appeared to go to excessive lengths to eliminate dissenting views. That kind of practice is a company killer and compromises all of our Free Speech rights. On the Street Cred, a number of us have been aware that a lot of people posting seem to either have no real connection to technology at all, or are part of some PR like organization missioned to silence views their patron disagrees with. The first is annoying the last is dishonest and reflects badly on that patron and mission.Finally, speculation isn't lying, it is speculation. I observed something and drew a connection, explaining in the body of the piece that the observation may not truly support the result I'd called out. As an analyst I'm missioned to see things early that others don't see. That's the job, we can be wrong, we aren't supposed to be silent or timid. I didn't see what you wrote as a personal attack and appreciate your helping me think thought this. Reply
Jul 19, 2007 3:09 AM Michael H Michael H  says:
Creating discussions is a wonderful thing and if the signal-to-noise ratio can be handled, can actually lead to improving products and ideas all the way around. I do not wish Microsoft ill. I do not use them at home, but that is a personal thing based on their treatment of me back in the Windows 98 days.Not being a journalist, I was not aware of the PR like orginizations, so that is an interesting view into this. I agree that all of that makes it very annoying. It is for the main stream reader as well. :-)I hope you did not take what I was saying as meaning you were lying either. I do know what speculation is, and knowing that was the intention of the piece, helps clarify, in my mind, what was said. Sometimes, that is the problem with the written word. It can be hard to catch the little nuances that you can pick up in speaking face to face. This is part of the reason I try to always keep my responses polite, and even then I have had some mis-understand what I have said. I also think that with the way electronic media is now, it is so easy to fire off a reply, that you can respond to what is said, before realize that what you thought was said is not what was really said. (oh, and I'm not accusing you of this, just in general) I always welcome conversations and discussions in a civil manner and also appreciate your thoughts on this as well. Reply
Jul 19, 2007 4:53 AM Zigurd Zigurd  says:
The iPhone as evidence of acceptance of closed and proprietary systems is a weak example. Apple's TV ads for the iPhone emphasize that it can access free videos and the real Web, in contrast with the proprietary subscription video and not-really-the-Web WAP service available on most phones.And, if you look around at the most phones with the most buzz on sites like Slashdot, the one that comes in second place after iPhone is the FIC Neo 1973, running OpenMoko, where the entire OS, user interface, and applications suite is open to software developers. Reply
Jul 20, 2007 9:41 AM Mallik Mallik  says:
The angle of vision for you seems to be constant at 10 degrees. while a normal persons vision is 60 degrees.It is not FOSS' mistake that jobs are being outsourced to india. It is because the greedy businesses in US that are outsourcing jobs to india. they want to make more money ,so they outsource the jobs to india where a skileed IT professional will be paid 1/5 th of what a person with the same ability in US is paid.US is only one country. there is a whole wide world out there. There are already businesses moving out of the country due to patents. that is also causing the loss to the economy.Look at the big picture. Reply
Jul 20, 2007 11:50 AM Rob Enderle Rob Enderle  says:
I think I am looking at the big picture. I see the excessive focus on price as being damaging to the Tech Industry in general and the US in particular. I do live here and excuse me for wanting to see the jobs stay here if possible. Granted FSF isn't the only cause, but think that they are making the problem, and I do think this is a problem, worse. But, in this post, I'm taking exception to the nature of the response which is to avoid the core issue and try to kill the messenger. I don't think anything gets resolved that way and have lots of examples, Iraq for instance, where that behavior actually makes problems impossible to anticipate and fix. At no time did I say don't use OSS, I just suggested that instead of having someone who is a poster child for working for free lead the effort, maybe someone who actually has worked for a living would do a better job of helping protect the people's jobs who support FSF and OSS. Do you see anything wrong with that? Reply
Jul 25, 2007 1:09 AM Napoleon Courtney Napoleon Courtney  says:
I agree with you that open source is hurting, it's the same problem the mobile phone industry is having.People got accustomed to getting a free phone when they signed up for service, and the phone itself at least in the perception of the consumer had no real value (It was free after all.) when in reality the phone wasn't free, the consumer paid for it on the backend, in the form of a monthly service plan and if they discontinued service, an early disconnect fee.The open source community is having the same perception problem.They perceive free, and therefore the product has no true value.If a company like Google perceives free the same way as a consumer, then they're not going to pay decent salaries to programmers.The perception of free to these people means just that, free.If they have to pay a senior programmer 90,000 dollars a year, then that's not free to them or they're not getting any value out of the programmer in their eyes.Now out source that job overseas and hire an entire firm of programmers for 10,000 dollars a year, at the very least a company can expect at least a half dozen programmers working on a project for 10,000 dollars a year.Now the company starts to see some value in free, and 6 programmers for 10,000 dollars a year is a lot better value than one programmer at 90,000 dollars a year, let alone a team of programmers making salaries between 50-90,000 dollars a year in the United States.The only thing that will help open source is the following:A hardware manufacturer willing to make systems for any of the open source software distributions.They would have to offer support, and that is one of the problems with free software, you can't expect a company to provide support for a product that is essentially free.I think open source is going to have to do a re-think on free and adopt the business model of making a profit on service and support, a person purchasing an open source product would receive support from the company providing the software, and support from the hardware manufacturer.The reason a major hardware manufacturers haven't got on the open source band wagon is profitability, and the fear of the Free Software Foundations stance on free.I'm no big fan of the FSF for some of their stances nor am I a fan of Microsoft and some of their business practices, I question some of the agreements that certain companies are making with Microsoft.Look back at some of the agreements other companies have had with Microsoft, and it's always benefited Microsoft.It used to be when two companies signed a deal they'd have a big press conference to announce the deal, nowadays there is a brief press release and it's more like a backroom deal in a smoked filled room, but being an electrical engineer and a computer programmer as well as a business man I see the need to provide software, hardware and support services and to be able to pay employees especially U.S.employees, and yes I realize we live in a global community but jobs sent overseas hurt the U.S.economy.Countries don't really make business agreements, they have agreements of convenience if India and Pakistan should decide to go to war again, where is that going to leave all those companies who have moved their IT jobs to those countries, it was just a few years ago that we had the 2001-2002 India-Pakistan standoff, both countries rattling sabers at each other, and both are nuclear capable countries.There has also been unrest in China, although the government says they're taking a stronger stance against dissidents, China has a history with the people revolting against the party line. Reply
Jul 25, 2007 1:09 AM Napoleon Courtney Napoleon Courtney  says:
Yet we still think it's better to manufacture goods in countries that for the most part aren't always the best places to be.The Free Software Federation definitely doesn't help the cause of open source.This country wasn't built on a free meal and a free place to sleep.It was built on good old fashion hard work, and at the end of the day a person expected to get paid a decent wage, you can't do this with open source software, without a profit you can pay people, unlike like China which pays it's people very little for a hard days work.Unless a company or companies start taking a stand and say they need to make a profit in order to support the open source movement.Companies like Google use open source software but don't really do anything to promote it's use or for that matter give back to the community.Ironically Google is interested in the upcoming FCC auction of the 700 MHz spectrum band with some conditions.One of Google's proposals is to auction off the spectrum and then have the winners re-auction that spectrum in real time to others, which is not unlike their current business model of competitive bidding among advertisers that Google uses to underwrite their core internet business.The problem with this is that this would impose a single regulation based model on those who incur the risk of buying spectrum, and mandating how that spectrum is used, presumably without Google spending any capital to acquire spectrum or build or maintain a network Again taking something for free and not giving anything back.There are no free meals, free rides or free places to sleep.Because there is no value in free. Reply
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