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Confusing Free with free

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Simon Phipps explains – for the thousandth time I imagine – some basic things about Free/Open source software.

From what the blog says – “Yes, clearly it’s cheaper, but does it really save money in the end?” – it’s clear this part of Adobe thinks of Free/Open Source software purely as a commodity and a way of cutting corners. That it’s ultimately only about saving money. They seem to confuse Free with free, liberty with payment. In the process Adobe is missing a huge opportunity.

Alas, outside the open source communities, this is not being explained/understood widely enough. So thanks to Simon for delving deeper:

As Stallman points out, software freedom is not about avoiding payment, it is about preserving and exercising liberty. I don’t accept that pursuing profit and respecting software freedom are unrelated, much less that they run counter to each other. Profit and liberty are not orthogonal. I also profoundly believe that competing against software freedom provides (at best) a short-term advantage.

And now he’s talking my language:

For a company like Adobe, to compete against software freedom is to ignore the inexorable progress of disruptive technologies and the Innovator’s Dilemma.

One of the challenges that open source faces is that its most significant and enduring impact is at the level that most businesses don’t pay attention to. The level of innovation that goes beyond the product, market or industry analysis usually based on controllable and measurable variables and the bigger-picture-doesn’t-get-me-through-the-next-quarter kind of thinking. A classic case of what doesn’t get measured, gets ignored. And misunderstood. So often Free/Open source software is seen as a comparable alternative to proprietary applications and the comparisons are made in terms of the wrong dichotomy, as Simon points out.

But the point is, the dichotomy Adobe paints is of its own making. It is not inherent in either Free software or in the open source communities which create it. And by trying to protect their short-term revenue, Adobe avoid affinity with some high-energy developers while pushing their customer base to increasingly attractive Free – and free – alternatives.

In fact, they are not comparable as you simply cannot compare the dynamics of community behind Free/Open source to the arbitrary, insulated and often turgid development of ‘closed source’ software. If the internet has shown anything it is that open is better, faster and ultimately more powerful. The principles that apply here:

the hand of Doc

IOS Brussels

No one owns it.

Everyone can use it.

Anyone can improve it.

These principles are so basic, they undermine all efforts to deny them.

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