Dave Winer posted a list of 16 categories where commercial software stull reigns . I kind of feel like he's been unfairly trying to polarize the debate between open and closed source software recently, although it may just be that I'm giving way too much credit to the open source advocates. Anyway, I emailed this to him and he said "I wish you'd post that", so here it is:
As Cluetrain says: "Markets consist of human beings, not demographic sectors". If we stop assuming that all human beings are interchangeable, that there's a "best" solution for each class of problems rather than for each person, then this whole "Open Source versus Commercial" debate looks pretty darned silly.
Economically it still costs to develop software. Unless someone finds the nirvana of business models Open Source software will never make good end-user software because end-users aren't paying for it. Programmers and highly technical people pay for Open Source. Not in dollars, in sweat and effort, and in the end it's no cheaper than closed source software, just better evolved to that particular customer base.
On today's additions, given what I know about web infrastructure, I have trouble believing that there are more installations of Oracle than MySQL , and frankly I'd bet that even by number of users they're pretty close to parity (If you're going to protest about MySQL being a database, I'll concede, PostgreSQL doesn't have the numbers to compete yet).
Similarly, there aren't sales figures for the number of users running Linux or *BSD firewalls, but I wouldn't declare Cisco the winner in that group either 'til I had hard numbers from third parties other than the usual stats whores like the Gartner Group.
But really that's moot, because looking at what software leads a given market segment is as silly as noticing that all your neighbors are using sledge hammers to pound their fence posts and choosing a hammer for hanging pictures based on that information.
If you changed that list to be "best of breed for the way Dan Lyke uses each particular package", then there are two categories where commercial closed-source software wins (although in the browser case, only on a "sucks less" basis). But even among us Open Source advocates I doubt you'd get very many products which exceed a third or so in each category.
Or at least I'd hope not, 'cause that'd mean I'm changing my working style to match the computer. And the whole point of software is that the computer should serve me, not vice-versa.
Dave's posted a first response, I need to think about things to give a coherent response, but I think we're going the same direction.
comment on this under the front page entry.
Saturday, February 24th, 2001 firstname.lastname@example.org